Vegetarian food might soon be banned from using designations such as steak, sausage, burger, and hamburger, thanks to a proposed legislation by the European parliament.
According to a report in The Guardian, the European parliament voted to revise a food-labelling regulation that could spell big changes for the imitation meat industry. Under this new law, proposed by the the European Parliaments Agriculture Committee, products such as vegetarian burgers, vegan sausages, and tofu steaks have to rebrand themselves; those existing terms are to be reserved exclusively for meat and meat-based products. So-called “Veggie burgers,” for example, would have to be called “veggie discs.” It is unclear whether those designations will apply to patties made from beans, legumes, or jackfruit; the report refers only to mushrooms, tofu, and soya as plant-based substitutes.
Although The Guardian reports that some MEPs suspect this to be the workings of the meat industry lobby, French socialist MEP, Éric Andrieu, denied any involvement and was quoted as saying this prohibition was just “common sense”. The move has been opposed by NGOs like Greenpeace and Birdlife, the paper reports.
This move comes at a time when veganism in the West has turned into something of movement in itself — for the past two years, London has seen not just vegan restaurants set up shop, but also a vegan pub, a vegan doughnut shop, the first ever meatless raw ‘bleeding’ burger, vegan menus by fast food chains, and a load of plant-based ‘junk’ food from vegan pie and mash and five-spiced jackfruit burgers to gluten-free ‘chicken’ popcorn. At the same time, vegan restaurants such as Gizzi Erskine’s popular burger pop-up, received endorsements from the likes of the Beckhams.
It isn’t out of bounds to say that right now is a glorious age of vegan and vegetarian food — one of the greatest burgers in New York City is the vegetarian burger at Superiority Burger. Meanwhile, Burger King rolled out trial versions of the ‘Impossible Whopper’, developed with the California-based Impossible Foods that launched the meatless burger which is designed to ‘bleed’ like a traditional burger.
Of course, a vegetarian and/or vegan diet isn’t new to many people around the world, especially those of colour and those who practice religions like Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, some of which advocate abstaining from meat because of nonviolence, and some because vegetarianism is a marker of upper caste identity, which is a form of structural violence embodied in the caste system. What has changed is those in possession of the narrative right now.
Imitation meat continues to take hold — from beetroot burgers that are supposed to resemble bloody meat to jackfruit that imitates pulled pork — and with other global food corporations thought to be in line to follow Burger King’s lead, it is only going to become more normalised. Whether the efforts of legislators to affect the names of food will halt that growth remains to be seen.