When ‘milk’ is not milk: The plot thickens

A recent ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on how dairy substitutes are marketed has been welcomed by farm organisations.

The ECJ ruling effectively means that only genuine dairy-derived food products can be described as ‘milk’, ‘cheese’, butter’ and ‘yoghurt’, according to the President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), John Comer.

It had been self-evidently wrong that products that did not contain a trace of milk were being marketed in this disingenuous way, Comer said.

Comer believes that corporations had deliberately played on people’s desire for healthy, traditional, dairy-based foodstuffs – while actually substituting real dairy ingredients with cheaper and more processed vegetable and plant-derived elements.

Meanwhile, the ECJ ruling was also welcomed by the IFA’s National Liquid Milk Chairman John Finn.

Fresh milk and dairy products are rich in naturally-occurring varied and valuable nutrients, which have been shown to be vitally important for the human dietary needs at every age, Finn said.

Soya or nut-based products have been riding on the coat-tails of dairy; they have to undergo significant processing and fortification with nutrients as well as additives. Despite that, they still offer only a fraction of the nutrients of natural, fresh milk, Finn said.

There is strong evidence of confusion among consumers around exactly what those products actually are, and many of the claims made by unqualified health and well-being commentators in relation to those products are dubious and misleading.

Finn believes that the ECJ’s decision vindicates the value and quality of fresh milk and dairy produced by European and Irish farmers for consumers.

It is a victory for common sense and the defence of consumer information rights, he added.

The IFA’s National Liquid Milk Chairman has called on retailers to ensure that these dairy substitute products are not presented to customers in the dairy cabinet.