Language and words continue to evolve over time. For instance, a “phone” today is certainly different than what we thought of when the word was used in the 1980s. At the same time, words must have meaning. Though these issues may seem a bit abstract, the implications can be very real. And currently, battles are being fought around the globe to defend a word you might think seems pretty cut and dry: “milk.”
This week, The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that, within the EU, a number of dairy terms must only be used on products that come from an animal. “Milk” is the most obvious one, but the court also reaffirmed this status for words like “cream,” “butter,” “cheese” and “yogurt,” all of which are protected under EU law. Additionally, and importantly, attempting to modify these terms by adding a descriptor isn’t allowed either – meaning things like “veggie cheese” or “plant milk” simply cannot exist.
The new ruling stems from a case between the German fair competition advocates Verband Sozialer Wettbewerb and TofuTown, a company that makes and distributes vegetarian and vegan foods with names like “Soyatoo Tofu butter,” “Plant cheese” and “Veggie Cheese.” Though the brand argued that consumers understand that these products do not come from animals, the court essentially ruled for the side of the dairy industry. It was “a good day for dairy, a good day for European citizens and a good day for Europe,” Alexander Anton, secretary general of the European Dairy Association, said according to Dairy Reporter.