hipster eating a vegan burger

EU ‘burger’ ban challenged by vegetarian campaigners

Image credit: Vladimirs Poplavskis | Dreamstime.com

A campaign and online petition has been launched by ProVeg International in response to the EU's anti-burgers and bangers proposal.

The European Parliament’s proposal to ban the use of terms such as ‘burger’ and ‘sausage’ from being used in descriptions for vegetarian and vegan products is being challenged across Europe, with food awareness organisation ProVeg International driving the campaign.

In April 2019, the agricultural committee of the European Parliament voted in favour of the proposal on the grounds that the names are misleading for consumers. If the EU's proposal were to be passed into law, vegan and veggie burgers would have to be renamed ‘discs’ and sausages renamed ‘tubes’.

ProVeg International has now launched a campaign targeting the proposed ban, with an online petition calling on the soon-to-be-elected European Parliament to reject the proposal, which ProVeg describes as “unnecessary” and “irrational”.

Philip Mansbridge, spokesperson for ProVeg UK, said: “There is no evidence to suggest that consumers are confused or misled by the current labelling of vegetarian and vegan products. To suggest that consumers do not understand the meaning of the term ‘veggie burger’ and other similar terms is an insult to their intelligence.

“The use of ‘burger’, ‘sausage’ and ‘milk’ wording on plant-based products actually serves an important function in communicating characteristics that consumers are looking for when buying plant-based products, especially in terms of taste and texture. They’ve been used successfully for decades. Why confuse matters?

“The proposed restriction would also unnecessarily restrict manufacturers, producers and the positive social and environmental changes created by the plant-based market, one of the fastest-growing and most innovative sectors in the food industry today.”

The petition will be delivered to the European Parliament ahead of the final vote. The online petition is active now and anyone interested in defending the right to call a plant-based patty a ‘burger’ is invited to sign it.

The creation of synthetic meat and its mass production is a rapidly growing area, with several key companies around the world striving to create the perfect vegan-friendly non-meat burger. This reflects a wider societal trend away from meat-eating and towards a predominantly plant-based diet, positing a potential future where the terms ‘burger’ and ‘sausage’ become more commonly applied to non-meat products than they are today.

For example, international fast-food chain Burger King recently partnered with Impossible Foods - a meat-alternative start-up - to trial a meat-free version of the chain’s signature Whopper sandwich, naturally branded as the ‘Impossible Whopper’. Impossible Foods’ plant-based ‘burger’ has been created to accurately mimic the appearance, taste and texture of meat, using heme (legume haemoglobin) extracted from soy, which is said to ‘bleed’ and sizzle during cooking. The plant-based burger is also claimed to emit 87 per cent less greenhouse gas compared to a burger made from cow meat.

However, the issue of replacing animal meat with synthetic lab-grown meat is not automatically a straightforward environmental win. Research suggests that lab-grown meat could in fact worsen global warming more than cattle farming, depending on what energy sources are adopted by future mass-production facilities for synthetic meat.

Lab-grown meat will need to be produced using renewable energy for it to be more environmentally friendly than traditional cattle rearing, as even if the consumption of meat were entirely phased out, the warming from carbon dioxide through use of fossil fuel sources for manufacturing would persist in the atmosphere, whereas any warming contributed by the methane emitted by cattle ceases after only a few decades.

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