On Friday 23 October the European Parliament voted to reject proposals to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that would ban terms such as “burger”, “steak” and “sausage” being used to describe plant-based products.

This vote was part of a wider package of CAP reforms that were voted on by the European Parliament and are due take effect from 2022.

This was good news for medical groups, environmentalists and manufacturers of vegetarian products who argued that banning these terms would make consumers less likely to shift to a more plant based diet. They stated that this would undermine the EU’s Green Deal, which aims to achieve climate neutrality across Europe within the next 30 years.

But are these terms likely to mislead consumers? The answer to that question was “yes” for some farming lobby groups that argued that using words commonly associated with meat products would confuse and mislead consumers. The European farmer’s group Copa-Cogeca said that allowing the use of such terms would open a “Pandora’s box” of confusing wording, citing that while consumers already know what is in a steak, they have no way of understanding what is in a vegan “steak” without further investigation.

Alongside the vote on meat terms, EU lawmakers did vote for stricter rules on referring to “milk-like” or “cheese-style” for plant based products that contain no dairy ingredients. This confirms the position adopted by the European Court of Justice three years ago when it ruled in favour of dairy producers that terms such as “vegan cheese” and “soy milk” cannot be used for non-dairy products.

So feel free to continue to enjoy your veggie burgers, but your almond milk now has a limited shelf life.

Our food and drink specialists have a broad range of experience advising UK and multinational businesses on labelling and branding matters. For advice on how labelling requirements will change after 31 December 2020, including the UK’s new geographical indication (GI) scheme, please get in touch with George Frier (George.Frier@shepwedd.com) or Joseph Fitzgibbon (Joseph.Fitzgibbon@shepwedd.com).

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