EU lawmakers vote for ‘veggie burgers,’ take hard line on dairy labels

Reuters – Restaurants and shops in the European Union should be allowed to label products as “veggie burgers” or “vegan sausages,” the European Parliament said Oct. 23, but called for tighter curbs on labelling of plant-based dairy substitutes.

EU lawmakers voted to reject proposals, backed by farmers, to ban plant-based products from using terms such as steak, sausage or burger.

“I’m going to celebrate with a vegan burger,” Swedish EU lawmaker Jytte Guteland said after the result was announced.

Farmers had argued that using words like burger or sausage for non-meat products could mislead consumers. European farmers’ association Copa Cogeca said allowing such terms would open a “Pandora’s box” of confusing wording.

But medical groups, environmentalists and companies that make vegetarian products have said that banning these terms would discourage consumers from shifting to more plant-based diets, undermining the EU’s environmental and health goals.

A majority of EU lawmakers also voted for stricter rules on labelling of dairy substitutes, backing a ban on terms such as “milk-like” or “cheese-style” for plant-based products that contain no dairy ingredients.

The European Court of Justice already banned terms like “soy milk” and “vegan cheese” three years ago, ruling that words such as milk, butter, cheese and yogurt cannot be used for non-dairy products.

The labelling rules are part of a bigger EU farming policy package, and are not final. Parliament needs to approve its position on the full package in a vote later. It must then strike a compromise with EU member states on the final policy.

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