Known to some outlets as “the hamburger of Europe,” the döner kebab is a marvel of convenience food, a slab of juicy meat spinning on a spit that can quickly be carved and stuffed into a pita or wrap. Somewhat alarmingly, the European Union’s Health Committee voted 32–22 on Tuesday in opposition to a motion to authorise the use of phosphate additives on kebab meats like lamb, mutton, beef, or veal, citing inconclusive evidence that they're linked to heart disease and higher mortality rates. The döner, which relies on phosphate to retain water and flavour, would be a casualty of such a ban.
The news has resulted in a sad spate of puns—“Is the döner a goner?” (Daily Mail), “For pitta’s sake,” (The Guardian), “European lawmakers may be about to skewer the döner kebab,” (USA Today)—which, uh, please stop.
But it’s also led to a general wave of anxiety in some corners of the EU that would be hit the hardest by a potential ban. The döner kebab industry employs 200,000 people across the continent, and, as German politician Renate Sommer noted in a Facebook post on Tuesday, a ban like this would eventually result in a loss of jobs.
Some suspect that there could also be an undercurrent of anti-immigrant and anti-Turkish sentiment behind the rule. ”They are looking for ways to hurt Turkish businesses here,” Baris Donmez, who runs a kebab bistro in Berlin, told the Associated Press. “Such a ban would be the biggest pile of garbage imaginable.”
"This objection, if adopted, will absolutely not lead to a ban on döner kebabs," Baptiste Chatain clarified to MUNCHIES over email on Friday. "It would only veto the authorization of phosphate additives which at the moment are not allowed in frozen kebab meat anyway."
If the body votes in favor of the Health Committee's resolution, the proposal won't pass. Meanwhile, the European Food Safety Agency will reportedly "re-evaluate the safety of phosphate food additives" by the end of next year. The Parliamentary vote is set to take place between December 11 and 14. Fingers crossed.