Why can’t vegans say ‘milk’?

A member of an online vegan group I am a part of posted the following message. I asked Daniel if he minded me sharing it here in the hope someone can give him legal advice or insight based on their own experiences as a vegan business owner, either in Scotland or around the UK.

Daniel says:

Posting this to see if any vegan business owners have had a similar experience – I run Juice Warrior and today we had our first environmental health inspection in our new Bathgate premises. They are really not happy about us using the word ‘mylk’. We use this because we don’t like using the term ‘milk’ as in the beginning a lot of people thought we were selling dairy milks. We obviously want to completely separate ourselves from the dairy industry.

They have said ‘milk’ is a protected term by the dairy industry, so we are not allowed to use it as our milks don’t contain any dairy. Apparently this has been referred to the FSA and is going to be an issue with all the dairy free milk companies in the future.

They then said we can’t use the term ‘mylk’ as it sounds too much like milk and it’s a made up term. We pointed out that’s a bit ridiculous as there was once a time when ‘Cola’ didn’t mean anything. It really just became an argument over semantics.

The inspector used to work in a meat factory and I feel he had a problem with us from the get go – constantly backing up the meat and dairy industries and trying to tear apart the raw juice/dairy free industry.

Our kitchen and machinery are kept beyond spotless and if you were to walk in it would look like it’s never used, so we pointed out that we found it frustrating that if you were to walk into a meat factory there would potentially be blood and faeces on the floor. He said this doesn’t matter because you can kill all of that in a frying pan…

He may have a point, but we couldn’t help but feel alienated and wished there was more support for vegan businesses. It seems biased that the meat industry can get away with having blood and guts on their floors but we are being warned that if our carrots go near our apples before cleaning, we could be shut down. Obviously, we make sure we separate our roots vegetables from everything else, it was more the way he said it to us.

I read in a magazine lately of a plant based lobby for vegan businesses starting in America – does anyone know if there is anything like this in the UK yet?

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Get in contact with Daniel on his website or via Twitter if you think you can assist.

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Written by fatgayvegan

5 Comments
  1. I’ve worked in the F&B industry in England (and up until 6 months ago – so have recent experience) and the inspectors I met left a lot to be desired if I’m honest. The things they focussed on were certainly not of vital importance to health and safety, yet on 3 different inspections over 1 1/2 years they failed to notice the deep fat fryer that my manager refused to clean (in ALL of that time) (and I refuse to cook in). And never questioned the amazing coincidence that every time and inspection was ‘sprung’ on our kitchen, the manager was magically unavailable to take control (and I had to do it, despite only being an assistant and only having worked at the place for under a month on the first occasion). Open recycling buckets were somehow fine to sit next to the kitchen door but somehow the windows in the dining room were a hazard for pests.

    What was this inspector’s view on coconut milk I wonder? Can that product not be called coconut milk anymore? Will breastfeeding mothers have to talk about the benefits of breast-juice feeding now instead? Where is the evidence of this ‘protected word’?

  2. The protected word stuff sounds like complete guff to me – it’s already widely used to describe plant milks available in every supermarket. Besides which, pretty sure that if any such rule existed they would be domain of Trading Standards, not Environmental Health…

  3. I think this inspector needs reporting because that does not sound like he has had any training whatsoever. There must be a code of conduct for these types of things. Also, if ‘milk’ was only allowed to be used by the dairy industry then there would not be a shelf in my local Asda full of non-dairy alternatives all using the word milk on their packaging.
    Apart from this I cannot see how any terminology you use in store can come under the remit of environmental health ……. Unless of course you have a giant wooden cut out milk sign slap bang in the middle of the floor for people to fall over and dogs to pee against…. This guy sounds like a total tw*t.

  4. Name and shame this muppet. Sounds like he needs re-training and other non-vegan businesses need to be aware of his bias and stupidity.

  5. As someone who has worked in the FMCG F&B industry for the last 9 years, there is specific EU wide regulations on what can and can’t be called ‘milk’. If you are calling something Milk is has to have come from a cow or if from another mammal it has to be labelled ‘Goat Milk’ or what ever the animal it is coming from. From the guidelines:

    Example of dairy alternatives / analogues
    Dairy alternative products that might otherwise be considered by consumers to be
    butter, yogurt, milk and cheese (etc) must be described by a more specific but longer
    description, such as “sunflower seed spread X%”, “fermented soya dessert”, “oat
    drink” and “pizza topping / food slice” respectively. Analogues are products, which may look similar to a dairy product, but they are manufactured wholly or in part from vegetable matter. Some analogues for Cheese contain casein (which is a dairy product).

    and

    Examples considered as prohibited marketing for non-dairy products
    The use of comparisons or claims such as ‘real buttery taste’, ‘tastes like real cream’, or terms like ‘whipping’, ‘double’ etc. normally associated with dairy products, should be considered alongside the provision, in the context of a particular label or advert etc, as they may be in breach of the Regulations. The terms ‘soya / rice / oat milk’ are also not permitted under the CMO legislation.

    The full details of the legal guidelines for the marketing and sales of ‘Milk’ products see http://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/multimedia/pdfs/milkproductguide.pdf (pages 13 to 19 sections 11 through 31).

    With regards to ‘Coconut Milk’ this would fall under the same section (see section 29) with products such as ‘Peanut Butter’ which are exempt from this regulation.

    I hope this helps

    @veganmonkey (on twitter)

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