‘Veggie burgers’ to remain ‘burgers’ thanks to EU Parliament vote
Last week (Friday 23 October), the European Parliament voted that plant-based foods could keep using meaty names such as soy ‘sausage’ or tofu ‘steak’. As they voted on the mammoth Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform package, MEPs rejected proposals seeking to reserve meat-related names for products containing meat.
BEUC had informed MEPs ahead of the vote that most consumers are not confused by a veggie ‘burger’, so long as it is clearly labelled as vegetarian or vegan. This is one of the findings of a survey BEUC published earlier this year with 12 of its member organisations.1 Terms such as ‘burger’ or ‘steak’ on plant-based items simply make it much easier for consumers to know how to integrate these products within a meal.
On a less positive note, EU lawmakers supported further restrictions for the naming of plant-based dairy alternatives.2 Such a move would prohibit mentions such as ‘yogurt-style’ or ‘cheese substitute’. BEUC hopes EU Member States will reject this amendment when they discuss the CAP reform with the EU Commission and Parliament.
There is no doubt Europeans need to shift to more plant-based diets, both for their health and the planet. Healthy eating guidelines also recommend that consumers should preferably cook more from scratch with fresh products. But not all consumers have the time and/or skills to prepare home-made plant-based dishes, with legumes such as beans and peas instead of meat for instance. That is why consumers need attractive, affordable and convenient alternatives to animal proteins. Of course, these alternatives should also be healthy, and there we see room for improvement in the veggie burger range.
- BEUC letter to EU Parliament, 14 Oct 2020
- BEUC report ‘One bite at a time: Consumers and the transition to sustainable food’, 3 June 2020
- Austria (Arbeiterkammer), Belgium (Test Achats/Test Aankoop), Germany (vzbv), Greece (Ekpizo, KEPKA), Italy (Altroconsumo), Lithuania (Lietuvos vartotojų organizacijų aljansas), Netherlands (Consumentenbond), Portugal (DECO), Slovakia (Spoločnosti ochrany spotrebiteľov), Slovenia (Zveza Potrošnikov Slovenije), Spain (OCU).
- In 2017, the Court of Justice of the EU ruled that “Purely plant-based products cannot, in principle, be marketed with designations such as ‘milk’, ‘cream’, ‘butter’, ‘cheese’ or ‘yoghurt’, which are reserved by EU law for animal products”.