News - April 10, 2019

‘Banning meaty names for vegetarian foods gives off wrong impression’

Kipstuckjes, soy yoghurt and veggie burger: meat and dairy names for vegetarian products are misleading and should be banned, says the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Parliament. ‘They are making a mountain out of a molehill’, says sociologist of consumption Hans Dagevos.

© Shutterstock

What is your opinion on the committee’s statement?
‘This smells of political harassment. I am annoyed by the fact that politics are thwarting this industry, while it should rather be supported somewhat. I am not surprised, though, as in the Netherlands, we have already seen that several Representatives of the CDA and VVD had trouble with “kipstuckjes” (a variant spelling of kipstukjes – pieces of chicken). That ended without fuss, and the Vegetarische Slager and Vivera even ended up benefitting from the publicity this caused. Consumer reactions also indicated some confusion as to the Representatives’ wishes. I don’t really believe the arguments brought forward by the Committee, saying it is misleading consumers. More importantly, to my knowledge, there is no scientific proof substantiating this. This is not evidence-based policy.’

Could this be caused by a lobby of the meat industry?
‘I’ve been asked this question before, and I find it difficult to answer. It could sincerely be related to the discussion going on in Brussels regarding the origin of products and the protection of certain food groups. Consider certain cheeses or wines whose names are protected. Some European countries are very strict on that topic.

The producers of meat substitutes should rather be given a nudge.
Hans Dagevos, sociologist of consumption

But I do think that the Committee is giving off the wrong impression in this case. The producers of meat substitutes should rather be given a nudge to put their products on the market, as that would allow them to contribute to a change in the diet as policy advocates.’

Do you expect the ban to come to be?
‘Well, the proposal of the Committee first needs to pass through parliament, so we’re not quite there yet. I may hope the parliament will be of the opinion that this creates a problem not perceived by many consumers. Most producers of meat substitutes started from the premise that they wanted to imitate meat and have always been honest about that. It would therefore be logical to call it thus. Consumers have already gotten used to that. It would be strange to roll all this back now. And it would cost the producers money. Earlier this week, we were told what the name changes of certain ministries had cost. That would be a real shame.’

Additional reading: