Why can’t we call vegan cheese vegan cheese?

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The wonderful vegan Blue Heron Creamery in Vancouver was recently told to stop using the word cheese, and this was covered in the media: Global report with video, daily hive, The Georgia Straight.

We were recently approached by the powers that be and asked to rename our cheesecake to cashew cake – antiquated dominance of our food regulators by the meat & dairy industry has left these dinosaur rules in place.

Anna Pipus wrote a rebuttal on ipolitics.ca that we include in our sidebar.

The following is an opinion piece from ipolotics.ca

CFIA regulations on classifying milk products ‘badly out of date’ by Anna Pippus. Published on Feb 20, 2019 9:13pm

This week, Vancouver-based vegan cheesemaker Karen McAthy of Blue Heron Creamery made the news when she was told by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to stop using the word “cheese” to describe her plant-based cheeses, cultured in the traditional cheesemaking fashion from ingredients like almonds, coconuts, and cashews.

Canadian regulations define milk as being lacteal secretions from animals’ mammary glands, while cheese, cream, sour cream, butter, and ice cream, are defined as being made from this milk.

The regulations were drafted four decades ago, before the explosion of the plant-based food sector, and even before Canadians were thoughtful enough to consider the dietary patterns of those from other cultures in our food policy. Soy milk, for example, has been popular for nearly 700 hundreds years throughout Asia, where most adult humans are lactose intolerant.

Canadian consumers may think we’re buying soy milk, but look closer: it’s typically labelled soy beverage. This may not be an overly confusing label for plant-based milks, which come in similar packaging and are in the same supermarket fridge as cow milk.

But when it comes to cheeses and other dairy products, which cover a wide variety of products in a wide variety of packaging, it’s not so easy to discern what a product is without the terms that are familiar to us. For example, is “cultured cashew spread” meant to be used like cream cheese, sour cream, butter, or something else?

The stated purpose of Canada’s food labelling rules is to prevent consumers from being deceived or misled. But plant-based dairy companies are not trying to mislead consumers. On the contrary: these days, the dairy-free nature of products is a marketing advantage, and the primary reason for many companies’ and products’ existence. They’re deliberately making it clear that their dairy-free products do not contain lacteal secretions from animals’ mammary glands.

In the United States, regulations permit food companies to use regulated terms — like cheese and milk— with qualifiers, such as “dairy-free,” “plant-based,” “cashew,” or “soy.” Far from being confusing, these labels offer details to consumers in language they are already using. The American regulatory regime recognizes that the name of a food can be established by common usage —in other words, if we’re all calling it soy milk, it should be labelled soy milk.

In Canada, too, we are colloquially referring to non-dairy milks, cheeses, and so forth in everyday language, the media, and even supermarket advertising. Labels should reflect our language. And indeed, given that the purpose of the regulations is purportedly to avoid confusion, labels must reflect our language, lest they be misleading. This puts food producers in a tough spot: both labelling a product what consumers call it and using a euphemism could potentially violate the regulations.

“Milk” and derivative terms are not the intellectual property of the dairy industry, and Canadian regulators should not be effectively enforcing a non-existent trademark for them. The role of our food labelling regulator is to ensure that companies can clearly communicate with consumers through labels—not to further the private commercial interests of one sector over another.

Ultimately, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s regulations may not even be constitutional. Canadians enjoy a right to free expression, barring a pressing and substantial government objective. In other words, if we want to culture cashew milk instead of cow milk and sell it as cashew cheese, the government has to have a really good reason not to let us.

Consumers are increasingly switching to dairy-free products out of concerns for the animals, the environment, or our own health — or simply because of taste preference. This is not a fad, but a new normal. Regulations that can only conceive of milk as being the lacteal secretions from animals’ mammary glands are badly out of date, creating unnecessary barriers for entrepreneurs and consumers in the 21st century.

Until then, enjoy your jars of peanut butter and cans of coconut milk while you can — according to Canadian food labelling regulations, those labels may actually be illegal.

Anna Pippus is a lawyer, writer and director of the Plant-based Policy Centre.

3 important reasons to try veganism in 2017

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Sophie Sucree Montreal Vegan Tacos

Happy New Year to all of our beloved clients, friends and family! What are some of your New Years Resolutions for 2017?
The 21 Day Vegan Challenge starts tomorrow and here are 3 important reasons why we think going vegan should be your 2017 resolution…

1. For the animals

Sophie Sucree Montreal Farm Animals - Go Vegan

According to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, every year, more than 650 million animals are slaughtered for food in Canada. While most Canadians assume the government ensures the humane treatment of farm animals, the unfortunate reality leaves us shocked to discover the lack of monitoring of farms across the country. Farming practices in Canada have changed dramatically over the last 50 to 60 years and Canada currently has no regulations stipulating how animals should be treated on farms other than federal and provincial animal cruelty laws. This often results in the mistreatment of farm animals and we also see cases of rare and egregious abuse, such as when animals are neglected to the point of starvation and medical neglect. By going vegan, you could spare the lives of over 100 farm animals per year!!! We think that alone is reason enough to go vegan, but here are a couple other important points to consider…

Sophie Sucree Montreal Going Vegan 2017

2. For the environment

According to Greenpeace, raising animals for food generates as much greenhouse gas emissions as all cars, trucks, planes and trains in the world combined! Factory farms all over the world cram hundreds of animals into large areas of soiled pasture that emit not only carbon dioxide, but also more potent gases of methane and nitrous oxide, all of which has a direct impact on global warming. In addition, 75% of agriculture land is devoted to raising animals and cattle enterprises are responsible for up to 80% of Amazon deforestation. Once we add more plants and alternative proteins to our diets, we may begin to heal the planet, and in turn heal ourselves! Which brings us to the last point…

Sophie Sucree Montreal Vegan Healthy New Years Resolution 2017

3. For your health

According to a recent study conducted by the Oxford University, by 2050, widespread adoption of plant-based diets would avert 8.1 million premature human deaths every year. This was found to be the case due to the reduction of red and processed meat, which the World Health Organization classified as carcinogenic due to its risk of colorectal cancer. In addition, a well-balanced plant-based diet is rich in protein, iron, calcium and other essential vitamins and minerals. Unlike the average Western diet, a well-planned vegan diet tends to be low in saturated fat, high in fibre and packed with antioxidants, helping mitigate some of the modern world’s biggest health issues like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Some vegans also experience increased energy, clearer skin, stronger hair and nails, and reduced allergy symptoms. By removing animal products from your plate, you leave room for a wider variety of fresh vegetables and other savoury ingredients.

Sophie Sucree Montreal Vegan Healthy New Years Resolution
Photo taken from the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University

 

Have we said enough to convince you? With so many delicious vegan food options scattered around our beautiful city of Montreal, and so many amazing vegan blogs out there with delectable recipes to try, there’s no reason not to try out veganism. If you’re in need of some extra support, sign yourself up for the 21 Day Vegan Challenge starting tomorrow and let your friends and family take part in it too.

For the animals, for the planet, for your health, make veganism your New Years Resolution in 2017!