It comes after the European Parliament’s agricultural committee ruled last month that such designations should be exclusively reserved for products containing meat on grounds that the names are misleading for consumers.
Should the proposal be passed into law, then producers and operators could be forced to refer to vegan and veggie burgers as ‘discs’, sausages as ‘tubes’ and steaks as ‘slabs’.
“There is no evidence to suggest that consumers are confused or misled by the current labelling of vegetarian and vegan products,” says Philip Mansbridge, a spokesperson for ProVeg UK.
“To suggest that consumers do not understand the meaning of the term ‘veggie burger’ and other similar terms is an insult to their intelligence.”
There has been some suggestion that the EU’s decision bears the fingerprints of the meat industry, but this has been dismissed by French socialist MEP Éric Andrieu, who is responsible for overseeing the legislation.
“The meat lobby is not involved in this,” he said last month.
“It has generated a considerable debate among the political groups and a large majority wanted to clarify things.”
ProVeg however, which today launched an online petition challenging the legislation, believes the proposals “will stifle positive change”.
“The proposed restriction would also unnecessarily restrict manufacturers, producers, and the positive social and environmental changes created by the plant-based market,” adds Mansbridge.
The potential EU-wide ban follows the decision by French MPs last year to pass an amendment to an agriculture bill prohibiting any product that is largely based on non-animal ingredients from being labelled like a traditional animal product.
Ross Forder, founder of the Brixton-based Halo Burger restaurant that serves plant-based patties produced by US vegan-protein company Beyond Meat, thinks the EU’s decision is a response to the increasing popularity of meatless alternatives.
“For me this is a reaction to a growing business that threatens some major agricultural establishments within the meat industry,” he says.
“This is an attempt to reduce the appeal and labelling flexibility of these products, in an attempt to slow their popularity.”
Forder adds that the prospective EU legislation is propelling him to ensure the continued success of plant-based products.
“I think there are ways around this legislation, and we will always be proactively looking to try and limit the consequences of such decisions.”
ProVeg hopes to gain at least 10,000 signatures of support for its online petition, with plans to present it to the European Parliament ahead of a final vote later this month.