ECJ bans dairy-style names for plant-based food and drink


The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that plant-based foods and drinks cannot be retailed in EU countries using terms such as 'milk', 'butter', and 'cheese'.

This ruling was made as part of a case referred by a German court involving company TofuTown. The firm stated it did not breach EU law as it clearly mentioned the plant origins of its products on the label. However, the ECJ ruled that terms such as 'milk' and 'yoghurt' cannot be legally used to designate a purely plant-based product.

The court stated that the “addition of descriptive or explanatory terms cannot completely exclude the likelihood of confusion on the part of consumers.”

TofuTown sells plant-based products including Soyatoo Tofu Butter and Veggie Cheese.

"The addition of descriptive or explanatory terms cannot completely exclude the likelihood of confusion on the part of consumers."

Since 2013, the EU regulation has indicated that only products derived from animal milk can be designated as 'milk', 'butter', 'cheese', 'cream' and 'yoghurt', with some exceptions made for products such as coconut milk, peanut butter, almond milk, and ice cream. Products such as soya and tofu do not come under these exceptions.

German consumer protection group VSW had filed a case against the company in a local court, which sought the intervention of the ECJ.

The Dairy farm group welcomed the ruling and European Dairy Association secretary-general Alexander Anton was quoted by Financial Times as saying: “The unique and natural blend of micro and macronutrients of milk and dairy products cannot be matched by any plant-based product.”