Dairy milk vs plant-based milk label debate gains traction
Australian dairy farmers are calling for changes to the food standards so consumers trying to make a healthy choice have the benefit of transparent and accurate product labelling, through a ban on plant-based products using the term ‘milk’ on labels and in marketing.
Dairy farmer group Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) is leading the push for truth in labelling for milk-style products such as almond, soy and oat ‘milks’. ADF has requested a holistic review of labelling and marketing on non-dairy alternatives, including possible changes to the food standards code, and additional regulations to prevent plant-based alternatives from ‘evoking’ the qualities and values of dairy. The labelling and marketing strategy is claimed to give the erroneous impression that plant-based products are nutritionally equivalent to dairy milk.
According to the ADF, a number of plant-based products are gaining a marketing advantage by using the name milk and co-opting the look and feel of dairy, trading on dairy’s reputation by claiming to have the nutritional equivalency of dairy milk.
Market research from IBISWorld indicates that Australia’s plant-based milk product industry has grown at an annualised rate of 4.1% over five years, and is now worth $165.8 million. A 2017 survey by Dairy Australia showed 54% of respondents bought plant-based milk alternatives because they perceived them to be healthier than dairy milk.
The ADF contacted Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie and Chair of the Ministerial Food Forum Richard Colbeck requesting the change to the labelling and marketing of plant-based milk products. The ban would align the Australian dairy industry with other countries, after the European Court of Justice ruled in 2017 that dairy terms could not be used on plant-based products, even with clarifying terms.
The call comes after the recent Ministerial Forum inquiry into misleading descriptions on meat and dairy alternatives. Colbeck said the Food Regulation Standing Committee will publish a paper investigating plant-based alternatives to dairy and meat products for consideration later in the year.
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