Judge: Plant Spread Can Be Called Butter

Aug. 13, 2021
Miyoko’s Creamery can call its plant-based spread “butter” despite California’s regulations to the contrary, a federal judge ruled Aug. 11.

Miyoko’s Creamery can call its plant-based spread “butter” despite California’s regulations to the contrary, a federal judge ruled Aug. 11.

Putting the word “butter” on a product made from sunflower and coconut oil does not unduly confuse consumers, especially since Miyoko’s packaging states that the product is “vegan” and “made from plants,” according to the ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg. He made permanent a preliminary injunction he had granted in the case about a year ago.

Miyoko sued the California Department of Food and Agriculture after being told to stop calling its product butter. The state based its action on the product’s failure to meet federal standards of identity for butter, which specify that it must be made from at least 80% milkfat.

Seeborg’s decision dismissed that consideration. He wrote that California seemed to be arguing that the 80% milkfat standard deserves “a sort of constitutional credit for old age” and that “this logic...defies common sense. Quite simply, language evolves.”

The ruling was hailed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which backed Miyoko’s lawsuit. “The fact that animal-milk producers fear plant-based competition does not give state agencies the authority to restrict one industry in order to help another,” executive director Stephen Wells said in a statement.

Miyoko’s Creamery recently raised $52 million in a new round of funding, which it will use to develop and expand distribution of its vegan cheeses.

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