Would vegetarian bacon taste just as good if it were sold as "vegetarian textured soy breakfast strips"?
Meat producers throughout the EU are lobbying to have animal-based food denominations such as "meat," "bacon," "chicken nuggets," "hamburger," removed from vegetarian and vegan products, arguing that they are misleading to consumers.
"It is quite simple—meat is a product that comes from animals. Any use of the word in any other context is deceiving the public," British Meat Processors Association CEO Nick Allen told MUNCHIES. "In a funny sort of a way, when these people want to use the word meat, it is as acknowledgement that there is no substitute.
A pan of sizzling vegetarian textured soy breakfast strips might not be a suitable substitute for bacon in terms of taste (or aroma), but it's unclear exactly whom is being misled by the term "vegan bacon."
Clitravi, a conglomerate of EU meat producers cites numerous regulations already in place as a legal basis for their proposition.
Labeling for milk and dairy products in Europe is already strictly enforced: words such as milk, yogurt, and cheese must refer to products produced by "mammary secretions." Common products such as soy milk are sold with distinctly different titles, including "soy beverage" or "soy drink."
In a statement to MUNCHIES, Clitravi president Robert Volut said:
"Numerous foodstuffs suitable for vegetarians or vegans derive their sales from names which relate to meat, animal species, specific meat cuts and/ or meat products…We believe that this contravenes the rules relating to clear and unambiguous consumer information."
Clitravi states that according to current regulation food labeling cannot be misleading as to a food's primary composition: "In Italy, for example, cured ham can refer only to a pig meat product.
The organization claims, however, that vegan and vegetarian foods that take the name of a description or style of meat are still ok.
"Vegetarian meat balls" isn't OK, but "vegetarian balls" is. "Vegan hamburger" is misleading, but "vegan burger" is not.
While we've been waiting for the proliferation of vegetarian balls in freezer aisles and restaurant menus everywhere, the labeling issue of vegan and vegetarian products continues to rage on in both the US and EU.
In 2016, the German agricultural minister called for a ban on misleading phrases such as "vegetarian schnitzel." Meanwhile, in the US, the FDA has been overseeing an ongoing battle between dairy manufacturers and vegan food companies over use of the word "mayo."
One thing is for certain: as more consumers continue to drive for more vegan and vegetarian products in the marketplace, the meat and dairy industries will be digging in their heels.
Vegan balls and textured vegetable protein, here we come.