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Are vegetarian “burgers” confusing consumers? Lords Committee to hear evidence

Article Date: 2019-06-14

On Wednesday 19 June, the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee will ask experts whether a proposal from the European Parliament to ban the use of words like ‘sausage’ and ‘burger’ to describe foods that don’t contain meat is in the interests of consumers.

In early April, the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development agreed to seek to restrict the use of descriptions like “sausage”, “burger” and “steak” to apply only to products containing meat and not to vegetarian alternatives.

The Committee intends to hold a roundtable to discuss the proposal with a range of relevant stakeholders. 

Farmers across Europe have argued that using names that usually apply to meat-based products misleads consumers about the nature and nutritional value of the food they are purchasing. The Committee will be asking whether there is any evidence that consumers are confused by the use of terms such as ‘burger’ and ‘sausage’ to describe vegetarian products.

Others, on the other hand, argue that the proposal would make food packaging less clear for consumers and would have a disproportionate impact on vegans and small vegan businesses. The Committee will be asking about the impact of the proposals on consumers, the food industry and food retailers.

Members will also be exploring what changes, additions or exceptions would improve the proposal, and whether it would be beneficial for the UK to follow suit if this rule were introduced in the EU post-Brexit.

Lord Teverson, Chair of the Sub-Committee, said: “As more people move towards a plant-based diet, the question of how we identify and describe vegetarian and vegan food is increasingly relevant. In holding this roundtable we’re intending to test the merits of this proposal, and find out what it would mean for consumers and for the food industry.”

The evidence session will begin at 10:30am in Committee room 2 of the House of Lords. Participants in the roundtable will include:

Ruth Edge, National Farmers’ Union
Laura Sears, Vegetarian Society
Jackie Kearney, Chef
Mark Banahan, Vegan Society
Geoff Bryant, Quorn Foods

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