Canadian Vegan Food Producer Ordered To Ditch The Word 'Cheese'

A UK vegan cheese shop is having a similar experience - with a pro-dairy organization demanding it stops calling its products 'plant-based cheese' - or face legal action
Vegan cheese
Vegan cheese from Blue Heron (Photo: Blue Heron)

An independent vegan cheese shop in Canada has been ordered to stop using the word 'cheese' to market its products which are made from coconut milk, cashews, and almonds.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency emailed Blue Heron in Vancouver at the end of last month, saying it had received complaints about 'products being labeled as 'cheese' when they are allegedly not'.

According to reports, Blue Heron does not use the word 'cheese' on its products, but it uses them on its website and social media. Refusing to change the language would reportedly be a breach of the Food and Drug Regulations Act.

"If vegan cheese-alternative companies cannot use cheese proper, and by the CFIA's own regulations on phonetic pronunciation, the word cheeze, what can we use?" Blue Heron Founder Karen McAthy asked The Globe and Mail. "I knew this would eventually be an issue."

Vegan cheese

A vegan cheese shop in London, UK, is currently facing similar calls to ditch the dairy-related nomenclature. La Fauxmagerie, which opened in Brixton recently, has been targeted by farming organization Dairy UK, which has threatened legal action if the shop doesn't drop the c-word.

"Dairy UK has a duty to ensure the nutritional and health benefits of real dairy are recognized by and communicated to consumers," a spokesperson for Dairy UK said. "It concerns us that consumers are being misled with the use of dairy terms like cheese by the plant-based sector.  

"It is fundamental to protect the consumer from product descriptions which are misleading.  In the first instance, we will be contacting La Fauxmagerie to make them aware of the current EU ruling on the protection of dairy terms.

"Like milk, cheese has a host of nutritional benefits and is a source of a number of important nutrients including calcium, protein, vitamin A, phosphorus and vitamin B12."

La Fauxmagerie Founders Charlotte and Rachel Stevens
La Fauxmagerie founders Charlotte and Rachel Stevens

'Not confusing'

La Fauxmagerie's founders, sisters Charlotte and Rachel Stevens, said they were 'taken back' by the Dairy UK's comments, which were published in an article by The Telegraph.

They revealed to Plant Based News that neither Dairy UK nor The Telegraph had contacted them prior to the article being published.

"We've been totally blown away by the support from the community both online and offline and agree with our consumers that our use of the term 'plant-based cheese' is not confusing or misleading in any way," they added.

"We will continue to be open to the public as usual during our regular opening hours and will continue to serve our fantastic customer base by sourcing the best plant-based cheese the UK has to offer."

'Not confused'

Despite these cases in Canada and the UK, a 2018 US survey showed that consumers are not confused by terms like 'vegan cheese'.

According to the research by the International Food Information Council (IFFC), fewer than 10 percent of US consumers believe that plant-based milks contain any dairy products.

The study shows that a further 75 percent know the vegan products do not contain cow's milk, and the remaining respondents are not sure. The IFCC says these results show 'a low level of consumer confusion over nomenclature and basic differences between the two'.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are prepared in the author's capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Plant Based News itself. 

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PBN Contributor:

Maria is the Editor of Plant Based News. A former magazine editor, newspaper reporter, and features writer, her work has been published by The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and various regional newspapers. She was previously the editor of Vegan Life magazine and Vegan Trade Journal. She has interviewed a huge range of people, from Prime Ministers to authors, activists, pop stars and actors, and enjoys the varied range of topics writing for PBN allows her to tackle. You can follow her on Twitter @MariaChiorando and Instagram @mariachiorando.

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