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Independent.ie

Friday 24 November 2017

Farmers say non-dairy should not be described as 'milk'

Olivia Rudgard

UK Farmers have raised concerns about soya and almond "milk" being described as milk because it does not come from a cow.

The National Farmers Union said it had noticed several instances of milk alternatives being promoted in a way which does not make clear that they are non-dairy.

It comes after the Advertising Standards Agency banned an Arla advert which said organic dairy farming was "good for the land" for being "misleading".

EU rules state that certain names are reserved for dairy products, including "yoghurt", "milk", and "butter".

A 2007 ruling states: "Dairy analogues or products that are not purely dairy may not be labelled, advertised or presented using protected terms reserved for milk and milk products.

"In addition, there should be no direct or indirect suggestion of dairy connection by ‘non pure’ or imitation products".

Retailers have to make it clear that non-dairy alternatives do not contain any "real" milk derived from animals, to avoid misleading consumers.

Manufacturers cannot describe plant-based dairy subsitutes as milk on packaging or advertising. Instead many describe their products as "soya drinks" or "dairy alternatives".

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But the union says retailers continue to categorise soya and almond milk replacements in the "milk" section.

On its website Sainsbury's lists soya, rice and almond drinks under the section "dairy-free milk". Asda also lists its soya products under a section called "soya milk". Waitrose lists Alpro's "original fresh almond drink" under the section "almond milk".

After the Telegraph raised concerns all three said they would change their websites.

Michael Oakes, chairman of the NFU national dairy board, said: "The legal requirement is that if something is called milk it must come from a mammal.

"So in a supermarket, if it isn't milk, it shouldn't be in the 'milk' section - we are talking to retailers about this."

In 2015 the Belgian Dairy Industry Association won a case in Belgium's Court of Appeal against Alpro for its use of the phrase "yoghurt variant" to describe a non-dairy alternative.

Trading standards and consumer protection laws state that vendors have to be clear about what a product contains.

According to the NFU, Food Standards Agency guidelines even suggest that keeping a cake made with non-dairy cream in a chilled cabinet could wrongly mislead consumers into thinking the cake was made with traditional cream.

Last year figures from Nielsen showed that milk sales were down £235 million over two years as consumers switched to alternatives such as soya and almond.


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