What’s the beef? Meatless patties can be called burgers, EU rules

Luke O'Reilly
·2 min read
Kirsty O'Connor/PA
Kirsty O'Connor/PA

Meat-free and plant-based products can still be labelled “sausages” or “burgers”, the European Parliament has ruled.

So-called veggie burgers, soy steaks and vegan sausages can continue to be sold as such in restaurants and shops across the European Union, despite lobbying from farmers.

Europe’s largest farmers’ association, Copa-Cogeca, had supported a ban, arguing that labelling vegetarian substitutes with designations that brought meat to mind was misleading for consumers.

But a group of 13 organisations – including Greenpeace and WWF – urged the politicians to reject the proposed amendments, arguing that a ban would have not only exposed the EU “to ridicule”, but also damaged its environmental credibility.

They said promoting a shift towards a more plant-based diet is in line with the EU Commission’s ambition to tackle global warming .

Farmers have lobbied to protect meat products (Getty Images)
Farmers have lobbied to protect meat products (Getty Images)

Not being able to use familiar terms like steak and sausages could make the product more obscure to customers, it was argued.

After the vote, the Swedish EU lawmaker Jytte Guteland said: "I'm going to celebrate with a vegan burger."

The European Consumer Organisation, an umbrella group bringing together consumers’ associations, praised the MEPs for their “common sense”.

“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,” the group said in a statement.

“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.”

Together with Greenpeace, the group regretted that politicians accepted further restrictions on the naming of alternative products containing no dairy.

Terms like “almond milk” and “soy yoghurt” are already banned in Europe after the bloc’s top court ruled in 2017 that purely plant-based products cannot be marketed using terms such as milk, butter or cheese, which are reserved for animal products.

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