Plant-based foods cannot be described as 'milk'
Plant-based foods cannot be sold using terms such as milk, butter and cheese, the European Court of Justice has ruled.
EU regulations have stated since 2013 that designations such as milk, butter, cheese, cream and yogurt can only be used for marketing and advertising products which are derived from animal milk. There are some exceptions - coconut milk, peanut butter, almond milk and ice cream are allowed, but soya and tofu are not exempted.
The ECJ ruled that EU laws are in place to protect animal products, in a case referred to it by a German court and involving German food company TofuTown.
The company sells plant-based products with names including 'Soyatoo Tofu Butter' and 'Veggie Cheese'. It said customers were not misled, because its products' plant origins were clear.
A German association combating unfair competition however, took the view that promoting those products infringes the EU legislation.
TofuTown considered that its advertising does not infringe the legislation and noted that the way in which consumers understand those designations has changed considerably.
In yesterday's judgment, the court observed that, in principle, for the purposes of the marketing and advertising in question, the relevant legislation reserves the term 'milk' only for milk of animal origin.
That legislation reserves designations like cream, butter, cheese and yoghurt solely for milk products, that is products derived from milk.