When is a veggie sausage not a sausage? We, at ProVeg, are one of many groups working hard to challenge a recent EU proposal that would prohibit producers of vegan or vegetarian food from labelling their products with words that traditionally refer to animal-based foodstuffs. The new proposals, supported by the EU’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI), would not allow producers of vegan or vegetarian food to use terms such as ‘sausage’ or ‘milk alternative’ in naming their produce. Terms such as ‘veggie burgers’ and ‘seitan steaks’ would all fall foul of the new regulations. We have been raising awareness to stop this new development, which we see as disadvantaging vegan and vegetarian food manufacturers, as well as consumers seeking non-meat and non-dairy alternatives.
We believe that these unnecessary changes would be a step backwards – the laws would not only harm companies selling these products, but confuse the public with unclear labelling. We’ve been busy raising awareness among policymakers in the committee and asking them to carefully consider the new regulations, which have come about as part of negotiations concerning the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform. As Felix Domke, Head of Politics at ProVeg, explains, “The inclusion of burger or sausage wording in a vegetarian product is also important for consumers to know what flavour or texture to expect from a certain product. The EU is seeking to solve a problem that doesn’t exist and, as a result, could really damage businesses that label their products appropriately.” When even descriptions such as ‘a vegetable alternative to yoghurt’ would contravene regulations in their use of the word ‘yoghurt’, it is clear that this confusing policy needs to be replaced with a better solution.
Finding a solution
The proposal has yet to become law EU-wide, and will need to be ratified at a plenary meeting of the European Parliament, which will take place after the EU elections in May. In the meantime, ProVeg, alongside the European Vegetarian Union and the Good Food Institute Europe, is one of the many voices working to find a solution that doesn’t interfere with the interests of both consumers and producers, but supports plant-based foods as sustainable and fair alternatives. We are confident that Euro MPs will listen.
Factory farm subsidies
In other European Parliament news, members of the agricultural committee voted, last week, for the EU to continue subsidising factory farms, rejecting proposals from the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) to cut their public funding. The rejected proposal included requests to limit the number of animals on EU-subsidised farms and make basic animal welfare standards a condition of receiving funds. A request to increase subsidies for ecological and climate-friendly farming was also rejected. Factory farming is harmful to animals, hugely destructive to the environment and contributes towards climate change. This vote is not final, and we are working to ensure that the EU Parliament will heed the environmental committee’s recommendations at the next voting opportunity.
Find out more about our campaign to #stoptheveggieburgerban.