EUROPE, June 21, 2017- Food companies that sell products labelled “soya milk” or “tofu butter” in the EU must rebrand their items or face potential legal action, after Europe’s top court ruled only products containing the real thing may use the term.
The European Court of Justice ruled against a German foods company, TofuTown, which sells products such as “Soyatoo tofu butter,” “Plant cheese”, and “Veggie cheese.” TofuTown had argued it was not breaching EU law as it had made clear the plant origins of its products. But the court ruling confirmed that labels such as milk, cheese, yogurt and butter “cannot be legally used to designate a purely plant-based product.” The court said that milk refers “exclusively (to) normal mammary secretion,” and that the use of extra descriptive or clarifying phrases “has no influence on that prohibition.”
There are some exceptions, however, with coconut milk and almond milk both permitted. The judgment now goes back to the German court to implement, though the ruling leaves little room for interpretation. Companies that continue to sell products with the forbidden labels in the EU could face litigation if the matter is pursued in national courts. The European Commission could also take action against member states if it decides they are failing to implement the ruling.
“This is a good day for dairy, a good day for European citizens and a good day for Europe,” said Alexander Anton, secretary general of the European Dairy Association.