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MEPs say veggie burgers can still be 'burgers'

The move is seen as a victory for environmentalists.

Image: Shutterstock/Brent Hofacker

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT today rejected a much-mocked attempt to ban companies from branding plant-based products with meaty names like “veggie burger”.

The MEPs did, however, back an amendment to ban the use of terms like “cheese” or “yoghurt” for increasingly popular dairy-free but creamy foodstuffs.

Environmentalists had complained that the debate over the meat lobby’s bid to corner terms like steak, burger and sausage distracted from the passage of a broader farming bill they say hurts the climate.

But green groups did welcome the victory for veggie burgers and meat-free sausages.

“We are unsurprised but delighted that MEPs have rejected cynical attempts by a protectionist meat industry to hinder the marketing of plant-based proteins in the EU,” said Joanna Swabe, of the Humane Society International. 

“Their preposterous claims that consumers would be confused by the use of names such as burgers, sausages, schnitzels and mince on clearly labelled vegetarian meat substitutes, have been rightly rejected as disproportionate nonsense.”

Campaigners were disappointed, however, that the ban on dairy terms was upheld – even if it could yet be removed from the bill as negotiators from parliament and EU member states finalise the text.

“It’s disgraceful that the industrial farming lobby isn’t content with cornering billions in subsidies for destructive factory farming,” said Greenpeace EU’s agriculture policy director Marco Contiero.  

“They’re now muddying the debate on farming reform with a pointless vote on food names – it’s pathetic that the parliament wouldn’t even stand up to the industrial agriculture lobbyists on this.”

The European farming union umbrella group Copa Cogeca had supported both bans, arguing that consumers would become confused if names relating traditionally to meat and dairy were allowed to apply to plant-based alternatives.

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But consumer groups and environmentalists ridiculed this idea after press reports that the ban had been added to a draft of the EU agriculture bill. 

“Consumers are in no way confused by a soy steak or chickpea-based sausage, so long as it is clearly labelled as vegetarian or vegan,” argued Camille Perrin, of consumers’ union BEUC.

The market for vegetable-based protein products has been boosted the perception that they are healthier and leave a smaller environmental footprint than livestock farms, which are large emitters of CO2. 

According to the Euromonitor agency, the European market for meat substitutes has almost doubled in five years to $1.9 billion.

© AFP 2020

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