The United Kingdom’s House of Lords European Union Energy and Environment Sub-Committee is opposing the changing of naming conventions of meat-free products during a recent committee hearing. In April, 80 percent of the European Union (EU) Parliament’s Agriculture Committee voted in favor of new regulation banning certain language from being used by plant-based companies. Should the new legislation pass, terms in question—particularly “burger,” “hamburger,” “escalope,” “steak,” and “sausage”—would no longer be allowed on products that do not contain animal flesh. Instead, companies would have to use terms such as “veggie discs,” “tubes,” “soya slices,” and “seitan slabs” to describe plant-based products. “We are concerned that the amendment would in fact reduce consumer clarity, be a barrier to growth for a burgeoning sector of the food industry, and ultimately make it more challenging for people to reduce the amount of meat in their diet at a time when government should be seeking to encourage the opposite,” Committee Chairman Robin Teverson wrote in a letter to the Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food. Lord Teverson’s statement is supported by The Good Food Institute (GFI), The Vegan Society, and Quorn Foods. According to a survey conducted by The Vegetarian Society, 70 percent of respondents opposed the proposed legislation, many classifying it as “cyclical lobbying by the meat industry.” 

“We totally oppose the proposals and see them as totally unnecessary,” Quorn Technical Director Geoff Bryant said. “They would add complexity to [our] business and confuse consumers. In 30 years of making meat-free products, we’ve not had a single person complain to us about being misled.” The European Parliament is expected to make its final decision on the matter by the end of the year. 

In the United States, a number of states have attempted to pass legislation to ban the use of “meat” and “dairy” terms on plant-based products, but not without a fight. Vegan brand Tofurky Co.—backed by organizations GFI, Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the American Civil Liberties Union—has filed lawsuits in Missouri and Arkansas on the basis that such limitations to corporate language, motivated by protecting the meat and dairy industries from plant-based competition, are an infringement of free-speech rights protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Photo credit: Moving Mountains Foods

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