A call to modernize food labelling

Food labelling needs modernization

• plant-based products currently face discrimination


Zengarry Vegetarian Cuisine’s Brie-style cashew cheese. Zengarry was ordered by CFIA to change its business and product name so it did not include the protected word “cheese.”

The Plant Foods Council, a national trade association promoting and protecting the interests of plant food manufacturers in Canada, is calling for changes to food regulations that discriminate against vegan products similar to traditional animal products such as meats, milks, cheeses and butters.

The Plant Foods Council is also seeking an end to the recent and disproportionate targeting of plant-based companies and manufacturers by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

The CFIA recently targeted Zengarry Vegetarian Cuisine (www.zengarry.com), a small Ontario company specializing in artisanal dairy-free, cashew-based cheese. Zengarry clearly labels its products as “cashew cheese” and “dairy-free.” Zengarry was ordered by CFIA to change its business and product name so it did not include the protected word “cheese,” claiming that cheese must be made from animal milk and the term “cashew cheese” would mislead consumers.

Meanwhile, other protected words like “milk” and “butter” are commonly used on labels for peanut butter, almond butter and coconut milk without confusion. The CFIA has not attempted to enforce labelling regulations against such products for use of protected words and appears to be singling out Zengarry.

“Plant-based products like grain meats, vegan cheeses and soy milks have long been pervasive in the Canadian market place. Food labelling regulations that prohibit calling a product “cashew cheese” or “soy milk” are out of step with the way consumers think about and refer to these foods. Health Canada and the CFIA must take immediate steps to modernize labelling regulations to reflect this reality and end the discrimination against plant-based foods,” says Camille Labchuk, a director of the Plant Foods Council.

This is not the first time a plant-based manufacturer has been singled out. In 2014, the CFIA forced Seattle-based Field Roast, which makes vegan grain meats, out of the Canadian marketplace. The company was required to reformulate its products to mimic the nutritional profile of animal meat, a long and expensive process.

The Plant Foods Council is asking Health Canada and the CFIA to amend regulations to:

  • Recognize and regulate the term “vegan” as a descriptor of plant-based products.
  • Allow the use of terms like “cheese,” “milk” and “butter” to describe plant-based products.
  • Remove the requirement that plant-based meats must have the same nutritional profile as animal meats.

Source: www.plantfoodscouncil.org The Plant Foods Council protects and promotes the interests of plant food manufacturers in Canada and educates the public about eating plant-based foods.

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