Current laws, at both national and EU level, establish the rights of consumers to safe food and to accurate and honest information.
In the EU, rules are put in place on the labeling of foodstuffs to enable European consumers to get comprehensive information on the contents and the composition of food products. ENSA members have always ensured their products feature accurate and substantial nutrition information so that consumers can make an informed choice, ultimately leading to a balanced and healthy diet.
ENSA sees a number of opportunities where its products could be labeled better to improve communication and information to consumers.
Marketing of plant-based alternatives
We are committed to providing consumers with meaningful information about plant-based products, and not mislead them as regards to their true plant-based nature.
Although most consumers refer to plant-based drinks by the term “soymilk” or “almond milk”, the word “milk” is a protected denomination reserved only for mammary secretions. (This stipulation is found in the EU’s Single CMO Regulation). We refer to our soy-based products as fully fledged plant-based alternatives to dairy products, as they are used in the same way and at the same consumption moments as dairy milk (for example in coffee, on cereals, in cooking) and have the same nutritional value. Thanks to their protein content, they are a perfect alternative for those who cannot or chose not to consume animal protein or want to vary between dairy and non-dairy options.
In general , plant-based food and drinks, being a variety of dairy, do not contain lactose or cholesterol and are generally characterized by a favourable fatty acid composition meaning that they generally contain little saturated fat.
Because of their composition and nutritional properties, soy, cereal, nut and seed based “beverages” are in fact closer to “food” than to beverages. This is a characteristic that distinguishes them from thirst quenching drinks. It is, however, a characteristic that they share with milk.
Similarly, our members market plant-based alternatives to meat, which are putting forward their plant-based nature. The use of specific “meat” terms on plant-based alternatives should be assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the specificities of each market, and in the interest of consumers being appropriately informed what plant-based alternatives to meat are available on their supermarket shelves.
Lactose-free labeling is extremely important to lactose-intolerant consumers looking for a fully-fledged alternative to dairy products. Thanks to their nutritional composition including high-quality protein and beneficial fatty-acids, soy foods are a suitable alternative to dairy products. ENSA believes labeling of soy foods as naturally lactose-free would benefit consumers, particularly those who are lactose-intolerant. Read ENSA’s position on why lactose-free labeling matters.
Nutrition and Health Claims
In 2010, the European Commission rejected a claim on dietary cholesterol. ENSA regrets this decision as it prevents products that are naturally free from dietary cholesterol from bearing this label. The claim that soy products are naturally free from cholesterol is a fact and consumers should be adequately informed about it.
ENSA believes the conditions of use for health claims should not discriminate against products that are naturally suitable to bear the claim. This has been achieved in some claims such as the nutrition claim on saturated-fat free which allows products that naturally contain this property to make the claim. Similarly, the pending health claim on lactose helping to decrease gastro-intestinal discomfort includes products that are low in lactose as well as naturally lactose-free. ENSA is working to ensure such conditions remain.