Members of the House of Lords have said they have found no evidence that terms such as ‘veggie burgers’ mislead consumers looking for meat products.
Peers on the EU Energy and Environment subcommittee heard evidence from vegetarian groups and farming industry representatives following an EU amendment calling for a ban on the use of terms like sausage, burger and mince for non-meat products.
The amendment was introduced to ensure customers are not confused by the terms, a stance which has received support from the farming industry. In evidence presented to the subcommittee last month by the National Farming Union’s chief food chain adviser, Ruth Edge, peers were told “for example, there is a product called ‘vegetarian shredded duck’ – well, is the duck vegetarian or is it a vegetarian product? What is it?”
However, the lords found that, far from confusing customers, the terms provide more clarity than if the vegetarian dishes in question were to be rebranded.
The committee has since raised concerns that, if the amendment is brought into force, it could reduce clarity, be a barrier to growth in the vegetarian food sector and make it more challenging for people to reduce meat in their diet – a change it feels the government should be working to encourage.
They added that introducing the amendment, which is yet to be voted into force by the European Parliament, would undermine EU policy objectives on climate change, the environment and public health.
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.
It follows legislation in 2017, when the European Court of Justice ruled that dairy terms – such as milk and butter – should not be used for plant-based alternatives.