In a letter to the Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, committee chair Lord Teverson said: “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.”
Evidence was verbally submitted by the National Farmers’ Union, Quorn and the Vegan Society as well as received written evidence from the British Meat Processors’ Association and The Good Food Institute.
The Committee heard no evidence that consumers had felt they were misled by meat-free products and less than 4% of people had ever unintentionally bought a vegetarian product instead of a meat free version.
While all witnesses were agreed that current naming conventions around vegetarian burgers and sausages in particular are clear and easy to understand, some wanted protection around terms such as steak or those that have specific meat proteins named in non-meat products.
The Committee said that it therefore challenges the stated justification of the amendment to “prohibit certain commercial practices that are misleading for consumers” and contest that without evidence of a problem, legislative action by the EU is unnecessary and would undermine EU policy objectives on climate change, the environment and public health.
The proposed EU legislation’s aim is to prohibit certain commercial practices that are misleading for consumers, which link, in particular, terms such as ‘steak’, ‘sausage’, ‘escalope’, ‘burger’ or ‘hamburger’ to products not wholly made up of meat. It is hoped it would bring the meat industry in line with the dairy sector, where the rules on designations were set out by the Court of Justice of the European Union in a judgement of 14 June 2017, since a meat product is exclusively derived from animal matter, those must be its ingredients. A final decision is expected later this year.