It ain’t white: dairies petition to restrict labeling of plant-based alternatives as 'milk'

MILK: Labeling call.
MILK: Labeling call.

Dairy farmers lobby group Dairy Connect has launched a petition to clamp down on ‘fake milk’ products cashing in on their name. 

Ruth Kydd, a dairy farmer from Finley, said the labeling on plant-based alternatives, such as soy or almond, was misleading. 

“It’s not really milk, by definition milk comes from mammals, from an udder,” Ms Kydd said. 

“Alternatives grown from the ground-up have a completely different nutritional value.

“We have no qualms with people producing those alternatives, but we have to be clear about how we label things.”

The argument has found traction overseas, with a recent European Court of Justice ruling "purely plant-based products cannot, in principle, be marketed with designations such as milk, cream, butter, cheese or yoghurt".

The petition is a first step for the lobby group to establish whether there’s public support to follow in the steps of Europe and the US, where there’s bipartisan support for a bill to clarify the definition. 

“It takes a lot of work to get that product on to the supermarket shelves,” Ms Kydd said.  

“We create a natural and healthy product, and we want it to be recognised for what it is.” 

The Australian Food Standards Code requires that foods be “labelled with an accurate name or description that indicates the true nature of the food.”

Euberta dairy farmer Simone Jolliffe believes the code’s requirements for labeling as they stand are clear.

“I don’t see that there’s any confusion among consumers and it’s something that would be very difficult to determine,” Ms Jolliffe said.

“We create a natural and healthy product, and we want it to be recognised for what it is.”

Ruth Kydd, dairy farmer

“As a farmer I trust that consumers pick up a bottle of cow’s milk or almond milk and understand what they’re reading.”

Ms Jolliffe said the jury was still out on the comparative nutritional benefits of cow's versus plant-based milks. 

“Dietitians publicly have different opinions, the evidence doesn’t seem clear,” she said.