EDA takes on Nestlé

A letter signed by several multinational companies including Unilever and Nestlé asks that the European Parliament reconsider some of its premises during the ongoing renegotiation of the European Common Agricultural Policy. In it, it claims, “European dietary patterns have changed significantly in recent years and many citizens have made positive decisions to choose foods that are not only respectful to the environment but constitute healthier choices for themselves and their families. We firmly believe that it is in the general interest of consumers, industry and society as a whole, to facilitate access to plant-based foods, while ensuring that the description and presentation of these products is clear, transparent and unambiguous.”

The current provisions ensure that the words “milk”, “cheese”, “yoghurt”, “butter” or “whey” are used exclusively for products that contain dairy milk. The companies state, “The additional restrictive measure in Amendment 171 is not only contrary to the evolution in consumer demand, as explained above, but is again in breach of the principle of proportionality. In reality, the use of such terms for the designation of non-dairy products actually supports consumers in making informed choices, while at the same time clearly indicating that the product does not contain any component of dairy origin.”

The firms called on the Parliament to reject the amendments related to meat and dairy. However, the European Dairy Association (EDA) points out, the protection of dairy terms (like yogurt, butter or milk) is based on the Codex Alimentarius and enshrined in the acquis communautaire for more than 30 years. Recently, its well-foundation and necessity for enhanced consumer protection has been underlined, and even strengthened, by the European Court of Justice in June 2017 (ECJ C422/16, ‘tofu-butter’).

“If I would be with Nestlé, a company that was claimed to be the number 1 in the Global Dairy Top 20 ranking by Rabobank last week, I would feel ashamed to see the Nestlé logo on such a letter,” said Alexander Anton, EDA secretary general. In a time where in other world regions, like in the US, the protection of dairy terms established by the European Union, on the basis of the Codex Alimentarius rules, start to become a model, also for other sectors (like meat), it is this letter, that is “disproportionate and out of step with the current climate,” he added.

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