34 politicians protest plant-based dairy censorship in European Parliament

Following a vote in the European Parliament in October 2020 to further restrict dairy terms and imagery for plant-based dairy products, more than 34 MEPs are today calling on the European Commission and the Council to reject ‘plant-based dairy censorship’ during the Trilogues. These are negotiations between the European Commission, the European Council, and Parliament, with plant-based dairy censorship being discussed mid April.

The call comes after the climate-hostile amendment 171, also known as the ‘plant-based dairy censorship’ amendment, was passed in the European Parliament, making it more difficult for consumers to choose plant-based foods – despite the climate crisis and an ever-increasing demand. The amendment, if implemented, would also threaten consumers’ right to information and companies’ right to fair competition.

Jasmijn de Boo, Vice-President ProVeg International, commented, “We share the concerns about the proposed plant-based dairy restrictions from these 34 European Parliament Members’. The plant-based dairy sector is already limited in its use of certain terms such as ‘milk’ or ‘yoghurt’, but further restrictions would amount to censorship. This damaging amendment was passed silently, and was heavily influenced by the conservative dairy lobby. And an impact assessment in regards to the amendment has not been conducted either.”

“The Portugese EU Presidency has not been open to hearing the feedback and concerns from the plant-based sector, despite the fact that amendment 171 affects plant-based dairy companies, not the dairy industry.” “There’s also a lack of clarity regarding which stakeholders are being consulted by the Portugese Presidency and the European Council. The plant-based dairy sector is being censored by amendment 171 and is being ignored when trying to explain the far-reaching consequences of amendment 171 to the Council, Commission, and Portugese EU Presidency. We can only hope that common sense will prevail; the lack of transparency is simply unreasonable.” 

Amendment 171 would introduce new, unnecessary, and extreme restrictions on the labeling of plant-based dairy products. This would deprive consumers of essential information about the suitability of plant-based products in their diets, and directly contradict the sustainability goals of the EU Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy. If adopted, it would counteract the consumer shift to more sustainable eating habits that is urgently needed in order to fight climate change.  

Phrases such as “contains no dairy” or “creamy texture” could be banned under Amendment 171. The same would apply to adverts mentioning scientific data showing that a product causes, for example, “half the carbon emissions of butter”. The amendment could even prohibit plant-based foods from using images of their own products on packaging. This would of course make it more difficult for consumers to choose healthier and sustainable food choices.

The Greens stated on Twitter that “Amendment 171 could entail illogical label restrictions & prohibit helping consumers make more sustainable food choices,  No way – we say” 

In practice, amendment 171 could prohibit the following: 

  • Describing a plant-based food, its taste, or function by referring to familiar ‘dairy’ terminology . For example, using wordings such as ‘like milk’, ‘creamy’, or ‘buttery’ to inform the consumer about the purpose, texture, or flavor, either on packaging or advertising. This includes informative descriptions, even if they are purely factual. For instance, using the phrases “does not contain milk”, “suitable for persons suffering from lactose intolerance”, or “plant-based alternative to yoghurt”.
  • 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 beverage being poured at a breakfast table, or white foam swirling into a cappuccino. 
  • In its most restrictive interpretation, this could result in bans on plant-based food packaging that looks visually similar to dairy packaging.

Notes to the editor 

It’s time to take action. 

  • Sign and share our petition www.StopAM171.com
  • Tweet #StopPlantBasedCensorship #StopAM171 

For more information contact: 

Lara Pappers, Head of Communication at ProVeg International [email protected]

ProVeg International 

ProVeg is an international food awareness organization working to transform the global food system by replacing conventional animal-based products with plant-based and cultured alternatives. ProVeg works with international decision-making bodies, governments, food producers, investors, the media, and the general public to help the world transition to a society and economy that are less dependent on animal agriculture and more sustainable for humans, animals, and the planet. ProVeg has permanent-observer status with the UNFCCC, is accredited for UNEA, and has received the United Nations’ Momentum for Change Award. www.proveg.com

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