But plant-based dairy might need to be relabelled going forward.
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Packages of "Impossible Burger" and "Beyond Meat" sit on a shelf for sale on November 15, 2019 in New York City. - Vegetarian alternatives to burgers and sausages, revived by start-ups like Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger, are enjoying a certain enthusiasm that meat giants also want to enjoy. Since this summer, the world leader in the JBS sector has been marketing a soy burger in Brazil that includes beetroot, garlic and onions, with a look similar to a rare minced steak. In the US, the largest meat producer Tyson Foods launched a new line of products in June based on plants or mixing meat and vegetables. Its competitors Hormel Foods, Perdue Farms or Smithfield, have similar initiatives. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
Credit: ANGELA WEISS / Contributor / Getty Images

These days, it feels like you can hardly wander the aisles of a grocery store or browse a restaurant menu without encountering some sort of plant-based "burger," steak, or sausage. While we might take that sort of labelling for granted here in the States, it seems to be a flashpoint of controversy among European farmers and lawmakers. 

Now, however, a new ruling related to the European Union's farming policy package should offer some clarity that should be hailed as a victory for hungry vegans — at least in a certain sense. 

Recently, the European Parliament struck down a proposed ban that would have severely curtailed how plant-based meat substitutes could be labelled. Backed by a lobbying group representing EU farmers, the edict would have forbidden the use of language like "burgers," "sausages," "bacon," etc. Their concern was that selling plant-based products using terminology usually associated with meat would cause confusion for consumers. 

Opponents of the measure, whose ranks included Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Foundation, argued that the use of such language is essential, and that banning its use could ultimately discourage consumers from moving towards plant-based diets. Given that cutting back on meat fits with the EU's stated health and environmental goals, a majority of EU lawmakers ultimately struck down the ban. 

While this particular ruling was hailed as a victory for vegans and makers of plant-based meat substitutes, those producing dairy alternatives received some less welcome news from Europe's lawmaking body. Around the same time, EU lawmakers voted in favor of tighter restrictions on how dairy substitutes can be labelled and marketed, essentially banning the use of terms like "milk," "butter," "cheese," and the like for products that do not contain any proper dairy. 

That wasn't welcome news for non-profits like Good Food Institute Europe, who called on the EU to "clear up this mess and reject confusing and unnecessary restrictions on plant-based dairy products," according to CNN.

Luckily for fans of soy milk, the rulings aren't final yet. Before the bans can be either codified into law or fully struck down, European parliament must align with EU member countries on a final policy.