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Debate over vegan ‘sausages’ and ‘burgers’ heats up ahead of EU vote

Battle over whether vegan burgers and sausages should be replaced with vegan ‘discs’ and ‘fingers’ intensifies in EU ahead of European Parliament vote on contentious food labeling amendment this week next.

On Wednesday, MEPs are expected to vote on whether to limit the use of words such as “steak”, “sausage”, “cutlet” and “hamburger” on the labels of products containing meat. The move was backed by the region’s meat and livestock industry and won the support of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee.

The vote comes as vegan alternatives grow in popularity, driven by new entrants into the market for plant-based substitutes that mimic the look, taste and mouth feel of real meat. The pandemic has hit meat processors and also provided a tail wind for sales of herbal products, which have jumped 73% in Europe over the past five years, according to Euromonitor, the consumer data group.

MEPs and activists said the vote was at stake. If approved by a majority of MEPs, the amendment, which is part of a reform of the EU’s common agricultural policy, will be discussed in the framework for subsequent negotiations between Parliament and EU governments. The measure will only be promulgated if it is accepted by both institutions.

The livestock and meat industries say the use of meat-related terms and names confuses consumers. “If we don’t protect [meat products], we risk deceiving consumers and allowing the diversion of the work done by the livestock chain over the years to develop their renowned products, ”said Copa Cogeca, the association of European farmers and cooperatives.

Opponents say a labeling change would also create confusion among consumers. Elena Walden, head of EU policy at the vegetable meat advocacy group Good Food Institute, called a possible EU ban “patronizing” to consumers, while Jytte Guteland, a Swedish MEP, said names such as “Veggie burger” had been around for quite some time. Long time. “It is important that we help consumers make climate-friendly choices and that they eat less meat,” she said.

Some meat processors and distributors have started offering their own vegan products or forming partnerships with alternative protein producers, which has sparked the ire of breeders.

“What is vegan meat?” said Antonio Tavares, a Portuguese pig farmer who also grows grains and vegetables. “I’m not saying that vegan products are bad for our health, but it is [a] completely different [product]. A burger is meat. ”

EU member states already have the power to publish their own food labeling laws to prevent consumers from being misled. Earlier this year, France past similar legislation prohibiting the use of the meat nomenclature for vegetarian and vegan substitutes.

However, the Dutch government last year ad that producers of meat of plant origin can use terms such as “chicken” provided it is clearly stated that it was a vegan or vegetarian product.

Europe has already cracked down on dairy substitutes when the European Court of Justice in 2017 banned the use of terms such as “milk”, “butter” and “yogurt” for the marketing of non-animal products.

A decision to prevent meat producers of plant origin from using the meat-related nomenclature is also diffusion in the United States, individual states considering or enacting legislation. However, vegan food companies and activists are launching legal challenges against such laws in federal courts.

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