VEGA News Item

Labelling of yellow fat spreads - 03/10/2003
In the response to an FSA consultation, VEGA challenges the milky monopoly on certain terminology
1. Appropriation of the word milk to the mammary secretions of mammals and derivations therefrom leads to confusion and stilted descriptions. This restriction should be abandoned and these dairy words should be interpreted in the food chemist’s way, i.e. as descriptions of emulsions of various degrees of consistency and in need of qualifying prefixes or suffixes when a special source or usage is implied.

2. Some years ago the MAFF accepted that various nut butters, as well as peanut butter, had been on sale before WW2 and that brandy butter, milk of magnesia (and lime), milk thistle and the milky saps of certain plants, and pigeon milk, as well as soya-, coconut-, and cereal-derived milks, were well-known descriptions. Cream crackers and cream sherry were among other commodities with no direct association with the cow or other lactating animal. Yoghurts were well-known among the fermented milks yielded by species such as yaks and mares and goat- and sheep-milks needed differentiation from cow milk just as soya milk and oat milk.

3. In some contexts the unqualified word milk would mean human milk; similarly with colostrum and, as with yoghurts, special words existed (such as beestings as the first milk from cows; it is now being promoted as a health food). The need for a qualifying word becomes important in rescuing newborn lambs for whom emergency bottle-feeding with cow colostrum can induce anaemia.

4. The MAFF supported objections to the restricted use of milk etc., but then gave in to EU pressure to limit the descriptions to animal-derived products.

5. Recent changes command reversion, at least in English, to the older nomenclature. Commercial importance of consumers with various aversions and calling themselves dairy-frees has increased, and their requirements are being met by innovations in non-dairy commodities and cruelty-free foods. Sweet and lactic butter are on sale, and words such as lactic acid, lactate, and lactone describe ingredients that may have no connection with animals. Restriction of description has not yet affected dips, it seems, but non-dairy cheeses and crème fraîche are on sale.

6. We therefore urge acceptance of unrestricted descriptions such as soya- or pea-milk and soya yoghurt and ice cream, and the need arises for a description such as cow milk or cow butter (or cow fat) or goat cheese when such products are based on animal secretions. Some familiar terms such as cream of tartar can remain unexceptionably.

7. As olive and other oils are used in dip form as spreads on bread the labelling requirements on bottles of such adjuncts should require nutritional information similar to that on tubs and blocks of margarine (e.g. on the type and processing of the oil or fat).

Good Wishes,

Dr. Alan Long
Hon. Research Adviser

Registered Charity No. 1045293
© VEGA - 2008