UK opposes yoghurt name change

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Yoghurt, European union, Uk

The proposal by the EU to redefine the rules governing what
constitutes as yoghurt has come up against a wall of opposition in
the UK. The two-fold proposal calls for only products that contain
live bacteria to be defined as yoghurt.

This will result in either a change in the product in the UK or a change in the its name. It is likely that yoghurt produced in the UK that do not contain the live bacteria that are currently called yoghurt will have to change its name if the EU's proposals go through.

The British Retail Consortium and the Dairy Industry Association (DIAL), have both branded the EU's proposal to rename yoghurt in the UK as unneeded. They fear that it will cause confusion and damage an industry estimated to be worth £870 m.

What constitutes yoghurt in different member states appears to vary, and it is this factor which has urged the EU to impose the name change rule, which has aroused disapproval in countries such as France, Italy, Denmark, and the UK. In Belgium for example, only products that contain bitter tasting live bacteria are called yoghurt, but this is not the case in other countries such as France, Italy, Denmark and the UK.

Ed Komorowski, technical director at DIAL, believes that confusion may reign for both consumers and producers if the proposals are to go ahead. He estimates that 99 per cent of yoghurts that are currently on the UK market will have to change their name to 'mild yoghurt'.

"The proposal is causing consternation amongst manufacturers. If the product is to be called mild then this makes a comparison with something",​ he believes if the word 'mild' is used in the defining of yoghurt products in the UK, it would be difficult for consumers to draw comparisons.

"We have had a successful market going back 30 years in the UK that has evolved through products changing to meet the needs of consumers,"​ Komorowski added.

The proposal to prohibit the allowance of the word 'bio' in yoghurt marketing has also caused concern within the industry. The British Retail Consortium, which claims to be the leading association representing a range of retailers in the UK, is opposed to the proposal.

Richard Wood, the assistant director for food policy believes that consumers are not confused in UK as the word 'bio' has no connection with organic in the English language. He says that "there is no need for any additional controls to be set in the UK"​ because the general food law adequately controls yoghurt in member states.

There will not be a large change in names for yoghurts that currently use the word 'bio', but Komorowski believes that it is the principle of the matter which is the issue.

"The move will cause a decline in the market and inhibit future growth of yoghurt because it restricts consumer needs,"​ he added.

He claims that the ban of 'bio' will hold no advantage for anyone in the industry."If a product is marked organic it reaches the organic standards set by community legislation and if it is marked 'bio' it means that it has live culture.​" He said, "the two things mean different things. I do not see the slightest bit of confusion"

Wood argues that consumers "have little knowledge of microbiology" and he fears that this may put many consumers off yoghurts named 'alternative cultured yoghurt'.

The British Retail Consortium has written to Lord Whitty from the Department for Environment of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in an attempt to gain support for the group's plan to push for the UK to continue to be allowed to use the current names for yoghurt. It urges the department to "redouble its efforts to persuade the Commission to adopt a pragmatic approach based on subsidiarity and the primacy of national languages."

Related topics: Markets, Yogurt and Desserts

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