The European Court of Justice has ruled that purely plant-based products cannot be marketed with terms such as 'milk', 'butter', or 'cheese', as these are reserved for animal products.
The ruling came after German vegan food company TofuTown was accused of infringing the EU legislation on designations for milk products.
The company, which manufactures and distributes plant-based products such as 'Soyatoo tofu butter' and 'veggie cheese', said that the way in which consumers understand these terms has 'changed considerably' in recent years.
The court concluded that these terms cannot be legally used to designate purely plant-based products, even if the plant origin of the product is clearly indicated.
It said that the addition of descriptive or explanatory terms 'cannot completely exclude the likelihood of confusion on the part of consumers'.
The court noted that the term 'milk' is reserved only for milk of animal origin. It listed a number of exceptions to this rule, however, soy and tofu products are not mentioned on this list.
The ruling also notes that vegetarian or vegan substitutes for meat and fish are subject to different rules.
© 2017 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Sarah Harford. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine.