The National Cooperative Dairy Federation of India (NCDFI), the supreme organization for the cooperative dairy sector, has most of the dairy cooperative societies, including AMUL, as its members and being the stakeholder for about 17.2 million dairy farmers, approached the Delhi High Court by way of a Writ Petition, against the apex food safety regulator, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and companies like Hersheys, Rakyan Beverages Pvt. Ltd., Istore Direct Trading Pvt. Ltd. (Urban Platter) and Drums Food International Pvt. Ltd. (Epigamia), who are involved in the business of vending off plant-based beverages such as soy drinks and almond drinks unlawfully labelling them as “milk”.

Amul in a statement has stated that the Petition was directed against the illicit use of the term “milk” and dairy terms for plant-based foods/beverages, the use of which is against statutory provisions of Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and the allied Regulations.

The Petition by NCDFI came up before the Delhi High Court, on 24th May 2021, wherein the Delhi High Court while realizing that it is a fascinating issue, released notice and asked for response from the Centre, Delhi Government, FSSAI and plant based food companies regarding the same.

Earlier too, Advertising Standards Council of India disapproved complaints filed against dairy leader Amul viz Advertisement – “Plant Based Dairy analogue products like Soya Beverages, are not Milk”.

RS Sodhi, MD of GCMMF, has declared that plant based food companies have been encashing the equity of milk.

He apprised- “The plant beverages (claimed to be milk) are nothing but genetically modified lab food products, made out of chemicals and synthetic materials. The only objective of these product manufacturers was to make profit not livelihood. Indian Dairy Industry is a model of co-existence of humans and animals for centuries and foreign funded NGOs are running campaigns to tarnish the Indian Dairy Industry, which unlike the Western world is not a factory farm industry. Cattle are part of the farmer’s family and nobody tortures them.”

Dr G S Rajorhia, president of Indian Dairy Association, has also mentioned that milk is a product obtained from mammillary secretion and is defined in the law books of the FSSAI. He informed that 70% of the milk procurement happens in the rural areas of India where farmers and cattle live together as a family. Further 10 crore families are directly dependent on Indian dairy sector. The plant based milk is a false and misleading propaganda.

Meanwhile, buckling under pressure, it is observed that after petition from NCDFI, the supreme food regulator of the country has nodded to the submission made by the dairy industry that plant-based derivatives marketed as milk should be treated as ‘misbranded products.’

Parag Milk Foods Ltd, a dairy FMCG Company had raised their concern with FSSAI to re-assess the constituents of plant extracts such as soya and almond etc. and suggested that it should be classified as plant-based beverage and not milk.

Devendra Shah, chairman, Parag Milk Foods Ltd stated- “Basis this recommendation, Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in its recent regulation regarding the revised standards of milk and milk products stated that products that are constituents not derived from milk are considered to be misbranded as ‘Milk’. Hence, the term ‘dairy products’ (milk & milk products), cannot be used for such products in any advertisement, label or commercial document.”

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