The vote followed calls from some members in the food industry – including European farming association Copa-Cogeca – to ban terms such as veggie burgers and vegan sausages for plant-based products. Proponents of the move fear these terms could mislead customers.
However, restrictions still apply to plant-based dairy alternative products, with EU lawmakers still to vote on whether to ban terms such as ‘milk-like’ or ‘cheese-style’. This is in addition to previously banned terms, including soy milk and vegan cheese, three years ago.
The new labelling rules – part of a bigger EU farming policy packaging for 2021 to 2027 – have yet to be finalised.
Commenting on the EU’s decision, head of food at law firm DWF Dominic Watkins said: “Given that the EU has previously suggested vegetarian sausages be renamed vegetarian tubes and veggie burgers be renamed vegetarian discs, the idea of regulation in this area is both unpalatable and absurd.
“Currently EU law does not restrict these terms in this way as it does for dairy and changing this now would have been needless and unnecessarily protectionist.”
Form, not filling
Watkins argued that burgers or sausages were defined by their form, rather than their filling and any regulation based on their content was unnecessary.
“It is likely that the impact will be that meat alternative producers will need to be even more creative with their product descriptions,” he added.
“Furthermore, there is the risk that this will reduce access to, or availability of, vegetarian and vegan products. At a time when we are being encouraged to consume more non-meat products to reduce our environmental impact, this piece of legislation could be counter-productive.”
Meanwhile, plant-based confectionery, condiments, dough, beer, chicken and bacon products feature heavily in a new cohort of incubator brands Tesco has just announced.