Earlier this month the president of CLITRAVI, the association that represents meat processors, Robert Volut addressed a letter to Jerzy Bogdan Plewa, director general for agriculture and rural development, and director-general for health and food security Xavier Prats Monné, asking them to ban plant-based products from using meat terms on packaging and advertising.
What's in a name?
CLITRAVI wants the EU to ban vegetarian products from referring to:
- Meat (such as vegetarian meat, meat substitute or vegetarian pork.)
- Meat parts (vegetarian minced meat, vegetarian beefsteak or vegetarian chicken chunks.)
- Customary, legal or descriptive names (vegetarian meat balls, chicken nuggets, ham, salami, hamburger or bacon)
- Deliberate misspellings (chiken for chicken)
- However, names that reference a product's presentation should be allowed, it says. This would allow names such as vegetarian balls, vegetarian mince, vegetarian nuggets, vegetarian ‘Schnitzel’, vegetarian sausage, vegetarian ‘Würst’, vegetarian burger, vegetarian steak and vegetarian pâté.
"These are not seen as misleading and can be used,” states the letter.
According to CLITRAVI, article 36.3(b) in the Food Information to Consumers (FIC) regulation requires the Commission to act on the issue of meat denominations.
The article states: “The Commission shall adopt implementing acts on the application of the requirements referred to in paragraph 2 of this Article to […]
information related to suitability of a food for vegetarians or vegans.”
But the EVU, which believes plant-based products should be able to reference the 'original' foods they are imitating, has questioned the legal basis on which CLITRAVI wants the Commission to act.
Its public affairs manager Till Strecker told us article 36 is more commonly understood to refer to a legally-binding definition of vegetarian and vegan food.
EVU: We are close to reaching a joint definition with industry
And despite the stalemate on the nomenclature, EVU has been in talks with pan-Europe association FoodDrinkEurope (FDE) - of which CLITRAVI is a member - to agree on this very definition.
Strecker said the talks, which should wind up next month, have been making good headway and the two parties have almost come to a joint position which will be presented to the Commission.
This in itself is a significant development, said Strecker. “I think we will see development [on getting a definition of vegetarian/vegan] within the next year, and this is quite a clear message to the Commission. We are going forward together with FDE with a proposal.
“Interested consumers and the food industry are coming together and calling for this initiative, and this is quite powerful move that, I hope, is sufficient.”
Strecker said the Commission has signalled some interest and political will in defining vegan and vegetarian for food labelling purposes but it seems too busy with other issues to deal with it at the moment.
The EVU definition of vegan and vegetarian:
Vegan foods are not of animal origin and in which, at no stage of production and processing, use has been made of or the food has been supplemented with:
- ingredients (including additives, carriers, flavourings and enzymes)
- processing aids
- substances which are not food additives but are used in the same way and with the same purpose as processing aids
in either processed or unprocessed form that are of animal origin.
Vegetarian foods meet the requirements of paragraph 1 with the difference that in their production, the following may be added or used:
- wool grease (including lanolin derived from the wool of living sheep or their components or derivatives)
(translation by EVU)
The same cannot be said for plant-based meat denominations, said Strecker, which are not part of the EVU-FDE talks.
A number of Europe’s high level politicians have pressed the Commission to act on meat alternative denominations over the past year, including Germany’s agricultural minister Christian Schmidt, but it has shown little appetite for action.
"The Commission is currently not planning to introduce reserved terms for meat products," the commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis said in one written response.