The European Parliament has ruled terms that mimic traditional meat products in the plant-based category such as veggie burger can be used within the European Union.

But it has further clamped down on the descriptive nature of faux-dairy products which sound like the real thing.

In a vote today (23 October), the EU’s legislative body rejected a proposal to ban veggie burger branding, favoured by some meat companies, which would have restricted plant-based products from using names typically associated with meat, such as ‘burger’ and ‘sausage’.  

However, it has voted to ban the use of terms such as ‘yogurt-style’ and ‘cheese alternative’.

Descriptions such as ‘almond milk’ and ‘vegan cheese’ are already banned on products in the EU.

The votes are subject to final approval as part of a wider debate on Common Agriculture Policy reform later today but are expected to be upheld.

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The plant-based food lobbying organisation ProVeg International in Berlin said it welcomed the European Parliament’s vote against restrictions on plant-based alternatives to meat. However, the group said it regrets the outcome of “far-reaching and entirely unnecessary restrictions on the descriptions of plant-based dairy products”. 

ProVeg vice president Jasmijn de Boo said: “It is inconceivable to us just how the European Parliament could take such different positions on such similar proposals. Although the ban is supposedly intended to prevent consumer confusion, it is clear that it does nothing for consumers except confuse them. 

“It is also a major blow to the plant-based dairy sector, one of the most innovative and sustainable in the wider European food industry. Plant-based dairy businesses could now be saddled with significant financial burdens and practical challenges around renaming, rebranding and re-marketing of products and the potential of high legal costs.”

However, Alexander Anton, general secretary of the European Dairy Association, expressed his happiness at the decision.

“This is a good day for the EU lactosphère, for our European consumers and citizens and for Europe,” he said.

Andy Shovel, co-founder of UK plant-based business This, welcomed the ruling on the terms used to describe faux meat products. He said: “I’m glad lunacy has not prevailed on any potentially brainless ban on meat-related terms. Now we don’t have to come up with suitably amusing product terminology that would have been both descriptive but also let consumers know how ludicrous the constraints would have been.”

The Parliament’s decision now moves to talks between EU member states, the European Commission and the European Parliament, discussions, known as the “trilogue” phase of the EU’s legislative process.