The EU Parliament will vote this week on whether the terms veggie sausage and veggie burger should be banned.
Farmers are angry that the products could be confusing for customers, and say terms such as steak, burger, and sausage should be reserved only for animal products.
But defenders say that with climate crisis looming, people should be promoting vegetarian products rather than making life more difficult for their manufacturers.
They have also pointed out that most people buying a veggie burger aren’t under the impression it actually comes from a cow, or has the same nutritional profile.
The meat lobby’s proposal for changes to the Common Agricultural Policy says: ‘Names currently used for meat products shall be reserved exclusively for products containing meat [including] steak, sausage, escalope and burger.’
Also under consideration are names for dairy substitutes. They are already banned from being called ‘yoghurt’ or ‘milk’ but could now be banned even from being called ‘yoghurt-style’ or ‘milk-style’.
Jean-Pierre Fleury, chairman of the EU’s Copa and Cogeca working party on beef and veal, said calling veggie products by the name of meat products was ‘an obvious case of cultural hijacking’.
He added: ‘Certain marketing agencies are using this to deliberately confuse consumers by promoting the view that substituting one product for another has no impact on the nutritional intake.
‘This path is paved with good intentions, but it will open the door for other confusing denominations to emerge in the long term.’
France already has a law banning veggie products from using labels associated with meat.
However, almost 250,000 people have signed a petition calling on parliamentarians not to change the legislation.
They said: ‘Terms such as ‘veggie burger’ and ‘veggie sausage’ provide important information regarding the taste and uses that people can expect from a product. Consumers buy plant-based products precisely because they know these products offer similar taste experiences and functionalities to their animal-based counterparts.
‘The proposed restrictions would be in direct contradiction to the EU’s stated objectives in the European Green Deal and the Farm to Fork Strategy of creating more sustainable and healthier food systems. The Farm to Fork Strategy explicitly states the need to empower consumers “to choose sustainable food” and to make “it easier to choose healthy and sustainable diets”.’
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