UK lawmaker brands restrictions on plant-based products as “ludicrous”


“Does the minister think that the British public is so stupid to think that a product called “oat milk” comes from a cow?” – Kerry McCarthy MP


Proposals by the UK to ban dairy descriptor names for plant-based products have been branded “ludicrous” by an MP speaking in the House of Commons this month.

MP Kerry McCarthy (Labour, Bristol East) was referring to draft guidance that the Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) is currently considering that would effectively ban the use of words such as “alternative to X” or play on words such as “mylk” and “not milk”. 

The MP rightly points out that the EU has already rejected a proposal, known as Amendment 171, to ban terms that evoked reference to dairy products. The UK guidance, should Defra approve it, would be more strict than the rules currently in place on the continent. 

“I do not think that anyone buying a hot dog actually thinks that it has canine content. Does the Minister think that the British public is so stupid to think that a product called “oat milk” comes from a cow?” McCarthy asked Dr Thérèse Coffey, the Secretary of State for Defra, in the House of Commons on January 12th.

The minister, clearly not aware of the existence of the guidance and that Defra has said it is giving it “careful consideration”, answered the MP by saying: “My advice is not to believe everything that we read in the papers”.

“Kerry McCarthy MP is right. This is not about consumer confusion at all. Clearly, everyone knows that oat milk comes from oats,” Jimmy Pierson, Director of ProVeg UK, said.

“We all know that it’s a front to censor, restrict and financially damage the plant-based sector, which the dairy industry sees as a major threat. No plant-based business has been consulted on this proposal either, so the process so far has been entirely undemocratic. It’s time now for Defra to properly consult on what is a wholly unnecessary proposal,” Pierson added.

ProVeg believes the new rules would hurt consumers and damage sensible food signposting that enables consumers to choose healthy and environmentally friendly plant-based options as part of their diet. See the ProVeg press release here.

Shifting to a plant-based diet is vital in the face of climate change because plant-based food emits half the amount of greenhouse gas as animal-based food.

The UK guidance, which was not subject to public consultation, was drafted by a group called the Food Standards and Information Focus Group (FSIFG) and will direct Trading Standards officers’ enforcement activity.  The plant based sector was not consulted despite the existence of the Plant-based Food Alliance UK.



Notes of Editors

For media inquiries, email Peter Rixon at [email protected]


About ProVeg International

ProVeg is an international food awareness organisation 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. ProVeg also has Observer Status at the IPCC.


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