The Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry just announced a ban on selling or producing all vegan cheese. The move will make Turkey one of the least vegan-friendly countries in the world. Around the world, in France and also in the US, dairy alternatives have been coming under fire from dairy producers, lobbyists and corporations, which is why in California Miyoko’s Creamery had to defend its right to call products by the conventional names such as butter and cheese, a case it recently won.
This move in Turkey actually prohibits the production and sale of vegan cheese alternatives. The scale of this ban outmatches all other similar bans seen in other countries including the European Union. The legislation claims that calling dairy alternatives “cheese” will mislead shoppers.
A Dangerous Precedent to the Makers of Dairy Alternatives
The Turkish government stated that “products that give the impression of cheese cannot be produced using vegetable oil or other food ingredients,” in its latest update to the Turkish Codex Food Regulation. The Vegan Association of Turkey (TVD) immediately met this ban with pushback, claiming that vegan brands in Turkey have been forced to stop production. Plant-based companies will face fines and legal action unless they stop all production and sales.
“Attempting to stop the production of plant-based products with a regulation article and withdrawing the products in the market violates the right of access to food of all consumers who have adopted a vegan lifestyle,” TVD said in a statement.
In response, TVD filed a lawsuit against the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry defending the rights of plant-based manufacturers to continue operations within the country. Currently, the ban will force out the existing plant-based companies, destroying Turkey previously growing plant-based industry.
TVD also launched a petition through Change.org, aiming to collect public support. The ban is circulating on social media under the #LiftBanOnVeganCheese hashtag. TVD intends to work with local businesses to contest this ban in the future.
“Although the aforementioned bans are reflected as measures taken to protect consumer rights and prevent adulteration/deception, they directly prevent consumers from accessing these products without providing constructive suggestions and solutions at the point of solving the problem,” TVD said. “This means an arbitrary and disproportionate limitation of fundamental rights and freedoms by the administration and interference in the lifestyle of individuals.”
France Bans “Meat” Terms in Vegan Advertising
With the plant-based meat industry picking up steam, major meat and dairy giants have started to feel the vegan shift. Similar to the Turkey ban, France recently passed legislation that will restrict the use of meat-related terms including “steak,” “sausage,” and others for plant-based brands. Supported by the French meat industry, this ban will effectively disrupt the sale and production of plant-based meats within the country.
Some companies such as vegan bacon brand La Vie have already announced intentions of leaving France to operate elsewhere. Calling the decision “delusional,” CEO Nicolas Schweitzer’s words represent the dilemma for plant-based Turkish companies as well as brands in the European Union.
Before the French ban, the European Union rejected similar legislation aimed at stopping vegan products from being advertising with meat-associated terms. The bans and proposals all argue that consumers will be confused by the labels, despite brands often clearly labeling plant-based ingredients.
“Consumers are in no way confused by a soy steak or chickpea-based sausage, so long as it is clearly labeled as vegetarian or vegan,” Camille Perrin, the senior food policy officer at the European Consumer Organization, said in a statement at the time. “Terms such as ‘burger’ or ‘steak’ on plant-based items simply make it much easier for consumers to know how to integrate these products within a meal.”
Miyoko’s Wins Against the Dairy Industry
In the United States, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) attempted to ban the use of “butter” and “dairy” on plant-based products, but vegan dairy pioneer Miyoko Schinner – founder of Miyoko’s Creamery – sued the CDFA with the help of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and won. Schinner helped set a precedent that will protect the labeling rights for plant-based brands across the United States.
“The CDFA’s attempt to censor Miyoko’s from accurately describing its products and providing context for their use is a blatant example of agency capture,” ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells said. “The fact that animal-milk producers fear plant-based competition does not give state agencies the authority to restrict one industry to help another.”
Despite this victory, the Dairy Pride Act continues to circulate on a federal level. Promoted by the dairy industry, the act would effectively restrict the use of “milk” and dairy-associated terms for the benefit of the dairy industry.
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