Vegetarians fight new law that burger can only refer to meat

Vegetarians fight new law that burger can only refer to meat
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A new French law determined that terms like ‘sausage’ and ‘burger’ can only refer to meat products, which vegetarian lobbyists argue may be breaking EU single market rules. 

This would mean that vegetarian meat-replacement products produced elsewhere in the EU can no longer be sold in France, violating the principle of a single open market. Supporters of the law say that it would, in fact, protect consumers, who may confuse veggie and meat-based ‘burgers’. 

The European Commission will be looking into the matter this week, after the European Vegetarian Union filed a complaint against the state of France. The lobby group claims that the law “creates an obstacle to intra-community trade by obliging traders to change their labels in order to meet the requirements of the French market”. 

A representative for the French Vegetarian Association told POLITICO that “this raises a problem of equal treatment between member states on the European market.”

"To put it simply, if there are German producers, for example, who want to sell their vegetarian steaks in France, they won’t be allowed because they are called steak.”

The vegetarian lobbyists feel that the French law is also in stride with Brussels’ ambitions for a more sustainable EU, which include encouraging alternatives for meat. 

The law was proposed by MP Barbara Bessot Ballot, who is a member of Macron’s party La République En Marche. It came with strong support from the French meat industry. 

The tensions are part of a wider conflict of interest between the industries related to branding and labelling. In 2017, following a similar legal issue, the vegetarian brand ‘De Vegetarische Slager’ (the vegetarian butcher) sold in Belgium and the Netherlands was allowed to keep on product names that sounded very similar to ‘sausage’, ‘ground beef’ or ‘chicken tenders’. 

Amée Zoutberg

The Brussels Times

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