European Parliament report misses opportunity to offer plant-based milk alternatives to EU school children
Today, the European Parliament adopted its own initiative report on the school scheme for fruit, vegetables, milk and dairy products (2021/2205(INI)), but missed the opportunity to explicitly include plant-based alternatives to dairy milk.
Together with more than 30 NGO and industry representatives, Eurogroup for Animals and its members called on the Parliament to include plant-based milk alternatives. Authorising Member States to procure plant-based dairy alternatives in EU schools would align the scheme with the Farm to Fork strategy’s ambitions and recognise the needs of children who cannot, or do not want to, consume dairy milk due to allergies or for ethical or environmental reasons.
The EU School Scheme supports the distribution of fruit, vegetables, milk and milk products and benefits around 20 million children throughout Europe. Given that 70% of the EU’s agricultural emissions are attributed to livestock farming, the School Scheme can be a low-hanging fruit for the EU to reduce methane emissions from the food system without compromising with the health aspect of the scheme.
It’s a disappointing outcome for what should have been a logical step to make plant-based, sustainable options more accessible in schools across the EU. Now we look to the European Commission to align their policies meaningfully to ensure a smooth transition to sustainable food systems.Reineke Hameleers, CEO, Eurogroup for Animals
In spite of the missed opportunity to include plant-based drinks, the European Parliament’s report does support higher animal welfare as it encourages the uptake of organic products within the scheme, mentioning that at least 25% of the products should be organic. The report also calls on the Commission to ensure that the products comply with objective criteria for animal welfare.
The EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy has stressed the need for a transition towards sustainable consumption patterns and the fact that a shift to a more plant-based diet will benefit public health and the environment. In addition to the environmental and health credentials of plant-based dairy alternatives, the crops used for most EU plant-based drinks are grown in the EU and their inclusion will support European farmers. The European Commission will review the School Scheme as part of the Farm to Fork Strategy and put forward a proposal towards the second half of the year.
Eurogroup for Animals and its member organisations therefore call on the European Commission to:
- Include unsweetened, fortified plant-based dairy alternatives in its proposal and;
- Ensure that all dairy milk that is distributed should follow higher animal welfare standards, i.e be organic, and contribute towards the Organic Action Plan. Dairy products from intensive, non-organic farming systems should not be subject to public funding through the school scheme.