The EU Parliament opposes the demands of the agricultural lobby and declares substitute products with meat-related designations to continue to be permissible. However, the marketing of substitute products for milk products is to be restricted.
The EU Parliament has spoken out against a ban on the marketing of meat substitutes under terms such as veggie burgers or vegan sausage. The members of parliament rejected a corresponding motion on Friday. However, the marketing of substitute products for milk products is to be further restricted.
According to the rejected motion, “terms and designations referring to meat (…) should be reserved exclusively for the parts of the animals suitable for consumption”. Examples are the terms steak, sausage, schnitzel, burger or hamburger. According to the proposed law, meatless substitute products would no longer be allowed to use these terms in their product designation.
The changes to the law proposed by the parliamentary agriculture committee were primarily due to pressure from agricultural associations. The Secretary General of the European agricultural lobby Copa-Cogeca, Pekka Pesonen, for example, complained that suppliers of substitute products would “hijack meat designations”.
“Restriction of dairy products not compatible with consumer protection
The European consumer protection organization BEUC praised the decision as “good news”. After all, consumers are by no means confused by soy steaks or chickpea sausages on the shelf if such products are clearly labelled as vegetarian or vegan. Rather, designations like burger or steak make it easier for consumers to integrate such products into their meals.
Further restrictions are now only to be imposed on the marketing of substitute products for milk products. According to a ruling by the European Court of Justice in 2017, purely vegetable products may no longer be sold as soy milk or vegetable cheese. This ban is now to be extended to designations such as “flavour, substitute, kind or similar”. Excluded from this are long-established terms such as peanut butter or coconut milk.
The consumer protection organization criticized the restriction for dairy products as “unnecessary”. This had nothing to do with consumer protection.
“Debate over Veggie Burger senseless
The market for meat and milk replacement products based on vegetable protein has been booming for years. According to estimates, sales of meat substitutes in Europe have almost doubled in the last five years.
The consumer organization BEUC stressed that more people in the EU must eat more often a plant-based diet “for their health and for that of the planet”. The best thing to do is to cook for yourself – but not everyone has the time or ability to do so. “Attractive, cheap and convenient alternatives to animal protein” are therefore necessary.
Greenpeace called the whole debate about veggie burgers “pointless”. It was “pathetic” that the parliament did not defend itself against the agricultural lobby.