‘Vegan meat’, meat sounding. Big show at the European Parliament

0
10

The European Parliament finally decided to absolve meat sounding. Namely, the use of proper names of meats, meat preparations and meat products, in the presentation of foods with a different composition. The green light for ‘vegan meat’ is perhaps just a big show, however. Or rather, a brilliant marketing operation.

The Strasbourg Assembly took up the demands that Big Food lobbyists had laid on the silver platter of (dis?)concerned consumer groups. And the mainstream media celebrated the victory of millions of citizens united in the battle for the right (admittedly, never denied) to feed themselves as each person sees fit.

However, the labeling and advertising of vegan burgers remains conditional on compliance with the Food Information Regulation and the Unfair Trade Practices Directive. (1)

European Parliament

On 1.4.19, the European Parliament’s AGRI Committee had approved a proposed amendment, in the proposed revision of the Common Market Organization (CMO), to reserve exclusively ‘to products containing meat‘ the characteristic names of meats and their cuts, meat products and meat preparations. For a number of reasons already shared, in line with, among others, the bans on cheese sounding and
milk sounding
. The initiative was not followed up, however, as the legislature has since ended.

On 23.10.20 the European Parliament returned to the issue, as an amendment with identical wording was resubmitted in the CAP review. And the Assembly, this time, rejected the proposal. This confirms the possibility of designating Veg products with names such as hamburger, steak, sausage, etc. In compliance with the general consumer information criteria mentioned below (see last paragraph).

Entertainment and mass distraction

The show at the Europarliament is outstanding. The mainstream media thus gives half a billion consumers in Europe an opportunity to talk about veggie burgers. A product category still unknown to many, which is presented with attributes of nutritional goodness, ecology and respect for animals.

Instead, no one reports on the real issue, the impact of the food chain on the environment and animal welfare. And no one cares that the same European Parliament, three days earlier, passed a CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) reform that exacerbates, rather than mitigates, this problem. Mass distraction. Indeed, on 10/20/20 the Strasbourg assembly voted:

– The exclusion, from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), of the ecological transition targets set in the EU Green Deal, Farm to Fork, Biodiversity strategies,

– confirmation of generous subsidies to intensive agriculture and livestock farms, without imposing any targets for reducing environmental impact or improving animal welfare.

– complete indifference to the ad maiora postponement of the European strategy on animal welfare.

Directing

Just follow the money to understand who is moving behind the scenes. The big show has indeed been directed by Big Food and big finance lobbyists who have invested billions of dollars in the promising Lab Meat business. Lab meats, with GMO plant blood and other biotechnological amenities.

EAPF(European Alliance for Plant-based Foods) – signatory of the ‘Stop the Veggie Burger Ban‘ campaign – is an organization established on 9/24/20. Its founders are not The Vegetarian Society or The Vegan Society (which have been waiting for years for the European Commission to introduce a legal definition of vegetarian and vegan foods), nor are they followers of George Oshawa and Michio Kushi (the prophets of macrobiotics). Neither organic farms, nor the protagonists of ecoagriculture and peasant agriculture, the real losers of CAP reform.

The interests at stake

The directors of the show do not exactly fit the ‘environmentalist’ model one might expect. All of the names to follow, direct or indirect members of the European Alliance for Plant-based Foods, are involved in intensive livestock farming supply chains, among others.

Nestlé, a global leader in unnecessary food and waste, Nespresso’s iconic capsules. It is also remembered for the historic denial of the universal human right to water. (2) And for second place, after PepsiCo, in the world palm oil consumption league,

Unilever, Corporation that for over a century exploited slaves and the land granted to it by the criminal monarch Leopold II to produce palm oil in the former Belgian Congo (now DRC). He still uses the tropical fat in Knorr-brand vegetarian and vegan risottos, as well as in various other products,

Cargill, agricultural commodities giant. Protagonist in the production and trade of GMO soybean oil and palm oil, amid deforestation and pesticides. Also involved in the industrial processing of cocoa harvested from child slaves, in West Africa.

IKEA, the world’s third largest retailer (after ALDI and Tesco) in palm oil consumption,

Beyond Meat, a billion-dollar plant-basedburger startup created by Tyson Food, the first U.S. producer of meat from factory farms.

Labeling of ‘substitute’ products, rules to be applied

The presentation of ‘substitute’ products for meat and meat products, regardless of the show in the European Parliament, must still meet two essential conditions:

– a wording such as ‘vegetable’, ‘vegetarian’, ‘vegan’ must accompany the trade name or brand name evocative of a meat (or its cut, or derived food) on any product that does not contain it. This clarification must appear in the same visual field and with as much graphic evidence, to prevent any risk of misleading the consumer about the nature of the product, (3)

– A descriptive name of the food, which must be suitable to represent the actual contents of the product. Indeed, there are no legal or customary designations suitable for uniquely identifying this varied category of foods. (4)

Much ado about nothing

Reducing meat consumption is undoubtedly helpful in encouraging varied and balanced diets. Plant proteins, as it turns out, are valuable health allies. Vegetarian and vegan diets, by the way, can come based on many products characteristic of the Mediterranean tradition.

Veg choices can also contribute to the health of the environment when directed toward organic foods. Which among other things are helpful in strengthening the immune system. But there is certainly no need for GMO vegetable blood or confusing product names. These marketing operations only serve the protagonists of exploitative globalization to increase sales of ultra-processed and harmful food, for the environment and health. And it is sad to note so much uncritical proselytizing.

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) Reg. EU 1169/11, dir. 2005/29/EC (implemented in Italy by the Consumer Code, d.lgs. 206/05 as amended)
(2) European Public Service Union (EPSU). The right to water versus the CEO of Nestlé. 4/26/13, https://www.epsu.org/article/right-water-versus-ceo-nestle-i
(3) Reg. EU 1169/11, Article 7.1.a
(4) Reg. EU 1169/11, Art.