Germany: Court judgement in Trier – Vegan products may not be marketed as “cheese

Court ruling: Vegan products are not cheese

Consumer protection & court decision in Trier: Vegan products may not be marketed as “cheese”

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According to a court decision from Trier, milk of animal origin must also be included where it says “cheese”.

In a civil case, the Regional Court of Trier has now forbidden a producer of vegan food from using the designation “cheese”. According to the court decision, the marketing strategy of the defendant company is anti-competitive, because cheese must contain milk of animal origin.

According to a court decision from Trier, milk of animal origin must also be included where it says “cheese”. A producer specialising in vegetarian and vegan food may no longer market his products under this name.

In a judgment announced on Tuesday, the Seventh Civil Chamber of the Regional Court of Trier prohibited a manufacturer from the Eifel region specialising in vegetarian and vegan food from marketing some of its products under the name “cheese” (file number 7 HK O 41/15, judgment of 24.3.2016). The Court relies on European law (EU Regulation 1308/2013).

Accordingly, the company’s internet presence is anti-competitive. It is true that the product description makes it clear that the products in question are not of animal origin. However, this was not sufficient. The decision did not depend on whether consumers could be deceived by the designation, the Court stated.

The lawsuit was brought by an association that wants to protect its members from unfair competition. The court did not disclose the name, not even that of the producer. The decision was made by way of interim legal protection.

The German Farmers’ Association (DBV) welcomes this ruling. It criticises the practice of some food processors to describe a non milk-based food as “cheese”, although the legal protection of milk and milk products is clear. The DBV considers this practice to be illegal and calls on food processors to change the designation of their products.

Protection of the designation required

Since meat and sausage products have so far lacked a comparable designation protection and vegetarian and vegan meat and sausage substitutes with terms such as ham or schnitzel are increasingly coming onto the market, the DBV demanded from the legislator a sharpening of the regulations and a clear commitment to the original.

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