Calls for truthful labelling

Milk by any other name: The dairy industry says the term ‘milk’ is used too loosely in Australia. Photo by Holly Curtis

The Australian dairy industry is calling on the Federal Government to stop allowing plant-based products to leverage dairy terms.

At a public hearing for the Senate inquiry into the definitions of meat and other animal products on December 6, Australian Dairy Industry Council representatives called on the government to support measures to address what they called “this market failure”.

ADIC chair Rick Gladigau said the Australian dairy industry had extremely strict standards of identity to be able to call a product milk, cheese or yoghurt.

“... unfortunately the plant-based products don’t have that ... the plant-based products go to market with a huge variation in nutrition, and with little evidence to support the health and sustainability claims that they are making,” Mr Gladigau said.

“On our retail shelves, we see plant-based products using dairy terms or descriptors like ‘milk’ and ‘cheese’ despite not having those terms in their ingredients; images of cows being used in marketing despite cows not being part of the production process; and statements that infer nutritional equivalence to or better than dairy despite the contrary.”

He said the dairy industry had been advocating for fair labelling and marketing since the 1980s.

Mr Gladigau told the senators that as a minimum the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code needed amendment.

Specifically, ADIC calls for the removal of Clause 1.1.1-13(4) from the code. This states that “if a food name is used in connection with the sale of a food (for example in the labelling), the sale is taken to be a sale of the food as the named food unless the context makes it clear that this is not the intention”.

Mr Gladigau said Australia also needed to address its non-compliance with the international Codex Alimentarius.

The Codex General Standard for the Use of Dairy Terms defines milk as coming from mammals and sets out where, when and how dairy terms may be used and where they may not.

“We find it unacceptable that Australia is a signatory to an international standard or agreement and has consistently failed for a very long time to comply,” Mr Gladigau said.