• The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that purely plant-based products cannot be marketed with designations such as “milk,” “cream,” “butter,” “cheese” or “yogurt,” unless an exemption is listed in Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013. The decision stems from a lawsuit filed by a German association that combats unfair competition against TofuTown, a German company that distributes vegetarian and vegan foods.
  • TofuTown, which markets its products under terms such as “tofu butter,” “plant cheese” and “veggie cheese,” claimed that its advertising does not infringe on the legislation since the dairy terms are not used on their own, but only in association with words referring to the plant origin of the products concerned. The company added that the way in which consumers understand dairy terms has changed considerably in recent years.
  • In its June 14 ruling, the Court stated that “the relevant legislation reserves the term ‘milk’ only for milk of animal origin” and that descriptive or clarifying additions indicating plant origin have no influence on that prohibition. The Court also noted that soya and tofu are not on the list of exceptions in the legislation. Furthermore, the Court expressly stated that “the addition of descriptive or explanatory terms cannot completely exclude the likelihood of confusion on the part of consumers.” (An EU Court of Justice press release on the case, with a link to the ruling, can be found here.)
  • Controversy on the use of dairy-related terms for plant-based products is also occurring in the U.S. Most recently, we reported on State Regulators Chime in on Plant-based Milk Labeling Debate. The DAIRY PRIDE Act, which would ban the use of dairy terms for non-dairy products made from nuts, seeds, plants, and algae, was introduced in the U.S. Senate at the beginning of the year (see our January 31, 2017 blog entry). However, it was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions January 12 and no further action on the legislation has been taken since then. We will continue to report on developments in this area in both the U.S. and the EU.