Cashew ch**se. Pretty soon, there won’t be any soy milk in all of Europe. Or hemp milk, for that matter. The tofu butter crackdown is upon us.
The European Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday that plant-based products can no longer be labeled “milk,” “cheese,” “butter,” or “yogurt,” BBC News reports. The decision results from a complaint against TofuTown, a “plant cheese” purveyor that apparently threatened the European dairy industry by co-opting its hard-won language.
German consumer protection group Verband Sozialer Wettbewerb (VWB) filed the complaint, claiming that TofuTown’s products violated European Union law by using dairy-derived terms.
Since 2013, EU regulations have required that dairy words be used exclusively on dairy products, save for a few notable exceptions like peanut butter, coconut milk, and, uh, “salad cream.” But the rules haven’t stopped plant-based analogues from testing the waters: Just last week, the U.K. National Farmers Union issued a warning about non-dairy drinks bearing fake “milk” credentials.
Here’s the thing: all of TofuTown’s product names contained qualifiers, like “plant cheese” and “tofu butter,” and the company argued that shoppers weren’t likely to confuse its product for actual butter. By that logic, it wasn’t violating EU regulations—it’s not like TofuTown was trying to hoodwink people into believing cashew paste was real cheese.
But the court wasn’t having it. “The addition of descriptive or clarifying additions indicating the plant origin of the product concerned, such as those used by TofuTown, has no influence on that prohibition,” read the ruling, according to BBC. Zing!
Similar sentiment has been brewing in the United States for a while now—maybe even as far back as the 1870s, depending on whom you ask. More recently, senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced a DAIRY PRIDE Act in January 2017 (it’s a convoluted acronym, more here). If passed, the law would impose similar restrictions on “milk” language in the U.S. So far, it hasn’t been brought to a vote.
Maybe tofu butter’s forced European rebrand will be an easy fix. I’d spread “tofu schmear” on just about anything. “Tofu margarine”? Not so much.