Aussie dairy farmers move to reclaim "milk" label from 'misleading' alternatives

Australian dairy farmers have launched a campaign to ban plant-based products from using the term "milk" on labels and in marketing.

Farming group Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) claims using the term gives a misleading impression that plant-based products had a nutritional equivalency with dairy milk.

ADF President Terry Richardson said the group wanted a review of current legislation and has called on the Australian federal government to look at the issue.

"Australia needs to restore truth in product labelling so that consumers can make more accurate food and beverage choices," he said.

"Over the past decade, a growing number of plant-based products have cropped up, using the name milk, co-opting the look and feel of dairy milk right down to the packaging, and trading on dairy's reputation to gain a marketing advantage," said Richardson.

Terry Richardson said consumers need transparent and accurate product labelling.
Terry Richardson said consumers need transparent and accurate product labelling. Photo credit: Supplied

He said a ban on plant-based products using the "milk" label would bring Australia into line with other countries, after the European Court of Justice in 2017 mandated that dairy terms could not be used on plant-based products, even with clarifying terms.

"We are calling for changes to the food standards so that consumers trying to make a healthy choice at the supermarket have the benefit of transparent and accurate product labelling."

A 2017 survey by Dairy Australia showed 54 per cent of respondents bought plant-based milk alternatives because they perceived them to be healthier than dairy milk.

Market research firm IBISWorld estimates Australia's plant-based "milk" product industry has grown at an annualised rate of 4.1 percent over the five years to 2018-19, to $165.8AUD million today.