The European Parliament’s proposal to ban the use of names such as ‘burger’ and ‘sausage’, as well as descriptive terms such as ‘yoghurt-style’ and ‘cheese alternative’, from being used on vegetarian and vegan products is being widely challenged across Europe, with a petition to stop the ban now exceeding 100,000 signatures.
A final vote is expected to take place in the week commencing 19 October. MEPs will vote on two proposals, known as amendments 165 and 171. Amendment 165 seeks to restrict plant-based products from using names typically associated with meat products. If passed into law, this could see veggie burgers renamed as ‘veggie discs’ and veggie sausages as ‘veggie tubes’.
Amendment 171 seeks to extend existing restrictions on dairy-related terms. Terms such as ‘almond milk’ and ‘vegan cheese’ are already banned on products in the EU, but 171 goes further and would restrict dairy alternatives from using descriptive terms such as ‘yoghurt style’ and ‘cheese alternative’. Both amendments 165 and 171 are supposedly intended to avoid consumer confusion.
Jasmijn de Boo, Vice President of ProVeg International, said: “There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that consumers are confused or misled by the current labelling of vegetarian and vegan products. On the contrary, there is strong evidence to suggest that renaming them would create confusion. Over 100,000 people already agree with us.
“Plant-based meat alternatives have been on the market for at least a century in Europe – and for far longer in other parts of the world. They have long been marketed as veggie sausages and veggie burgers, and this has never been a problem. It is only now that these products have made their way into mainstream supermarkets and are expanding their sales footprints across the EU that stakeholders from traditional animal-based industries are calling for a legal ban.
“The use of the terms ‘burger’, ‘sausage’ and ‘cheese alternative’ on meat-free and dairy-free products serves an important function in communicating characteristics that consumers are looking for at point of purchase, especially in terms of taste and texture. Just as we all know full well that there is no butter in peanut butter, no cream in coconut cream, and no meat in mincemeat, consumers know exactly what they’re getting when they purchase veggie burgers or veggie sausages.”
The newly-formed European Alliance for Plant Based Foods, whose members include ProVeg, Oatly, Beyond Meat, GFI, Upfield, and Nestle, was recently launched in order to help build a sustainable food system in which plant-based foods take a leading role, particularly in EU policy. The Alliance’s first objective is to encourage MEPs to take a common-sense view with regards to the two amendments.
It has been argued that both amendments run counter to the EU’s progressive policy direction in relation to the promotion of plant-based diets, as set out in the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy.
De Boo added: “The proposals are in direct contradiction of the EU’s stated objectives in the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy to create healthier and more sustainable food systems. The Farm to Fork Strategy explicitly states the need to empower consumers “to choose sustainable food” and to make “it easier to choose healthy and sustainable diets”.
“Banning the use of these terms will prove costly for the entire food industry, with substantial consequences for manufacturers, retailers, and food-service outlets. The proposals could also unnecessarily restrict the positive environmental changes created by the plant-based market, one of the fastest-growing and most innovative sectors in the food industry today.”
You can sign the petition here.
You can watch ProVeg’s satirical video about the proposed ban here.
You can watch the European Alliance for Plant-Based Foods’ video about amendment 171 here.
You can watch another video first broadcast on the Dutch satirical programme Zondag met Lubach here (skip to 2min 34seconds for the English version).
You can read more about the proposed ban and the implications for the plant-based sector in the blog here.