Jon Morgan: Time's up for the cow-nterfeit milks

Brassica crops are blamed for a taint in Fonterra's milk.

Brassica crops are blamed for a taint in Fonterra's milk.

OPINION: It's ironic that at a time when Fonterra has had to pull milk from the shelves because of a perceived turnip taint, European lawmakers have ruled that milk made from plants can't be marketed as milk, or cheese, or butter.

Some people want milk made of vegetables but not milk with a vegetable flavour. I imagine a turnip milk would taste awful, but I know milk made of soya beans tastes vaguely like cows' milk.

This is what has annoyed the Europeans – these vege and nut milk people have been trading on dairy milk's "healthy halo", they said. And the EU Court of Justice has upheld the law change.

It's not one of the pedantic laws the EU has become renowned for. Coconut milk, nut butter and ice-cream are exempt. And any milk from an animal is OK, giving sheep and goat milk, cheese, yoghurt etc the all-clear.


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Warning to farmers of looming synthetic meat and milk

In the US, too, moves are afoot to clamp down on false milk labelling. A bill is before Congress that would, in the words of a commentator, "rip the fake-milk moustache off any pale-white beverage made from rice, nuts, soybeans, hemp, coconut or algae".

And in typically American fashion, two class action law suits have been filed, one alleging soy milk is illegally labelled and the other targeting an almond milk company that claims its product is superior to cows' milk.

In New Zealand, there's been no hint of similar legislative moves, probably because it hasn't occurred to us laidback Kiwis and also because we're such big milk drinkers that the fake stuff hardly registers. But it could be a good time to do it.

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I'm thinking not only of the soy, almond, rice products and others who come with additives and extra sugar but are marketed as milk, but of the coming attack on meat products by fake laboratory-made meat that we are warned isn't far away.

Rules on what to call these products should be set out. They won't be meat, just as soy milk isn't milk, but you can bet the manufacturers will be keen to advertise them under the name of meat. They will want them to look like the cuts of meat we already see in our supermarket chillers.

It's one thing to offer alternatives to meat and milk products but another to trade on the good name – the healthy good name – those products have earned. And to those who say an allergy to lactose forces them to look elsewhere, you should try Zero Lacto milk. It works for me.

I'm sure it doesn't matter to vegetarians and vegans what these products are called. They'd no doubt prefer to have any hint of an association with the exploitation of animals removed.

But they don't have products to sell and shareholders demanding dividends. Calling them by a name already associated with good health and with a positive image makes sense to a marketer.

Now, in Europe, they will have to find other names. I've got a suggestion: How about Circumspect Reconstituted Artificial Poppycock, or Crap.

Jon Morgan is editor of NZ Farmer

 - Stuff


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