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European Parliament votes against the ‘veggie burger ban’

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The European Parliament has today voted to reject the ‘veggie burger ban’, which would have restricted plant-based products from using names typically associated with meat products, such as ‘burger’ and ‘sausage’.

It has, however, voted to ban the use of descriptive terms such as ‘yoghurt-style’ and ‘cheese alternative’, from being used on plant-based dairy products. Terms such as ‘almond milk’ and ‘vegan cheese’ are already banned on products in the EU, but today’s vote goes even further.

In its most extreme interpretation, this could even mean a ban on the use of data to show that a product causes, for example, “half the carbon emissions of dairy butter” as this could be said to ‘exploit the reputation’ of a dairy product.  The proposal was supposedly intended to avoid consumer confusion.

Both of today’s votes are, however, subject to final approval as part of a wider vote on CAP reform later today.

Jasmijn de Boo, Vice President of ProVeg International, said: “Although we welcome the European Parliament’s vote against the introduction of naming restrictions on plant-based alternatives to meat, where common sense has prevailed, we deeply regret its vote in favour of far-reaching and entirely unnecessary restrictions on the descriptions of plant-based dairy products.

“It is inconceivable to us just how the European Parliament could take such different positions on such similar proposals. Although the ban is supposedly intended to prevent consumer confusion, it is clear that it does nothing for consumers except confuse them.

“It is also a major blow to the plant-based dairy sector, one of the most innovative and sustainable in the wider European food industry. Plant-based dairy businesses could now be saddled with significant financial burdens and practical challenges around renaming, re-branding and re-marketing of products and the potential of high legal costs.”

“This ban is also in direct contradiction of the EU’s stated objectives in the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy to create healthier and more sustainable food systems. The Farm to Fork Strategy explicitly states the need to empower consumers ‘to choose sustainable food’ and to make ‘it easier to choose healthy and sustainable diets’.

“There is still hope, however, that the outcome of today’s vote will not turn into legislation. The European Commission and European Council must both also decide on the matter. There is also a very small chance that the CAP reform, the package of which the ban is only a small part, will fall as a whole – in which case everything, including this ban, goes back to the drawing board.

“ProVeg will continue to strive for a common-sense solution to this debate, and calls on the European Union to reject the adopted restriction on plant-based dairy products during the trilogues.”

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