A burger by any other name

MEPs are gearing up to vote on whether to ban the use of names such as “veggie burger” – a move that opponents say will confuse consumers and contradict the ambitions of the EU Green Deal.

By Lorna Hutchinson

Lorna Hutchinson is Deputy Editor of The Parliament Magazine

20 Oct 2020

Earlier this month a group of 13 NGOs, including Greenpeace, The Vegan Society, WWF and Eurogroup for Animals, sent a letter to MEPs, urging them to vote against a ban on the use of “meatish” and “dairyish” names for plant-based products.

The NGOs say that this ban would interfere with consumers’ demand for plant-based products, which is “a key means of achieving the European Commission’s climate change ambitions, as well as reducing land use and water use and preventing further global biodiversity decline.”

The letter adds, “For many years, European consumers have been accustomed to terms such as ‘veggie burger’ or ‘plant-based steak’, being used to designate plant-based alternatives to meat. To prohibit the use of such well-recognised terms is unnecessary and would only serve to confuse consumers and prevent them from making informed choices while purchasing products.”

BEUC, which represents 44 independent national consumer organisations in Brussels and defends the interests of European consumers, says that most consumers “are not particularly concerned about the naming of ‘veggie burgers’, as long as they are clearly labelled as vegetarian or vegan.”

Austrian Greens/EFA deputy Thomas Waitz said, “BEUC says it very clearly: it is not a problem for consumers. So why change? We're not renaming the Milky Way either.”

“A burger is a burger - with or without meat. The motion, to ban terms like ‘veggie burger’ in the future is more than absurd. And we won't put up with this” Manuela Ripa, Greens/EFA

Fellow Greens MEP Manuela Ripa said, “A burger is a burger - with or without meat. The motion, to ban terms like ‘veggie burger’ in the future is more than absurd. And we won't put up with this.”

She added, “We need more plant-based diets for climate protection and biodiversity.”

Luxembourg Greens member Tilly Metz echoed these sentiments, saying, “Let's encourage the uptake of plant-based diets. It's essential to achieve climate neutrality and to protect biodiversity.”

Portuguese deputy Francisco Guerreiro pointed out that using meat or dairy-like terms for alternative products was “critical for the plant-based sector and many multinationals traditionally known for meat and dairy, as they have been investing in plant-based food.”

Renew Europe MEP and former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt weighed into the debate on Tuesday, saying, “Banning veggie burgers? Surely not. I've always disliked government being patronising. The CAP reform has loads more important measures for farmers and consumers.”

“Banning veggie burgers? Surely not. I've always disliked government being patronising. The CAP reform has loads more important measures for farmers and consumers” Guy Verhofstadt, Renew Europe

Former Finnish Prime Minister and former MEP, Alex Stubb, said, “For goodness sake, stop patronising through legislation. This is exactly the kind of stuff that gives the EU a bad name.”

“A hamburger is a hamburger and a veggieburger is a veggieburger no matter what you put down on paper.”

Rapporteur of the EU Climate Law, Swedish S&D member Jytte Guteland said simply, “A veggie burger ban would be bad for consumers and climate!”

The European Alliance for Plant-Based Foods said, “Foods are not books - we do judge them by their covers. Plant-based foods should be labelled to show how they can be used as alternatives to meat and dairy products.”

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