Should Plant-Milk Be Banned From Using Dairy-like Cartons?

A controversial ban is being ruled out that plant-based, vegan milk and alternative dairy products do not replicate the actual dairy items on the shelves. EU brought out the amendment that those labels cannot advertise vegan products like dairy, such as cheese, yoghurt, milk, and ice-cream. This amendment has now passed to become a law. As you can see in your supermarket today, many vegan non-dairy products may be advertised as “Oat Drink” or Violife’s non-dairy brand labelling their vegan cheese as a dairy-free “block”. Is it reasonable for the dairy industry to go against vegan products like this?

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The up-and-coming vegan market has given consumers an equal opportunity to buy something specifically tailored to them. Not only is there a large number of vegans in the world, but there is also a significant number of lactose-intolerant people. Vegan products, such as soya milk, have been on the shelves since forever, why now must there be a change? Is the dairy industry too threatened by the rise in the vegan market? 


Famous oat-based product brand, Oatly, is going against this ban by starting a petition to get this ban overruled. Swedish brand, Oatly, fights back and comments on the irresponsibility of this ban during a climate crisis. This ban prevents dairy-free brands from speaking about their products’ environmental effects and dairy industries products. The ban stops consumers from receiving truthful information on what they are buying. In October 2020, Oatly writes via Instagram: “This past Friday the EU Parliament voted Yes to Amendment 171 which will make it illegal for plant-based foods to be compared to dairy products in the future. This means we can no longer call our products milk-free or talk about any of the health and environmental advantages they offer. It’s a wacko, incomprehensible direction to take in the middle of a climate crisis. Especially since this amendment runs contrary to the EU’s own climate goals and their ambition to encourage the consumption of plant-based foods.”


Furthermore, this ban is taking the extreme measures of labelling and the packaging of the products themselves. If a plant-based milk cannot use a carton similar to a dairy milk carton, would we not imply that rule for orange juice, smoothies, etc.? This seems to be a specific attack on the vegan market. With more people being aware of the environmental effects of consuming animal products, there is an increase in plant-based products’ consumption.


Vegan Food and Living’s information illustrates that plant-based products cannot write climate facts on their products, advertise dairy-like textures, and use similar packaging. Still, the ban also proposes that any product similar looking to milk will be prohibited from ads. Therefore this ban includes the restraining of “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.” 


With the increase of the need for climate action, would it not be better for the people’s sake to allow plant-based brands to label and inform their customers of agriculture’s relationship with the environment? As humans, we are becoming more conscious of the climate emergency, the “truth” they want to hide from these brands is vital information for the people and the planet’s lives. 

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Oatly stated further in the Instagram post above: “Consider this. If a liter of cow’s milk generates 293% more greenhouse gas emissions than a liter of oat drink*, doesn’t it make perfect sense that the number one priority of all those milk lobbyists is to forbid this weakness from being exposed? And when the Milk Lobby decides to flex its protein-rich muscles we all know what happens—the public loses out. How will consumers now be able to easily compare different food products to make more informed decisions about what they eat?”


It makes sense what Oatly is saying as they touch on the fact that the consumer wants to be aware of what they are buying, what they are putting into their bodies, and how it affects the planet they inhabit. Lack of information and the ban of information is unfair for consumers as Oatly stated above: how can people compare and make the right choice from themselves and the planet if they are not given the truth? 

As a society, we often refer to these products as “oat milk, almond milk, vegan cheese, vegan yoghurt, etc.” If we verbally continue to call these products what they are, why must it be illegal for them to be marketed that way? As we move forward, the encouragement of plant-based living should be more outspoken; thus, this is only taking a step back from the right decision. From scanning through Oatly’s website, they state their purpose and motives, which are clearly in the interest of the people and the planet: “Today, the Swedish company remains independent and dedicated to upgrading the lives of individuals and the general well being of the planet through a lineup of original oat drinks.” 


In 2019, Oatly’s sales had increased by a significant 88%, indicating the consumer’s interest in plant-based alternatives. This is damaging to the dairy industry but should plant-based brands face the consequences for their popularity? Overall, the vegan market is still going to be thriving more than ever. But, is it fair to censor their cartons and not allow these brands to give environmental facts? Oatly’s brand is transparent with its carbon emissions and its focus on sustainability; they want to continue informing consumers on sustainability while producing healthy products. 

There are so many things to question about this law and why it is essential if plant-based products are what the consumers these days want. If society will continue to call them oat milk, coconut milk, vegan cheese, they could remain like that on their labels for a clear indication of what the consumer is buying and what the alternative is describing.

Alison Law
Alison Law

Alison is a college student and writer passionate about the environment, fashion, animals and coffee.

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