A vegan cheese shop in Vancouver has found itself at the centre of a fight over the definition of cheese.
The Blue Heron Creamery makes and sells plant-based cheeses, yogurts, and butters.
However, after receiving a complaint, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has ordered them to stop calling their products ‘cheese’.
The legal definition of cheese states that it is made from milk.
Blue Heron has also been told they can’t even describe their products as either plant-based or dairy-free vegan cheese, which are terms other similar Canadian businesses have used.
Chef and co-owner Karen McAthy said “what we are seeking is clarity on what we can and cannot do.”
“Is there room to expand what the word means or are we going to be stuck in industry battles?”
The company is still trying to figure out how to proceed.
“The feeling is obviously full of frustration and confusion,” Colin Medhurst from Blue Heron Creamery told Global News.
The CFIA did not provide a statement to Global News Monday but did send a link to labelling standards of food in Canada.
On Tuesday, they did provide a statement, saying:
“Foods sold in Canada must have a common name (the name of the food), and all labelling must be truthful and not misleading. For some foods, there are compositional standards with associated common names. Federal cheese composition standards require that products labelled as cheese be dairy-based.
“The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) takes into account the overall impression food labels create for consumers. It is industry’s responsibility to meet all regulatory requirements, including applying food labels that are truthful and not misleading.
“The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is working with Blue Heron to address this issue and find an acceptable common name to market the company’s products.”
Blue Heron said it has always been clear about what their products are made from.
“We’ve always labelled and made it really clear in our packaging that we are dairy-free and plant-based,” Medhurst said. “So for us the frustration is that we’ve tried to show a lot of clarity and work within the process to not fool consumers.”
“So to be told that cheese itself is this unattainable and unusable word, unless you are using the tradition dairy-based form, is a little ridiculous.”