Some fat spreads have been using the term 'butter' when not so

So when is butter not butter? Sometimes, when it is actually labelled butter, it seems.

On foot of a complaint indicating some fat spreads were using the term ‘butter’ in marketing materials, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has issued a guidance note on ‘The Use of the Term ‘Butter’ in the Labelling and Advertising of Fat Spreads’.

The aim of this advice is to ensure consumers are not misled and that when ‘butter’ is used, it actually means, well, butter.

According to Dr Pat O’Mahony, chief specialist in food technology with FSAI, butter is defined as a churned-cream dairy product consisting primarily of milk fat, water, non-fat milk material, and, if necessary, salt.

“Specific EU legislation is in place that establishes a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products. A section of this legislation is dedicated to ‘milk and milk products’, whereby products like butter and other types of fat spread are clearly defined.

“The legal onus is on food businesses to ensure that they are compliant with all relevant legislation so that consumers can have trust in the product they are purchasing and make informed choices using reliable information,” he said.

The FSAI guidance document identifies the various pieces of legislation that must be considered when labelling and marketing fat spreads, particularly those that can use the term ‘butter’. General food labelling legislation in place, since 2011, prohibits the use of any labels or advertising that could mislead consumers. This means food businesses must carefully consider using the term ‘butter’ or looser terms like ‘buttery’ or ‘butterly’.

“It is natural that marketing specialists will use every means at their disposal to gain a competitive edge over their rivals, but this must not be achieved at the expense of consumers’ trust.

“We hope that our guidance document will assist the industry to comply with the complex legislation in this area, so that consumers can be confident that the foods they purchase and consume are accurately and truthfully described on the label or in associated advertising,” said Dr O’Mahony.


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