Members of the EU energy and environment sub-committee said the move would make it more challenging for people to reduce the amount of meat in their diet ‘at a time when Government should be seeking to encourage the opposite’.
The House of Lords has challenged an EU amendment to ban the terms ‘sausage’ and ‘burger’ to describe plant-based alternatives on the grounds it would undermine policy objectives on climate change, the environment and public health.
The proposals, outlined in early April by the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, were put forward to restrict the use of meat-suggestive descriptions to apply only to products containing meat.
They said the terms were misleading to consumers.
But Members of the EU energy and environment sub-committee today (July 25) said the move would instead make it more challenging for people to reduce the amount of meat in their diet ‘at a time when Government should be seeking to encourage the opposite’.
In a letter to Farming Minister Robert Goodwill, Committee chairman Lord Teverson said: “Issues of nutrition and quality are already addressed by existing legislation on the labelling of food; if that legislation is not comprehensive in light of the growth of the vegetarian food industry, minor alterations to address specific issues may be more appropriate than this amendment.
“We also note that this amendment comes at a time when internationally-respected research is clear that there are both health and environmental imperatives for reducing the amount of meat we consume.”
The committee said it had heard no evidence that consumers felt they had been misled by meat-free products, and that less than four per cent of people had ever unintentionally bought a vegetarian product instead of a meat-free version.
Witnesses were also unanimous in the view that current naming conventions around vegetarian burgers and sausages in particular, were clear and easy to understand, it added.
During the debate, industry leaders were clear in their thoughts that they would not tolerate the use of such terms on plant-based alternatives even if the amendment did not get voted through parliament.
NFU chief food chain advisor Ruth Edge said: “We are concerned about ripping off or mimicking terms such as ‘chicken-style’ or ‘vegetarian shredded duck’.
“Is the duck vegetarian, or is it a vegetarian product? Quite why you have to rip off meat terms, I do not know.”
The policy will be considered by the full European Parliament in autumn 2019 at its earliest.
It the European Parliament agrees to the proposal, it will become part of its negotiating position in discussions regarding the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.