Industry advocacy group Dairy Connect is calling for a united campaign against ‘fake milk’ and ‘meat’ labels as plant-based alternatives begin to impact local agricultural producers.
Citing the European Union’s move to protect terms like milk, butter and whey – in a way they can only be used to define dairy products – Dairy Connect CEO Shaughn Morgan has accused the Australian government of dragging the chain on legislating “truth in labelling”.
“The time has come for the rubber to hit the road.”
Graham Forbes, president of the Farmers Group of Dairy Connect, said governments had a pivotal role to play to ensure truth in labelling occurs now, not years into the future.
“The current labelling found within supermarkets may also confuse some consumers who anecdotally think the fakes are dairy based. This was a finding by the European Court of Justice in 2017 and is now reinforced by the European Parliament.”
Morgan said the recently announced inquiry into Australia’s food regulatory system including a review of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act, provides a timely opportunity to review the use of such terms on non-dairy products.
“We’ve heard forthright statements from federal and state ministers underpinning the need for truth in labelling reform.” He said politicians at both state and federal level have promised reform during the past 18 months, which was heartening to Dairy Connect and farmers, however Covid-19 has distracted legislators from their regular roles this year and the issue has still not been officially addressed.
Morgan claims non-dairy drinks are often fortified and lack the natural nutritional and health benefits found in fresh milk from dairy cows.
The European Dairy Association has called the EU decision to protect real dairy terms a ‘good day for dairy, for European consumers and citizens and for Europe’.
Morgan said Europe has been providing safeguards for dairy terms for years. “Now it is looking at banning terms such as “yogurt-style” or “cheese-style” for non-dairy imitation replacements.
Federal MP Gavin Pearce recently told Dairy Australia’s EDairyNews that he had ‘fake’ milk and plant-based meat in his sights and it was time Australia changed its labelling laws.
“Consumers really do need to know exactly what they are consuming,” he said. “Highly ‘creative’ and ‘misleading’ advertising around replacement products was negatively impacting on dairy and meat producers.
“I’m obviously a farmer and come from a long line of farmers, and this region of ours is synonymous with pure, agricultural, green. It really upsets the farmers. They’ve spent their lives making sure that their genetics are right.”