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Words “Milk” and “Cheese” Tabooed


Mariia Koval, attorney at Ilyashev & Partners Law Firm
Source: Ekonomichna Pravda

The European court banned naming plant products by the “milk” terms. Our country should do the same.

The EU upheld an interesting decision in the case against the German company which used to sell products under the names “vegetable cheese” and “tofu butter”. The case was initiated by Verband Sozialer Wettbewerb – the association fighting with unfair competition.

The essence of the dispute was the inadmissibility of application of words “milk”, “cheese”, “butter” or “yoghurt” towards foodstuffs which were not produced of the products of the animal origin.

The court concluded that the word “milk” cannot be applied to the foodstuffs of vegetable origin, including the milk products made of soya and tofu. It also stated that mentioning or adding any explanatory terms cannot fully rule out confusion on the side of the consumers.

The court decision is undoubtedly of the advanced nature considering for the extensive usage of the substitutes of the natural ingredients with the cheaper analogues. On top of everything, the said concerns not only milk products, but also all other foodstuffs: confectionery and meat products, drinks etc.

In view of adoption of the said court decision all Ukrainian exporters supplying their milk and milk products to Europe will have to take consideration for the particularities mentioned in the decision in the process of labeling their products.

Pursuant to the Article 58 of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement as for the necessary marking and labeling of goods Ukraine undertook an obligation to endeavour to minimise its requirements for marking or labeling.

At the same time pursuant to the EU Directive No. 1308/2013 the term “milk” and the designations used for the milk products may be used for the milk products, may be used for designation of the mixed products. In such way, the court decision against is related to the situation when the product does not contain milk ingredients of animal origin at all.

In Ukraine there is the same ban for the use of words “milk”, “chease” or “cream” in designations of products if such products are not produced from milk raw product.

Milk products are the products made of milk or of milk raw product which may contain food additives required for production provided that such additives neither in full nor in part replace the milk components (milk fat, milk protein, lactose).

The Law of Ukraine “On Milk and Milk Products” does not allow using the names of the milk products in the proper names of products and trade marks is such products are produced with the use of non-milk raw products.

Earlier in Ukraine the food producers were allowed to produce “chease product” in which the milk fat could be replaces with vegetable fat at the volume of 20%, 50% and even 100%. The situation is identical to the situation under which the EU court took the mentioned decision. The difference is that in our country such product is not called “chease”.

The same is related to butter: if butter contains vegetable fats such product cannot be called butter, but “spread”.

According to the technical regulation the marking of the products should not mislead the consumers as for their characteristics. The labels must not contain information about the missing properties of the product and the data about special properties when all similar products have the same properties.

Starting from 2015 the Verkhovna Rada is reviewing the draft law on introduction of amendments to the Law “On Milk and Milk Products”. The daft law proposes to introduce the term “milk-containing products”. These are products, in which non-milk fats may constitute no more than 50%, but may not replace the milk protein and lactose.

The problem of Ukraine is that it is not forbidden to use palm oil and very often the bad-faith producers do not mention that such oil was used during the production process. It is evident that the producers who do not use palm oil in the process of production of milk products find it difficult to compete with the bad-faith producers.

Moreover, in the course of several recent decades Ukraine has been experiencing lack of raw milk. Due to the mentioned fact the producers are forced to look for replacements of the natural milk ingredients which may totally change visual and flavor characteristics of milk and milk products.

Although production of milk and milk products in Ukraine is controlled most thoroughly, it is important to legislatively register the requirements towards possible types of production and marking not only of milk, but of all food products in order to not mislead the customers.

Legislative registration of the ban (the same as in the EU) to use the words “milk”, “chease” and “butter” towards the products containing vegetable raw materials would be totally logical and substantiated.

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