The House of Lords has found no evidence that the term “vegetarian burgers” are misleading for consumers, putting Britain on a potential collision course with the EU over the terminology.
The rise of plant-based alternatives has been good news for the vegetable industry as consumers seek to reudce their meat consumption and adopt healthier and more environmentally friendly diets.
However in early April, the European Parliament’sCommittee on Agriculture and RuralDevelopmentagreed to seek to restrict the use of descriptionslike“sausage”, “burger” and “steak” to apply only to products containing meat and not to vegetarian alternatives. The EU claimed that the terms were misleading to consumers.
However following a roundtable with stakeholders todiscuss the proposal, the House of LordsEU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee argued that in fact the EU's proposals risked reducing consumer clarity, being a a barrier to growth for a burgeoning sector of the food industry, and ultimately making it more challenging for people to reduce the amount of meat in their diet at a time when government should be seeking to encourage the opposite.
The Committee heard no evidence that consumers had felt they were misled by meat-free products and less than four per cent of people had ever unintentionally bought a vegetarian product instead of a meat-free version. Furthermore, witnesses were unanimous in the view that current naming conventions around vegetarian burgers and sausages in particular are clear and easy to understand.
Following the evidence, the committee challenge the EU's justification for the ban and argued that without evidence of a problem, legislative action is unnecessary and would undermine EU policy objectives on climate change, the environment and public health.
The next step in the proposals would be full consideration by the European Parliament, which would not happen before autumn 2019. It remains to be seen whether its decision would be adopted by the UK following Brexit.