Europe’s "vegan sausages" and "veggie burgers" are safe after MEPs voted against a ban on terms for plant-based foods that the meat industry claims are misleading.
MEPs in Brussels did vote in favour of another amendment which could eventually lead to a ban on any “imitation or evocation” of dairy foods in plant-based alternatives to products like milk or yoghurt.
Terms such as ‘almond milk’ and ‘vegan cheese’ are already banned on products in the EU, but yesterday’s vote, which is part of a large bill on reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Police goes even further.
Even if the “veggie burger ban” had been passed it was not certain to have become EU law. EU governments and the European Commission would have to also agree to the non-binding amendment in negotiations over the bill.
British exporters would have to observe the new rules when exporting plant-based foods to the EU but the law would not have applied in the UK. “Veggie burgers” could have been rebranded, for example, “veggie discs”.
Opponents of the ban said it would hamper the development of the plant-based food industry, which has a much lower impact on the environment and climate than meat farming.
Others warned that it would open the EU up to ridicule and bolster Eurosceptic accusations of unnecessary Brussels meddling and red tape.
Supporters of the ban claimed that consumers were confused that meat-like terms were being used. Farming and meat lobbyists said they amounted to "cultural hijacking" of the meat industry.
“It is great news that the European Parliament used common sense and said no to the ‘veggie burger ban’,” said Camille Perrin, of the European Consumers Organisation.
“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.”
Jasmijn de Boo, Vice President of ProVeg International, said: “We deeply regret the vote in favour of far-reaching and entirely unnecessary restrictions on the descriptions of plant-based dairy products.”
“The votes won't change the fact that more and more people are eating more vegetables and switching to meat and dairy alternatives, for the sake of their health and the environment, and will continue to call dairy-free products ‘yoghurt’ and ‘cheese’ anyway," said Marco Contiero, of Greenpeace EU.