MEPs vote down infamous kebab resolution

A resolution opposing the authorisation of phosphate additives in kebab meat has failed to win an absolute majority of MEPs.

Kebab | Photo credit: Press Association

At the plenary in Strasbourg, the Parliament voted on an objection to Commission proposals that would allow phosphates to be used as additives in products such as doner kebabs.

The objection, which was tabled by Greens/EFA group MEP Bart Staes and the S&D group’s Christel Schaldemose, received strong support but fell short of the required absolute majority of 376.

Phosphates are authorised for use as food additives in a variety of products, including sausages.

Although phosphates are permitted in the final cooked product, the Commission wants to extend the formal authorisation to raw frozen vertical meats spits, where phosphates are currently used but not regulated.

If the amendment had succeeded it is claimed the move could have placed a question mark over the doner kebab sector which employs an estimated 200,000 people across the EU.

Phosphates bind the kebab meat and prevent it falling apart on the spit.

Following the vote, the Commission is now expected to proceed to allow the use of phosphoric acid, di and tri phosphates and polyphosphates in kebab meat - be it mutton, lamb, veal, beef or poultry.

A Commission source said, “The use of phosphates is required for a partial extraction and breakdown of meat proteins to form a protein film on vertical meat spits to bond meat pieces together in order to ensure homogenous freezing and roasting.”

The resolution received 373 votes in favour, 272 against and 30 abstentions.

It called on the plenary to oppose the authorisation due to health concerns and pending a scientific review of the additives by the European Food Safety Authority.

Reacting to the vote, Bart Staes said, “This is sad day for consumer rights, which have been trampled on by the misinformation campaign led by some in the media and the meat industry, and fuelled by some MEPs. 

“While our objection fell just short of the necessary qualified majority, we will not let this issue slip off the agenda. The European Food Safety Authority’s re-evaluation of the use of phosphate additives in all food is due by the end of 2018 and we will be watching the outcome closely.”

He added, “Unless they can show without doubt that phosphate additives are not harmful, their use in all foods must be immediately reviewed by the Commission."

But the vote was welcomed by UK Conservative MEP John Procter who said, “This was a daft and damaging proposal which has quite rightly been skewered.

“Once again some MEPs want to ignore the principle of evidence-based decision making and believe they know better than the EU’s own scientific experts.

“It is irresponsible to play fast and loose with people’s livelihoods in this way and I am delighted other politicians joined Conservative MEPs to block this motion.”

Procter added, “The use of phosphates in doner kebabs makes up a tiny part of our overall exposure. Kebab shops are an integral part of many high streets and can remain so after this vote.”

Ahead of the vote, the EPP group had promised to “do everything in its power to avoid a European ‘kebab ban’.”

EPP group shadow rapporteur on the file Renate Sommer said the centre-right group would “do everything in its power to stop the scaremongering and avoid a European kebab ban. There is no proof that phosphates have negative health effects.”

Two studies suggested a connection between phosphate additives and heart disease but the EU's European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found no such link. The EFSA aims to conduct a new risk assessment and a general re-evaluation on all foodstuffs containing phosphates by the end of 2018.


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