Czech officials say plant-based product labels violate EU law

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the labels can mislead consumers. One organization, however, says that changing them would cause confusion. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 01.03.2023 08:33:00 (updated on 06.03.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

The Czech Ministry of Agriculture wants to prevent manufacturers of plant-based food from using the words of the products they imitate on their labels, citing a violation of EU regulations. One advocacy group, however, says that this will confuse consumers in Czechia.

A misleading name?

An opinion published at the end of January in cooperation with the State Agricultural and Food Inspection (SZPI) states that labeling plant products such as "almond milk," "vegan cream," "plant-based milk alternative," "imitation yogurt," etc. is illegal, citing different EU regulations.

The opinion suggests that, for example, labeling soy milk as a "soy alternative to ordinary milk" misleads the consumer that it is a dairy product because it uses the word "milk" in the name.

In addition, labels such as "egg-free," and "vegetarian eggs" violate EU law, because the plant-based products do not actually contain any of these foods.

The SZPI argues that if the product does not contain part of the animal, it cannot have part of its name in the name, citing Article 7 of the EU regulation no. 1169/2011, regarding the nature, properties, and composition of the food.

Labels designed to help, argues group

According to the organization ProVeg Česko, an advocacy organization for the reduction of the use of animal products, the opinion is at odds with an earlier decision of the Czech court, which recommended such labels. The group calls into question the accuracy of how the Ministry of Agriculture interprets EU regulations.

The opinion concerns foods that are marketed as alternatives to products of animal origin. In the Czech Republic, for example, Nestlé sells a pea protein-based tuna alternative called Vuňák, which belongs to its Garden Gourmet brand.

It lists several regulations of the EU names that plant-based products could violate including "non-honey" and "vegetarian egg". ProVeg argues that "the Ministry of Agriculture is trying to limit the names of plant alternatives to animal products through its own interpretation of European law."

It says the new interpretation significantly complicates the situation for plant producers and can also confuse consumers. In response to the SZPI's announcement, ProVeg commissioned an opinion from a legal team, which found that the government's conclusions are "not justified in any way."

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more