This week the European Parliament will vote on whether phrases like ‘veggie burger’ and ‘cheese-like’ are misleading to consumers, leading to accidental sales. Labelled ‘cultural hijacking’, lobbyists claim companies are deliberately deceiving customers in favour of profits.
Much like consumers aren’t under the impression that hot dogs contain dog and peanut butter contains butter, opponents to the legislation argue that customers are much more savvy about their buying habits, and can make the distinction between a meat and dairy product, and their alternative equivalent.
“There’s completely no proof to recommend that customers are confused or misled by the present labelling of vegetarian and vegan merchandise. Shoppers know precisely what they’re getting after they buy veggie burgers or veggie sausages.”Jasmijn de Boo, ProVeg
Dairy and meat alternative products are currently not allowed to be called the ‘real deal’, and must be clearly labelled as alternatives – e.g. ‘cheezly’, ‘mylk’ or ‘bacon-style’, much like many products weren’t allowed to be labelled as the real thing if they didn’t meet certain criteria. A few years ago Tesco were penalised for not meeting the criteria for their cheese slices, and were forced to label them ‘lunch singles’ due to their low percentage of cheese.
The legislation doesn’t seem to recognise that terms like ‘sausage’ and ‘burger’ are labels for the shape rather than the product itself. It also hasn’t suggested phrases for what meat and dairy alternatives should be called. Many have denounced the move as a clear example of the industry’s fear of the vegan and vegetarian movement, and it’s rapid growth in sales. With consumer’s recognising the importance of ditching meat and dairy, both for the animals and the environment, could this be a last ditch effort to confuse them into returning to their old habits?
If you’re opposed to the alternative labelling ban, visit the ProVeg website to sign their petition.