Fact/Fiction: Has the EU been meddling with British veggie burgers?

Old news, truthfully retold. This week we look at how veggie burgers and sausages could be for the chop in Europe. But is there any meat on the bones of stories claiming they'll be called 'discs' and 'tubes' instead?

How it was told

The European Union ‘dictating our laws from Brussels’ hasn’t been that popular in recent times – see the small matter of the Brexit vote in 2016 – and the latest story of so-called bureaucracy sounds like it couldn’t possibly be true.

Veggie burgers are for the chop, according to reports that first surfaced on April 4. And not just them either. Other meat-free alternatives including veggie sausages, steaks and more could be off the menu. Under new guidelines proposed by the European Parliament’s Agri Committee, you can say hello to ‘veggie discs’ instead of burgers and vegan or veggie sausages would be changed to ‘tubes’.

The story went down relatively well in The Guardian, who quoted the man responsible for the legislation, French socialist MEP Éric Andrieu, describing it as “common sense” in “‘Veggie discs’ to replace veggie burgers in EU crackdown on food labels”. They then served up an opinion piece by food writer Tony Naylor that welcomed the move with “Go on, EU, ban the ‘veggie burger’ – it will be a blessing for vegans”.

But the news was somewhat less palatable for the EU-sceptic Sun. They showed their teeth with “ARE EU KIDDING? Bloated EU bunglecrats blow more taxpayers’ cash deciding veggie burgers must be renamed ‘veg discs’” while Mail Online, The Independent and Metro also reported on the story.

That proved to be an appetiser for the row that followed when the Vegan Society bit back last week, with ITV reporting on their warning of “widespread administrative chaos” alongside a story in The Times.

But does this story have any meat on its bones?

Facts. Checked

Yes, it’s true! The proposed amendment to bring these changes into force was approved by the Agri Committee but still needs to be given the green light by the rest of the European Parliament.

And that is not going to happen for some time. The European Parliament was dissolved on April 18 ahead of the upcoming elections, set to take place on May 23-26.

However, the Vegan Society has launched a challenge to this with threats to escalate the challenge if they do not hear back from European chiefs within 21 days.

Far from agreeing with Tony Naylor’s appraisal of the situation, the charity have penned a 14-page letter, dated April 18, with an appendix of more than 100 examples of plant-based food descriptors being used in public and private sectors to show how wide the impact would be. They also claim that the measures contravene the EU consumers’ right to be informed adequately as to how goods can be used.

George Gill, CEO at The Vegan Society, said: “There’s no denying that meat, dairy and egg industries are feeling threatened by this and desperately trying to restrict the marketing of vegan products.

“These proposals have little to do with consumer protection and instead are motivated by economic concerns of the meat industry. We are calling on EU officials to reject these irrational measures for vegan meat alternatives.”

The latter view is shared by Green MEP for the South West England Molly Scott Cato, who is an Agri Committee member. She clarified her position on Twitter following the initial reports: “I am totally opposed to the change which I see originating from a panicked meat lobby. And I meant to encourage vegetarian/vegan cooking that doesn’t focus on meat substitutes.”

It’s ironic, however, that the Brexit delays will give British people a chance to have their say on legislation like this.

If you agree with Andrieu that this is “common sense” or you want to fight back against “PC gone mad” laws, find out where your local MEP candidates stand on the subject and head to the polls to cast your vote in May.

Image: Miles Cole