Northern Ireland's dairy industry hails EU ruling restricting 'milk' and 'butter' labels to animal goods
The dairy industry in Northern Ireland has welcomed a ruling by the EU Court of Justice that terms like milk, cheese and butter must refer to products from animals and not plants.
The landmark ruling could spell the end of manufacturers marketing plant-based products as 'soya milk' or 'tofu butter'.
Phillip Sanaghan, commercial manager with Draynes Farm in Lisburn - which processes its own milk into a range of dairy products - said: "This is good news for the dairy industry in Northern Ireland and is very important.
"As the world gets smaller in terms of product availability, we have an abundance of these artificial products made from plants landing on our doorstep which are full of additives and chemicals.
"Milk from a cow is one of the healthiest foods people can drink from they are just two years old.
"Too many times have these alternatives jumped on the 'healthy' food bandwagon to promote themselves.
"Although these alternatives have a place for those people who have dairy allergies, I am glad to see the court has said milk should mean real milk from an animal."
Declan Billington, chairman of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association, also welcomed the judgment.
"Whilst I recognise that plant-based substitute products service an important niche in today's marketplace, the use of words such as 'butter', 'cheese' or 'cream' in their product descriptions allows companies in their marketing to build upon the positive consumer perceptions developed for dairy products by the dairy industry, whilst being fundamentally different in nature. Going forward, it is good to know that the consumer will now get butter when they buy butter," he added.
Eamon Lynch, the commercial director from milk processor Strathroy Dairy Ltd in Omagh, said the ruling should help to promote the benefits of real milk in the future.
"Milk from a cow or goat provides a variety of natural nutritional benefits and cannot be substituted by so-called milk from a plant," he said.
"I welcome this ruling from the European court which should help to promote the benefits of real milk going forward."
Following a case taken against German company TofuTown, which produces and distributes vegetarian and vegan foods referring to them as 'milk', 'cheese' and 'butter, the court ruled this week that these names must only refer to animal products.
Purely plant-based products cannot, in principle, be marketed with designations such as 'milk', 'cream', 'butter', 'cheese' or 'yoghurt', which are reserved by EU law for animal products, the court said.
The court observed that, in principle, for the purposes of the marketing and advertising in question, the relevant legislation reserves the term 'milk' only for milk of animal origin.