An “insult to the public’s intelligence”: NGOs slam EU-proposed ban on meat terminology in vegan products
29 Jul 2019 --- Ten animal protection, consumer, environment and food NGOs have united in an open letter to urge recently-elected MEPs to drop proposals to outlaw phrases such as “vegan sausage roll” and “veggie burger” across the EU. The prospective ban would effectively prohibit plant-based products from using names that have typically been associated with meat products and preparations, such as “steak,” “sausage,” “drumstick” and “burger,” reserving these terms for exclusive use on meat-derived products. Petitions against this proposal have already gathered around 80,000 signatures.
In April, the EU Parliament AGRI Committee voted in support of far-reaching changes to EU food labeling rules. These proposals, however, did not pass through the rest of the EU policy process before the May 2019 EU Parliament elections. The opposing NGOs note it is currently unclear as to whether the new EU AGRI Committee will want to press ahead with the amendments, or rethink action. The proposals would need to pass through the full EU policy-making process before coming into effect.
The proposed labeling ban is an “attempt to undermine the growing success of plant-based alternatives to animal products,” the NGOs assert, adding that this proposal would have the effect of banning widely-used and widely-understood product terms. The proposal also prospects further prohibiting terms such as “yogurt style”, “cheese imitation” or “butter substitute” in plant-based dairy alternatives.
Innova Market Insights data shows that meat substitutes accounted for 11 percent of new meat product launches (meat, poultry and meat substitutes) reported in Europe in 2018, up from 9 percent in 2013. The global picture shows stronger growth, with 14 percent of meat launches in 2018 being meat alternatives, compared to 6 percent in 2013.
“The letter shows the breadth of opposition across Europe to these proposals,” says Richard Parr, Managing Director of The Good Food Institute Europe, which led the petition. “The idea that we should ban phrases like ‘veggie burger’ and ‘vegan sausage roll’ is an insult to the intelligence of the European public.”
“MEPs on the AGRI Committee now have the opportunity to reflect over the summer – and drop these misguided proposals. Plant-based meat, dairy and eggs are better for animals, public health and the planet – and are a huge opportunity for the European economy. We should be encouraging them, not undermining them with absurd restrictions,” adds Parr.
While the proposed ban aims to elevate uniformity in labeling to prevent buyers from being misled, the open letter emphasizes that there is no evidence of consumer confusion regarding the naming of plant-based alternatives to animal products. “On the contrary, consumers purchase these items because they do not contain meat or dairy,” it states.
“The amendment also goes against consumers’ choices for more sustainable food. Plant-based foods have a significantly lower climate and environmental impact compared to animal-based foods and the CAP should not discourage food choices that align with the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions, as mandated by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Climate Agreement,” the NGO’s stress.
For years European consumers have been accustomed to the use of terms such as “vegan sausage” or “veggie burger” for plant-based alternatives to meat, the letter highlights. To ban the use of those widely-used terms is unnecessary and would only result in “confusing consumers” and “preventing them from making informed choices” while purchasing products.
Since its release, the proposal has received widespread negative coverage in the mainstream international media. Given the serious work expected from the European Parliament during this new mandate on issues such as climate change, seeking to restrict commercial speech and slow the growth of the plant-based market is “counterproductive.” This is particularly true, as numerous studies have shown the environmental and climate benefits of plant-based diets, the letter stresses.
Participating NGOs in the open letter are listed as: Compassion in World Farming-EU; Eurogroup for Animals; European Environmental Bureau; European Vegetarian Union; FOUR PAWS; Humane Society International/Europe; ProVeg International; SAFE-Safe Food Advocacy Europe; The Good Food Institute Europe; and The Vegan Society.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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