An appeal to the European Commission from the Ministry of Rural Affairs has failed, paving the way to the banning of labeling coconut-based dairy substitutes as 'coconut milk'. The ruling may also see peanut butter having to be alternatively named.
The ruling refers to milk-like products based on coconut, soy, almond and similar, and not the actual coconut milk obtained from the inside of that fruit.
Spokesperson for the Agriculture and Food Board (PTA) Ave Mägi said Tuesday that: "So far as the requirements are concerned, they apply equally to everyone, meaning that cafes and restaurants are also obliged to comply. This would mean that 'coffee with oat milk' for instance, is not a correct label."
From the new year, the board will start to monitor for violations more strictly.
While the number of infringement proceedings has not increased recently, the agency estimates that there are still non-compliant labels appearing in stores.
While a 2017 European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling, following an earlier EU decision from 2013, stated that using dairy terms for non-dairy substitute products, such as "oat milk" or "soy yoghurt" were forbidden, Estonia's rural affairs ministry had requested an exemption whereby the terms words "coconut milk" and "peanut butter" could continue to be used, but negotiations with the European Commission drew a blank, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.
"Oat milk" for instance became "oat drink" or similar, so far as labeling went, some time ago; labeling such products "cheese-like" or "vegan cheese" etc. is also barred, including in the media and via other advertising channels.
A part-reversal on the policy followed the scrapping of the EU's Amendment 171 earlier this year, however, meant as thing stand, some phrases such as "creamy" and "buttery" are still permissible in plant-based food labeling, it is reported.
Editor: Andrew Whyte