The European Commission had proposed to allow phosphoric acid, di and tri phosphates and polyphosphates, listed in Europe under the E numbers E 338 to 452, in kebab meat made from mutton, lamb, veal, beef or poultry.
EU rules do not generally allow phosphate additives to be used in meat but a growing number of exceptions means food manufacturers increasingly use them to preserve flavour and retain water.
An annex to the regulation number 1333/2008 permits phosphates in breakfast sausages and bräte.
Meanwhile, in 2015 the Czech Republic requested that this exception be extended to include traditional Czech meat preparations bílá klobása, vinná klobása, sváteční klobása and syrová klobása, citing a similar technological need.
It said that phosphates were essential to maintaining the physico-chemical state of the meal and increasing the binding capacity, particularly when packaged with protective atmosphere and with an extended shelf-life.
The draft motion for a resolution, which health committee MEPs rejected by 32 votes to 22, will now go to a full Parliament vote at a Strasbourg plenary session next month. If an absolute majority of MEPs back the resolution, the Commission will have to come up with a new proposal.
The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) conducted an evaluation on phosphates in 2013 following a scientific review carried out in 2012, which suggested an association between a high phosphate intake and increased cardiovascular risk.
However, it concluded that “owing to the intrinsic limitations of the non-interventional design of the studies included, it is not possible to make causal inferences for serum phosphate levels and the observed adverse effects”.
It added: “In addition, from the evidence reviewed it is not clear whether the increased cardiovascular risk observed in these observational studies is attributable to differences in the dietary intake of phosphorus in general or in the form of phosphate additives and serum phosphate levels.”
A second US study published in 2013 found links between high-phosphorus diets and increased mortality.
EFSA scientists are scheduled to re-evaluate phosphates by December 2018.
Industry has tried to replicate the functionality of phosphates with clean label alternatives.
Last year, scientists suggested that polysaccharides could be used to help retain water in prawns, and were also cheaper.