Vegetable drinks of soy, rice, oats and almonds: why don’t we say milk anymore?

Vegetable drinks of soy, rice, oats and almonds: why don't we say milk anymore?

The Act of Parliament on the word milk

The European Parliament in its plenary session approved a strengthening of the protection for dairy denominations. Vegetable drinks, such as those based on soy , almonds, oats , etc., cannot be called “milk”. Different in composition and in the very origin of the raw material, veg drinks and milk of animal origin are two products that differ above all from a nutritional point of view .

For some time in the European Union it has not been possible to use the word “milk” to define some vegetable drinks, such as, for example, one above all, soy drinks. However, the vote of the European Parliament goes further, as it does not limit itself to confirming the rules in force since 2017, which prohibit the improper use of the typical names of dairy products such as: butter, cheese, yogurt or the very word ” milk “. With this vote, Parliament also decided to ban evocations and imitations: for example, the use of expressions such as “milk-like drink” or “milk substitute” . Just as tofu can no longer be defined as a “vegetable cheese”,or soy may not bear words such as “milk substitute” on the label . This is a protection of milk denominations similar to that envisaged for PDO and PGI.

The protection of the denomination

The European assembly has therefore decided to reiterate its opposition to the use of the name milk for products based on soy, almonds, rice , oats and other derivatives of non-animal origin. The protection of dairy denominations in Europe began as early as 1987 and was confirmed with subsequent regulations. Furthermore, with various sentences, the Court of Justice of the European Union has punctually confirmed the protection of dairy denominations. The latest, in chronological order, was the well-known TofuTown Judgment, which established that the European ban on the use of dairy names is valid even if plant-based products are accompanied by indications that specify their origin, i.e. the nature vegetable of the product.

The exceptions in Italy

There are some exceptions for plant products. However, the prohibition does not apply to “the designation of products whose exact nature is clear from traditional use and/or where the designations are clearly used to describe a characteristic quality of the product”.

In particular in Italy , the exception concerns the following products:

  • almond milk
  • cocoa butter
  • coconut milk .

The market for vegetable drinks

With the increase in veganism and intolerances – in particular to lactose – the sale of milk of animal origin is undergoing an inflection compared to the constant growth on the market of vegetable alternatives. According to estimates released by The Vegan Society website, in fact, the vegetable beverage sector   in Europe in 2019 produced a total turnover of over  1.7 billion euros , which translates into 14% of the total sector. Those who are allergic or intolerant to cow’s milk prefer vegetable milk , in constant increase, but also those who choose it over milkvaccine , for ethical or personal reasons. Vegetable milk is usually less caloric , without saturated fat and rich in proteins and vitamins . All elements that make it a valid substitute for cow’s milk.

Choosing a vegetable drink requires attention: the origin must always be checked (especially if we are talking about soy). Prefer organic and traceable crops . Products with added sugar or sodium but also those with unspecified vegetable oil should be avoided.

Almond milk (  unsweetened) is now America’s favorite milk substitute, with sales growing 250% over the past five years, representing 5% of the total milk market Many attribute this growing consumption, in spite of rice, soy or oat drinks, to its beneficial properties and in particular to its high protein content , precious for those who follow a vegan diet or in case of a diet.

Banana milk is also among the most popular vegetable milks .

These are the benefits of oatmeal instead .

Soy-based foods are one of the plant-based alternatives for those who don’t want to eat meat .

Is eating in white useful when you don’t feel good?

Even veg cheeses cannot be called cheese

The Court of Justice  has interpreted the EU legislation  by noting that, as stated in the text of the judgment: “for the purposes of marketing and advertising, the legislation in question reserves, in principle, the designation ‘milk’ only  to milk of animal origin . Furthermore, except for the exceptions expressly provided for, this legislation reserves the designations such as milk cream or cream, Chantilly, butter, cheese and yoghurt,  only for dairy products , i.e. products  derived from milk “.
In particular, the following denominations used at all stages of marketing are reserved solely for dairy products:

  • whey
  • milk cream or cream
  • butter
  • buttermilk
  • butteroil
  • casein
  • anhydrous milk fat (MGLA)
  • cheese
  • yogurt
  • kefir
  • xkumiss
  • viii/fil
  • smetana
  • phil
  • ryazhenka
  • rūgušpiens.

Milk and cheese can be defined as such only if of animal origin , regardless of the properties and benefits, for example, of vegetable drinks, which are valid alternatives to cow’s milk, for intolerant or vegans.



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