Parliamentary sub-committee in disagreement with ‘meat words’ ban for veg

A Parliamentary sub-committee has raised concerns about an EU proposal to ban the use of words like “sausage” and “burger” to describe foods that don’t contain meat.

The UK Parliament’s EU Energy and Environment sub-committee scrutinises EU proposals on agriculture, fisheries, environment and energy including the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies.

In early April, the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development agreed to seek to restrict the use of descriptions like “sausage”, “burger” and “steak” to apply only to products containing meat and not to vegetarian alternatives.

However, the committee has raised its concerns over the proposals in a letter addressed to Minister Robert Goodwill.

Food names debate

Supporters argue of the change argue it ensures consumers have access to clear information.

However, opponents argue that it could make vegetarian food less appealing, and would have a disproportionate impact on people trying to reduce or eliminate meat in their diet.

The committee hosted a discussion on the proposal with relevant stakeholders, hearing a range of views from the food industry, from the National Farmers’ Union to Quorn Foods.

As a result, it has written to the Minister arguing that:

  • There is no evidence that consumers are being confused by vegetarian foods being labelled with such names;
  • The creation of new words to describe vegetarian foods may create confusion;
  • It would be costly for businesses selling vegetarian foods to make changes and that, without any evidence that consumers are being confused, the changes might be for no benefit.

The committee also highlighted that the proposal could put people off reducing their meat consumption levels.

To conclude, the committee asked the Minister what the Government position is on the proposal and if it would consider implementing something similar after Brexit.

A letter expressing concern was also sent to the Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development.