Customers may confuse vegetarian products for meat if labelling is not reformed to stop the "mimicking" of meat industry terms, the House of Lords has been told.
Debating new legislation under consideration by the European Union to ban the use of terms such as sausage and burger for vegetarian meat substitutes, the National Farming Union's chief food chain adviser, Ruth Edge, told the House of Lords that the group's members were concerned about the use of language by vegetarian and vegan-friendly firms.
She told the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee: "I think we are quite concerned about mimicking terms - in terms of things like ‘chicken style', or for example, there is a product called ‘vegetarian shredded duck' - well, is the duck vegetarian or is it a vegetarian product? What is it?"
She added: "To my mind, you've got some fantastic products coming through - 20% of products coming to shelf are vegetarian or vegan products with fantastic credentials that are getting people excited about it. Quite why you need to rip off meat terms - I don't know. You've got a fantastic story in your own right."
The policy was met with criticism by others attending the sub-committee, including campaigns and policy officer for the Vegan Society, Mark Banahan, who cited a study claiming that fewer than 4% of people had ever bought either a meat or a vegetarian product mistakenly.
Others argued the new-found interest in legislating against plant-based foods was due to the increased popularity of the product challenging meat-industry lobbies on the continent.
Former Master Chef winner Jackie Kearney, who has written extensively on veganism, said the language was "about being able to illustrate to people where they would use that product".
Geoff Bryant, the technical director for Quorn, said that in over 30 years of the business not a single person had complained they had been misled. He added: "If you just take a general term like mince. Quorn mince - meat free mince, is our biggest selling product, has been for decades. Who owns the word mince? If you look at the word mince it means chopped up finely. You mince onions. You mince garlic. You mince herbs.
"Stopping the words sausages, which is a shape, or mince, which is just chopped up into a small piece - it's ridiculous. No one can own that and it's not owned by the meat industry."
While the UK may not have to take on EU policy after Brexit, legislation from Brussels - potentially including restrictions on the terms used for vegetarian meat substitutes - will be automatically incorporated into English law until the nation fully severs ties with the continent.