EU veggie ‘burger’ ban challenged across Europe
7 October 2020
Petition launched by ProVeg International exceeds 100,000 signatures
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 our blog here.
For more information, or to ARRANGE AN INTERVIEW, please contact:
Jimmy Pierson, Global PR Manager, ProVeg International
+44 7931 819 508
Notes to editors
- Amendment 165: Meat-related names would effectively restrict plant-based products from being labelled with names such as ‘steak’, ‘sausage’, and ‘burger’, which have typically been associated with meat products. For example, it would make it illegal to sell a product with the denomination ‘veggie burger’.
Amendment 171: Dairy-related names seeks to extend the already-existing ban on dairy denominations for plant-based alternatives. This would make it impossible for dairy-alternatives to refer to their animal-based counterparts with descriptive terms such as ‘style’, ‘like’, ‘imitation’, or similar, thus prohibiting terms such as ‘yoghurt style’ and ‘cheese alternative’. This will make it much harder for consumers to identify the nature of the dairy-alternative product.
Possible impacts of the proposed ban
- Relabelling of existing products under the new legal framework, thus raising uncertainties, and incurring potentially costly lawsuits for brands deemed to have interpreted the legislation incorrectly.
- Market-research activities will need to take place for each of the European markets, since it’s unlikely that a one-size-fits-all alternative naming framework can be used across all the different EU member states.
Rebranding will be required to ensure that products will be able to attract and retain consumers who are familiar with the previous labelling, branding, and terminology.
- New Campaigns will be needed in order to ensure that consumers understand the like-for-like functionality of products that will no longer be permitted to use their current names and descriptions.
National activity so far
The various discussions in different EU Member States show that it would be helpful to have a Europe-wide solution which allows vegan and vegetarian products to make reference to their animal-based counterparts, thus helping consumers to quickly and easily identify new and existing products in the burgeoning plant-based sector.
The Netherlands. The Dutch government has come forward with an endorsement of ‘meaty’ designations for plant-based foods.
UK House of Lords subcommittee has written a letter expressing their concern over the EU Parliament’s plans.
Germany has had similar discussions since 2016, with a strong backlash from the plant-based food sector against the confusing and arbitrary denomination rules imposed by the German Food Code Commission, which, as a consequence, will be revised.
France adopted far-reaching restrictions on the labelling of plant-based products in May this year, which generated substantial media attention and which is said to have had an influence on the discussions on the European level. As France allegedly violated European legal procedures with this law and adopted it in the middle of ongoing EU discussions, umbrella-organisation the European Vegetarian Union, along with other NGOs, launched an official objection to the approach taken by France.