Burgers without meat could be called 'veggie discs' under European food labelling proposal

The plant-based Impossible Burger 2.0 being introduced at CES 2019 in Las Vegas on Jan 7, 2019.
The plant-based Impossible Burger 2.0 being introduced at CES 2019 in Las Vegas on Jan 7, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (NYTIMES) - What's in a mushroom burger? Or a veggie sausage?

Perhaps worried that you might be confused, some epicures at the European Parliament have proposed a new rule: If a product does not contain meat, it cannot be called a burger or a sausage or a steak.

The proposed amendment was passed by the body's agricultural committee last week as part of a voluminous revision of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy.

Mr Eric Andrieu, a French Socialist member of the European Parliament, introduced the proposal, but suspicions remained that the meat lobby was behind the idea. Environmentalists said the suggested labelling rules were an effort to undermine the growing demand for plant-based foods.

"We didn't support the proposal," said Ms Molly Scott Cato, a British member of the European Parliament from the Green Party. "We don't see any problem with calling a veggie burger a veggie burger."

Mr Andrieu, who could not be reached to comment, told The Guardian that the meat lobby had nothing to do with the amendment and that he was attempting to add some common sense to food labelling.

Dairy producers were the first to allege that competitors selling plant-based foods were using misleading labelling such as "tofu butter" or "veggie cheese", and they won a 2017 ruling from the European Court of Justice that reserved the names of dairy products for foods with an animal source.

As part of its vote last week, the agricultural committee added to the dairy restrictions with a rule that would ban the use of phrases like "yogurt style" or "butter substitute" for plant-based products.

The proposal about meat labelling was opposed by a coalition of environmental and animal rights groups.

"There is no evidence of consumer confusion," Greenpeace, Humane Society International and other groups wrote in a letter dated April 1. "On the contrary, consumers purchase these items because they do not contain meat or dairy."

The proposal must still pass the full European Parliament, which will not take it up until after elections in May. It would then have to be negotiated and agreed on by the Council of Ministers before becoming law, according to Mr Neil Corlett, a European Parliament spokesman.