Oatly launches petition to stop plant-based censorship on vegan dairy alternatives

Read Time:   |  18th January 2021

Oatly, Upfield and ProVeg International have launched a petition to stop Amendment 171 which bans the use of 'dairy' terminology on non-dairy products.

While the veggie burger ban was denied by MEPs in October, mercifully saving us from having to refer to them as ‘veggie discs’, the European Parliament approved a second ban which negatively effects vegan dairy-alternatives.

This approved ban effectively censors the plant-based dairy industry, one which is currently booming due to health concerns, environmental worries and opposition to animal cruelty.

In practice the ban could prohibit:

  • Describing a plant-based food, its taste, or function by referring to familiar ‘dairy’ terminology. E.g. using wordings such as ‘it’s like milk’, ‘creamy’, or ‘buttery’ to inform the consumer about the purpose, texture, or flavour, either on packaging or advertising.
  • 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 into a bowl of cereal at a breakfast table, or white foam swirling into a cappuccino.
  • Bans on plant-based food packaging that looks visually similar to dairy packaging.

To counter the creeping plant-based censorship, Oatly has teamed up with ProVeg International (the company behind the campaign to stop the veggie burger ban) and Upfield (the owner of butter alternative Flora) and launched a petition.

If the dairy ban comes into effect, the consequences could be catastrophic for not just the plant-based industry but the climate crisis. It will be harder for customers to choose more sustainable options, as non-dairy brands will be prohibited from even using photos of their own products – who would buy a product they know nothing about?

‘People are not stupid’

Oatly’s Director of Public Affairs Cecilia McAleavey told us: “Given the climate crisis, it’s irresponsible to try and prevent us from encouraging people to make the switch to plant-based and help protect the planet in the process.

“People are not stupid – everyone understands that this is an attempt by the dairy lobby to hinder the shift towards sustainable plant-based eating.”

‘A serious step backwards’

Dr Jeanette Fielding, Chief Corporate Affairs and Communications Officer at Upfield makes an important point:

“Food policy should be formed in the interests of consumers, environment and health. This amendment goes against all three.

“Making it illegal to name, package and depict plant-based foods in the way we have done for over 100 years is a serious step backwards. Consumers are looking for strong EU leadership on climate and environment. That means tearing down bureaucratic barriers to sustainable and healthy eating, not building them higher.”

‘Forced to justify sustainability’

Jasmijn de Boo, Vice President of ProVeg International, told us: “It is baffling to once again be forced to justify sustainability. Why would we sabotage innovation? Who will benefit?

“Green energy is no longer being stifled or opposed, so why are we still suppressing and censoring sustainable food production, given the urgency of the situation? Who stands to lose here? We need to adapt across every part of our food chain if we’re to tackle the climate crisis. Genuinely sustainable food production must be enabled.

“How will we reach our climate goals if we allow the influence of powerful but unsustainable industries to determine our collective fate?”

Hope for the plant-based sector

Although the amendment was voted in by MEPs, it is not set in stone. The next step is trilogue negotiations, which involves a conversation between the European Parliament, the EU Council of Ministers and the European Commission.

The European Commission is likely to reject the amendment based on previous voting records, and if we can get the EU Council of Ministers on side, there is hope for the plant-based sector yet.

Moreover, the amendment was passed with such a narrow majority (54%) that we hope there is enough doubt cast on the matter for the amendment to be ditched.

You can join the fight and sign the petition to stop amendment 171 here

Do you think the climate crisis has been forgotten during the pandemic?
Read our article to find out.

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