Legislation outlawing vegan cheese follows rules banning manufacturers from calling the plant-based alternative 'cheese'
The Turkish government has banned the production and sale of vegan cheese in a move that has been condemned by plant-based advocates.
Products that ‘give the impression of cheese’ and are ‘produced using vegetable oil or other food ingredients’ have been outlawed by the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry under a new article, code 9/3.
Published in the Turkish Codex Food Regulation in February, it follows previous rules banning manufacturers from calling plant-based alternatives ‘cheese’, with lawmakers describing this kind of branding as deceptive.
Since the publication of the new rules, Turkish vegan cheese manufacturers have reported that they have been unable to sell their products domestically, and have faced possible factory inspections.
‘A violation of national and international law’
The Vegan Association Turkey (TVD) has filed a lawsuit against the Ministry in a bid to annul article 9/3, which it says imposes on consumers’ freedom of choice, as well as undermining manufacturing and trade.
TVD says: “We are determined to use all solutions to the fullest against these obscure prohibitions, which are far from being convincing for producers and consumers and have been created on some unfair grounds.”
It has also criticised the legislation’s wording, saying: “The fact that the necessary clarification has not been made even about the similarity criteria, which is the basis of the said ban, creates an open-ended area of pressure and action for the inspectors/punishers operating in this field.
“With this new substance, which has no consistent or plausible basis, stopping vegan cheese production and recalling vegan cheese from the market constitutes a violation of both national and international law.
“According to the Department of Food Businesses and Codex within the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, whom we interviewed, even the reminiscent of cheese in vacuum packaging can be considered a ‘scam’ on its own.”
In addition, the organisation has launched a petition, aimed at the Ministry as well as the General Directorate of Food and Control, and the Department of Food Businesses and Codex.
Titled The ban on vegan cheese production should be withdrawn, the petition was launched last month, following reports that sales of a vegan cheese manufacturer’s products has been blocked.
Since being launched on June 17, the petition has garnered some 5,214 signatures, prompting TVD to increase its target from 5,000 to 7,500.
The petition states: “Trying to stop vegan cheese production and withdrawing vegan cheese products from the market by the recent implementation of this article constitutes a violation of both national and international law.”
It continues: “Unfortunately, up to this date, no solution has been provided and no constructive steps have been taken regarding this problem, which we conveyed to the authorized person during our visit to the Department of Food Establishments and Codex under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry on April 7, 2022.”
TVD concludes that by ‘signing and sharing [its] online petition, you can help us raise our voice and lift these bans on vegan cheese in Turkey’.
‘Draconian’ food labelling laws
Turkey’s new regulations follow a spate of restrictions applied to food labelling rules when it comes to using ‘meaty’ names for plant-based products in recent weeks, in countries including South Africa, France, Belgium and the United States.
In addition, the use of dairy-style designations for products like oat milk and soya yoghurt was banned by the ruling by the the European Court of Justice in 2017.
Food advocacy organisation ProVeg has branded this type of legislation ‘draconian’, with Jasmijn de Boo, Vice-President of ProVeg International, adding: “These regulations are counter-productive and based on misunderstandings.
“Plant-based foods are a vital key to solving the climate crisis as well as ensuring economic growth. Many meat and dairy companies themselves know this, which is why they are investing in both plant-based and animal-based foods, and in some cases switching to plant-based foods entirely.”
Fancy making your own plant-based cheese? Check out our collection of best ever vegan cheese recipes
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