UK food and agriculture Minister of State Zac Goldsmith has written to the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee about a proposal from the European Parliament to ban the use of words like ‘sausage’ and ‘burger’ to describe foods that don’t contain meat.

In short, he agrees with the Committee that consumers are not in the main misled by vegetarian and vegan products that use such ‘meat words’. 

In June and July, the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee investigated a proposal from the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development agreed to restrict the use of descriptions like ‘sausage’, ‘burger’ and ‘steak’ to apply only to products containing meat and not to vegetarian alternatives. The Committee wrote to the Government with concerns that the proposal did not have the evidence to justify it, would be costly for vegetarian businesses, and could put people off reducing their meat intake for health or environmental reasons.

The Minister has now replied to the Committee, acknowledging that “Vegetarian sausages and burgers have been on the UK and European market for many years now and where they are clearly and honestly labelled, as the large majority are, consumers are not at all misled”. 

He also agreed that existing legislation protects consumers from misleading information, and that it is important to avoid creating barriers for new foods. He said: “There appears to be a growing demand for such foods and exciting opportunities for our great British food industry to meet this demand with new products. I agree…that we should not stand in the way of these innovations, and that any problems that arise from the marketing of these foods can be addressed by existing legislation.”