Lords beef with EU on 'burgers'

Sainsbury's opened a meat-free butchers for World Meat-Free Week

Sainsbury's opened a meat-free butchers for World Meat-Free Week

EU proposal to ban the use of words like 'burger' to describe foods that don’t contain meat could prevent people reducing meat in their diet.

Without evidence of a problem, legislative action by the EU is unnecessary.

The creation of new words to describe vegetarian foods may create confusion, and undermine policies on climate change, the environment and public health, according to members of the House of Lords.

The agriculture committee of the European Parliament has proposed an amendment to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which would restrict use of words such as “sausage”, “burger” and “steak” to products containing meat. The committee believes that the practice is misleading for consumers.

The House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee took evidence on the issue from several businesses and organisations in the food sector, including the National Farmers Union, British Meat Producers Association, the vegan and vegetarian societies, and Quorn Foods.

Not justified 

The “only relevant study” cited by witnesses found that less than four percent of people had ever unintentionally bought a vegetarian product instead of a meat-based product or vice versa, the Lords said.

The ban was therefore not justified, it said. “Without evidence of a problem, legislative action by the EU is unnecessary,” the committee concluded.

The committee continued: “We are concerned that the amendment would in fact reduce consumer clarity, be a barrier to growth for a burgeoning sector of the food industry, and ultimately 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 peers have written to Robert Goodwill, minister at the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural affairs, to clarify the government’s position on the issue.

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Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.

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