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The censorship on plant-based milk

The EU could make it illegal for plant-based milks to say ‘does not contain milk or even use the same packaging as dairy milk 

SOUNDS ABSURD, RIGHT?

Well, it could soon be a reality. But let’s start from the beginning.

On October 23 2020, the European Parliament voted yes on amendment 171, that regulates the ‘imitation or evocation’ of dairy products. If adopted, it would have an incredible impact on the plant-based milk industry.

These are its main (and ridiculous) points:

  • Using adjetives such as ‘creamy’, ‘buttery’ or ‘it’s like milk’ to describe a plant-based food could be banned.
  • The ban could also prohibit showing climate impact by comparing the carbon footprint of a plant-based food item with its dairy equivalent.
  • Using a picture of a plant-based white drink being poured into a bowl of cereal or a white (plant-based) foam poured into a cappuccino wouldn’t be allowed either.
  • It could even apply bans on plant-based food packaging that looks visually similar to dairy packaging. Bye bye ‘milk’ cartons!

The oficial explanation from the milk lobby for all this nonsense is that expressions such as ‘doesn’t contain milk’ could be confusing for the consumer (¿?)But this is not the first time that big lobbies try to hinder the shift towards plant-based eating.

Major forces in European politics were pushing for a ban on names like ‘burger’ or ‘sausage’ to refer to plant-based products. That time, luckily, the EU Parliament voted against it, saving us from having to refer to them as ‘veggie disks’ or ‘veggie tubes’.

Obviously, the reason behind this censorship has nothing to do with the consumer being unable to tell the difference between a carton of dairy and plant-based milk. The reality is that the milk lobby sees a major threat in the rise of vegan alternatives to dairy.

Just to name some figures, according to research firm Mintel, UK plant milk sales have grown by 30% since 2015. In the US, nearly half of all shoppers now add a plant milk to their baskets.

Globally, the industry is estimated to be worth 16 billion dollars. No wonder why the milk lobby feels threatened.

Now that we mention big boys in the industry, let’s talk Oatly. Founded in the 90’s in Sweden by a researcher at the University of Lund, its popularity has skyrocketed in the past years. With sales of 1.83 billion dollars in 2019 (and almost 500% increase in sales in the last few years) Oatly is expanding rapidly, and already has a presence in more than 30 countries. So as you can imagine, they were quite pissed with this new amendment. Together with ProVeg they have launched a petition to stop it from making it through the last stage.

Obviously, the reason behind this censorship has nothing to do with the consumer being unable to tell the difference between a carton of dairy and plant-based milk. The reality is that the milk lobby sees a major threat in the rise of vegan alternatives to dairy.

In their own words:

“Amendment 171 would not only hide information from consumers but also hinder innovation and the emerging sustainable food sector. Altogether, it would be a huge reversal of the work done so far to meet the EU’s own goals on public health and sustainability, as agreed under the terms of the Paris Agreement. Given the urgency of the climate crisis, it’s a highly irresponsible move.”

SO,
WHAT DO WE DO NOW?

At the moment of writing this post, the petition had already reached over 440.000 of 450.000 signatures, so we are really close! If you think that this censorship is ridiculous, we encourage you to head over to ProVeg to sign the petition.

Anyway, if there is any positive take away from this is that the shift towards a more plant-based diet is stronger than ever. People is realizing how damaging the dairy industry is for the planet, and what a cruel business it is for the cows and their babies.

This whole shitshow just evidences a desperate attempt from the milk lobby to keep their power in a world inevitably more and more sustainable.