Politics & Law

“There is No Problem to Fix”: UK Government Urged to Reject Plant-Based Dairy Labelling Guidance

Food awareness organisation ProVeg UK has called on the UK government to stop the publication of guidance that would restrict the labelling of plant-based dairy alternatives.

The guidance has been drawn up by the Food Standards & Information Focus Group (FSIFG), which aims to help trading standards officers interpret inherited EU laws. It is set to be published at Easter, and would prevent plant-based dairy companies from using terms such as “not milk”, “cheeze”, or even “alternative to milk”.

But ProVeg argues that the guidance will stifle the plant-based industry instead of taking advantage of opportunities for growth. The UK is the second-largest consumer of plant-based alternative proteins in Europe, and is home to many alt dairy companies.

MIGHTY plant-based dairy alternative

“One of the reasons the UK voted to leave the EU was to free itself up from burdensome regulations like the legacy law that the FSIFG is interpreting. But that law is no longer fit for purpose. We need to be encouraging the plant-based food market where we can, not seeking to restrict it,” said Jasmijn de Boo, Global CEO of ProVeg.


While the FSIFG claims the guidance will prevent confusion, research consistently shows that the vast majority of consumers are well aware of the distinction between dairy products and plant-based alternatives. It has been argued that attempts to impose labelling restrictions are intended to put the plant-based industry at a disadvantage rather than protecting consumers. The UK’s Plant-Based Food Alliance and Alternative Proteins Association (APA) have already written to the government to express their concerns about the proposed restrictions, in a letter co-signed by 44 organisations.

Member of Parliament Kerry McCarthy has also condemned the guidance, calling it “ludicrous”. She said that the British public was not “so stupid as to think that a product called oat milk comes from a cow”, and pointed out that attempts to further restrict the marketing of milk alternatives in the EU had failed.

Oatly Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
© Oatly

Similar stories have been seen elsewhere in the world, with Chile’s NotCo recently winning an appeal against a court ruling prohibiting it from using the term “NotMilk”. Meanwhile, Oatly won a four-year legal battle against Dairy UK Ltd in December, allowing it to use the phrase “post milk generation” on its packaging.

“Considerable disservice”

There have been calls for the UK to follow in the footsteps of the US, where FDA guidance published last year allowed the use of terms such as “oat milk” after research clearly demonstrated that consumers were not confused.

“There really is no problem to fix here,” said de Boo. “We understand that supermarkets are not receiving complaints from consumers about being confused by dairy names for plant-based products, so no service is done to the consumer by restricting these terms. Arguably, more confusion may be caused if brands are required to use terms that consumers are unfamiliar with. But there is a considerable disservice to a large and growing industry that will incur costs having to relabel their products.”

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