In a move that almost justifies Brexit, the EU parliament's agriculture committee has ruled that vegetarian and vegan foods shouldn't be allowed to use the same words as meat.
If the regulation is passed, instead of a veggie burger, you'll have to order "veggie discs." Instead of sausages, you get "tubes." "Escalopes" will become "slices" and "steaks" will be "slabs."
What will we be allowed to call Greggs' vegan sausage rolls? Pastry-Wrapped Meatless Tube Snacks?
The MEPs involved claim that Big Meat had nothing to do with the move and instead, it's just "common sense." Is it? Is it common sense to refer to something everyone thinks of as a burger as a "disc," a word that is pretty much never used in cooking?
Is it common sense to force companies to label their products with daft names that absolutely no one will use? Do they not realise you can put any word you like on the label but people will still call them sausages?
The regulation hasn't passed yet — it got 80 per cent approval from the agriculture committee and now has to go to the full EU parliament for a vote, after which the European Commission and member states will get their say. The full vote will happen after the elections in May, so whether we'll be involved in the process is anyone's guess.
MEP Éric Andrieu, who's in charge of the new legislation, explains his viewpoint:
"We felt that steak should be kept for real steak with meat and come up with a new moniker for all these new products. There is a lot to be done in this front, a lot of creativity will be needed.
People need to know what they are eating. So people who want to eat less meat know what they are eating – people know what is on their plate."
If "people know what is on their plate," why do we need to police the words they use to describe it...?
Green MEP for the South West of England and Gibraltar Molly Scott Cato comments:
"The suspicion is that this has come from the meat industry out of panic at the fact that young people are moving away from eating meat.
It is a clear indication that they are worried about their market being undercut – and that’s quite a good sign. There certainly didn’t seem to be a lot of consumer demand for it.
It wasn’t as if people were buying veggie burgers and asking: ‘Where’s my meat?’ People are moving increasingly towards a plant-based diet, and young people at a terrific speed."
You could force the food labellers to call veggie burgers "Fake Food" and people would still buy it, so we suspect the EU is barking up the wrong broccoli tree here. But keep railing uselessly against the meat backlash if you like, it certainly makes a change from Brexit. [The Guardian]