INDIA. Mumbai: Even as Delhi high court has sought response from the Centre, Delhi Government, and FSSAI about the use of the term “milk” for plant-based beverages, Vice-Chairman of Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd (GCMFL) (also known as “Amul) Valamji Humbal has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ban the “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)”, an NGO, for its attempts “to ruin the livelihood of 10 crore people by tarnishing the image of Indian dairy sector”.
In a release issued on Tuesday, Humbal stated that “ to ensure that such organizations stop their activities in India, milk producers of Gujarat urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi to initiate necessary action to impose a ban on organizations which are engaged in the condemnable activity of tarnishing the image of the dairy industry through misinformation campaign to encourage the plants of multinational companies producing synthetic milk”.
The National Cooperative Dairy Federation of India (NCDFI) has already filed an application (No. 16688/2021) against the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India(FSSAI) and others, in the Delhi high court alleging that certain companies are misbranding and mislabelling their plant-based food or beverages extracted from almond, soya and oats etc., like milk and other dairy terms such as paneer, curd, and yogurt. The Commissioner of Food Safety, New Delhi, Drums Food International Private Limited, Istore Direct Trading Private Limited, Raykan Beverages Private Limited and Hershey India Private Limited are the respondents.
NCDFI has pointed out that the use of the term “milk” and dairy terms for plant-based foods/beverages, is against statutory provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006(FSS Act) and the allied regulations. When the petition came for hearing on May 24, Justice Rekha Palli directed FSSAI and other agencies to file their statements. NCDFI, functioning as the apex body of the cooperative dairy industry has stated that its 17,216,000 members are engaged in manufacturing and marketing of milk and milk products, who include the dairy product giant “Amul”.
In another development, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has pointed out that plant-based milk is not covered under the definition of “Milk” as per the FSSAI and has upheld the contention of Amul that “plant-based beverages are impersonating and masquerading as dairy products”.
In a recent slew of targeted attacks against the GCMFL(Amul) and the dairy industry at large, the complaints were filed by -Beauty Without Cruelty (BWC), PETA and Sharan India, before the ASCI against the advertisement issued by Amul in on March 24, 2021, wherein it sought to expose “the falsity behind myths circulated regarding the milk”. The complainants alleged that the contentions made in the advertisement were false and made claims that: (1) Milk is not a complete food and is harmful to health and is less nutritious than plant-based food. (2) Dairy Farming is not good for cattle and cattle are subjected to cruelty and (3) Plant-Based beverages are a more sustainable food system as compared to Dairy Milk.
In response, the Amul filed replies before the ASCI, substantiating the facts stated in the advertisement with scientific findings, published reports, and unambiguous statutory provisions as incorporated under the FSS Act and the allied regulations, and demonstrated how the allegations made in the complaints were false, baseless and motivated. The ASCI upheld Amul’s contentions, while observing that there is sufficient scientific data to prove that milk is nutritious and a rich source of calcium, vitamins, carbohydrates, fat, minerals, and protein. Thus, milk can be called complete food as it contains all essential nutritive ingredients required for sustenance. Also, as per FSSAI guidelines, milk is considered a vegetarian product. Plant-based beverages also have proteins and beneficial minerals, however, most plant-based milk has lower protein content than milk.
The ASCI dismissed all three complaints, upholding the correctness of the Amul’s advertisement. The ASCI also observed that plant-based milk is not covered under the definition of “milk” as per the FSS Act and also upheld the contention of Amul that “plant-based beverages are impersonating and masquerading as dairy products”.
Speaking to the “Transcontinental Times”, the GCMMF (Amul) Managing Director R S Sodhi said that the ASCI’s ruling comes as major support for 100 million rural families mainly landless and marginal farmers owning 2 – 3 cattle each depending on livestock and animal husbandry for their livelihood against such disrupting situations and also enlightening the consumers from being cheated by false propaganda’s of MNC lobbyists.
PETA has been advising Amul to use its position to switch to producing vegan milk. It has asked Amul to benefit from the booming vegan food and milk market. It claims that the demand for plant-based products is growing. Reacting to demand to ban PETA, its India CEO Dr. Manilal Valliyate said that “Amul has shown itself to be a bully, unable to appreciate the public’s concern for animals and a business that apparently cannot change despite changing consumer trends. But no amount of bullying is going to change the fact: vegan eating is taking the world by storm”.