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Veggie Burgers Can Be Called Burgers, European Parliament Says

The European Parliament will allow vegetarian meat alternatives, like the Impossible Burger, to retain meat-like names.
Robyn Beck
AFP via Getty Images
The European Parliament will allow vegetarian meat alternatives, like the Impossible Burger, to retain meat-like names.

The European Parliament came together Friday to vote on a variety of issues, including whether a veggie burger is a burger.

Farmer lobbyists argued no. Environmentalists said yes.

The Parliament said yes, too, in a decisive vote against a measure that would ban plant-based meat alternatives from being referred to by the names of their meat counterparts. This means terms like steak, sausage and burger.

"Reason prevailed, and climate sinners lost," Nikolaj Villumsen, a member of the European Parliament tweeted following the vote. "It's worth celebrating with a veggie burger."

It's "common sense," according to Camille Perrin, the senior food policy officer at the European Consumer Organization.

"Consumers are in no way confused by a soy steak or chickpea-based sausage, so long as it is clearly labelled as vegetarian or vegan," she said in a statement.

Terms like "burger" and "steak" for plant-based foods help consumers understand how to integrate them into their meals, Perrin said.

Before the vote, Europe's largest farmer association Copa-Cogeca argued these types of names hurt farmers and promote "misleading and unfair marketing."

"We simply call for the work of millions of European farmers and livestock sector workers to be acknowledged and respected," said Jean-Pierre Fleury, Copa-Cogeca chairman, said in a statement earlier this month. "I am not afraid to say that this is an obvious case of cultural hijacking. "

Milk substitutes

But while veggie meat alternatives are safe, vegan dairy alternatives — like almond milk or tofu butter — aren't.

Europe already banned labeling plant-based dairy alternatives as milk with some exceptions.

Now the Parliament tightened restrictions and could prohibit descriptors such as "yogurt-style," "butter alternative" or "creamy," according to Politico.

Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero called the move "disgraceful."

"The votes won't change the fact that more and more people are eating more vegetables and switching to meat and dairy alternatives," Contiero said in a statement, "and will continue to call dairy-free products 'yoghurt' and 'cheese' anyway."

Worldwide debate

These debates aren't confined to the EU.

In 2018, France bannedthe use of meat-like terms to describe vegetarian products.

And stateside, organizations have battled over legislation to ban the labeling of meat alternatives as meat. Similarly, some states have argued over labeling oat or almond milk as "milk."

Prior to the vote, Greenpeace took to Twitter to oppose the proposal to ban the names.

"Seems very petty, but the industrial meat lobby wants the European Parliament to ban the word 'veggie burger' because they say it's confusing," the tweetsaid before concluding:

"If they're confused by the word 'veggie burger'... what do they think a 'hot dog' is?!"

Reese Oxner is an intern on NPR's News Desk.

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