A number of European dairy bodies have come together to call for protection against non-dairy companies using words such as milk and butter on their products.

They have called for dairy produce to be protected in future EU legislation against such descriptions.

The European Dairy Association (EDA), Eucolait and Copa and Cogeca are urging the EU to ensure that dairy products are “protected against misleading sales descriptions” in legislation and in the Common Agricultural Policy.

Copa and Cogeca secretary-general Pekka Pesonen said: “The European Court of Justice recently issued a ruling that states that the terms milk, whey, cream, butter, buttermilk, cheese and yogurt may not be used to describe a plant-based product. 

“This will help to stop food companies who sell products labelled ‘soya milk’ or ‘tofu butter’ from being labelled as milk or butter. The issue is not about having plant-based, innovative produce on the market, it is about ensuring that consumers are not misled or confused vis a vis the nutritional characteristics of livestock produce and plant-based produce.”

EDA secretary-general Alexander Anton said: “It is misleading for consumers to see products like soya ‘milk’ and tofu ‘butter’ being described as milk and butter replacers when we are talking about absolutely different products whose nutritional characteristics are far from matching the unique blend of macro- and micronutrients of milk and dairy.”

The bodies are pushing the EU to ensure that “dairy terms and marketing standards remain protected in EU legislation and are respected by all supply chain partners” and that they are fully enforced by member state authorities at all times. 

Last week, legislators in France backed a bill banning suppliers of vegetarian foods from using terms associated with meat in the marketing of their food.