2018 Commission Work Programme – Vegetarian labelling set on track
Europe-wide criteria for definitions of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian” for food labelling will become law in 2020. This is the very tangible outcome that is now in sight after the European Commission published its work programme for the upcoming year. European consumers of vegan and vegetarian foods as well as their suppliers in production and retail will be able to rely on one set of rules for plant-based food. This will improve the positions of all parties invovled in the food chain. The commitment of the EU-Executive is now on record and paves the way for a crucial piece of ‘vegetarian law’.
Read the full press release here.
20 October 2017
Belgium now has two food pyramids. The Flemish Institute for Healthy Life “Gezond Leven” developed a new food pyramid that places processed meat outside of it – which means you don’t need any of it.
The new pyramid features some exciting changes, e.g. processed meat is no longer in it. Instead, it is placed outside of it in a small circle, together with alcoholic beverages, fast food, salty snacks, sugary beverages and sweets. This category is meant for products that you absolutely don’t need in your diet. Besides that, the pyramid is inverted, which means it displays the products consumers should consume the most of at the top, the least of at the bottom. Unprocessed meat is at the bottom, together with processed foods rich in trans-fatty acids, such as butter. Fruits and vegetables are at the very top.
For more information check here.
“Vegan Schnitzel” stays “vegan Schnitzel”. Big loss for German Federal Minister Schmidt
Despite calls by the German Food Minister and national farmers’ and butchers’ associations, a ban on “vegan schnitzel” and “vegetarian bratwurst” in Germany is unlikely to happen. The German Food Code Commission has submitted a draft for feedback which allows the use of certain “meaty names” on vegetarian and vegan meat alternatives. EVU’s German affiliate ProVeg (former VEBU) was part of the Commission’s negotiations and worked hard to bring about consumer-friendly labelling.
Read the full press release here.
The Guardian: the Swedish farmer using oats to make milk
“After the first year of producing oats [for oat milk instead of oats for animal feed] Arnesson’s farm was producing double the amount of calories for human consumption per hectare and had halved the climate impact of each calorie produced.”
Read the full article here.
27 July 2017
EVU suggests revising archaic elements in the light of pending evaluation of Common Market Organisation (CMO)
The European Commission currently invites stakeholders to provide feedback on the scope of a pending evaluation of marketing standards set in the Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 on the Common Market Organisation for agricultural products. As this regulation specifies that plant-based alternatives to milk may not bear “dairy” sales denominations, the EVU has criticised these outdated elements, especially in the light of the recent judgement by the European Court of Justice (see below).
Specifically, the EVU suggests to assess whether rules on product denominations in the CMO are still warranted in the light of evolving consumer perceptions and changing dietary behaviours, with regard to growing food sectors which deserve similar consideration as the dairy industry and with a view to establishing more cohesion in EU food information law.
The EVU’s full statement can be found here.
Today’s verdict by the ECJ has little to do with consumer protection. The court has made it clear that the regulation under discussion is first and foremost motivated by economic concerns. Furthermore, the court’s strict interpretation of the regulation contradicts consumer perception and everyday language. The EVU does not think today’s ruling has been a decision on whether terms like “milk” and “cheese” are misleading for labelling vegetarian products. Instead, it has shown that the existing regulation has to be discussed in the future.
The court’s decision is regrettable, but comes as no surprise given the strict wording of the regulation. Plant-based alternatives to milk products have been on the market for many years. As many of them have been developed and produced specifically to resemble the “originals”, they should be allowed to be marketed under similar sales denominations. It is the EVU’s position that “milky names” on plant-based milk alternatives convey important information on what consumers can expect from a product. Hence, they guide consumer purchase decisions in a useful and straightforward way. Furthermore, the vegetarian or vegan characteristic is communicated clearly, as it is in everybody’s interest to clarify the difference.
Last but not least, the EVU think today’s decision has triggered an important discussion which we will continue in the future.
CLITRAVI calls for ban on “meaty names” for labelling veggie products & EVU approaching joint position on vegetarian definitions together with European food industry
As FoodNavigator reports, CLITRAVI, the association that represents the European processed meat industry, urges the Commission to ban vegetarian products from using meat names. However, there are differing interpretations concerning the possible legal basis (article 36.3[b] in the Food Information to Consumers [FIC] regulation): The EVU and many others take the view that the article covers only a call for the pending legally-binding definition of vegetarian and vegan foods.
The Commission appears to share this position and has made it clear that it does not intend to act on this issue, according to Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis (further information here and here).
Regarding the definition of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian” for the purpose of food labelling, the EVU closes in on a joint position with FoodDrinkEurope, the umbrella organisation of the European food industry. Remaining differences are currently discussed.
EVU becomes an EFSA Registered Stakeholder
The EVU applied to be a Registered Stakeholder at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in order to contribute to its activities. EFSA is the agency of the European Union that provides scientific advice and communicates on existing and emerging risks associated with the food chain. The work of EFSA covers all matters related to food and feed safety, including animal health and welfare, and nutrition.
More information can be found on EFSA’s website
EVU publishes new position paper: Sales Denominations of Vegetarian Meat Alternatives
As many vegetarian alternatives to meat products have been developed and produced specifically to resemble the “originals”, they are marketed under similar sales denominations, such as “vegan sausage”. Recently, as sales figures have been booming, this has been met with criticism by certain stakeholders.
It is the EVU’s position that “meaty names” on vegetarian meat alternatives convey important information on what consumers can expect of a product. Hence, they guide consumers’ purchase decisions in a useful and straightforward way.
The complete position paper can be found here.
Portuguese parliament approves law that makes mandatory the availability of a veganoption in all state canteens
The proposal was inspired by a petition initiatied by the Associação Vegetariana Portuguesa, gathering over 15,000 signatures, and put forward by animal rights party PAN. According to news articles, the law states that the new menu option mustn’t contain any animal products.
“Supermarket makeover” to cut meat consumption
As The Guardian reports, British shoppers are to become subject of an interesting experiment aimed at making them cut their meat consumption in order to improve human health in a world going through profound climate change. The project, in which Sainsbury’s is one of the key collaborators, will see supermarkets redesigned.
“Proposals include: placing vegetarian alternatives on the same shelves as meat products; giving vouchers and loyalty points to shoppers who choose vegetarian products; and providing recipes and leaflets that outline how shoppers can eat less meat”.
Efforts to take certain steps to get people to eat more vegetarian foods comes in the wake of a study, published by Oxford University scientists in April 2016 (see EVU news below), which concluded that eating less animal products could reduce global mortality and cut greenhouse gas emissions substantially.
EVU provides working translations of its proposed definition of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian” for food labelling
The EVU starts its political work in 2017 by publishing translations of its proposed definition into several official languages of the European Union (including Dutch, French and Spanish) with more to come. The translations will be used for approaching the European Commission and stressing the need of a legal definition. For the past five years and despite a clear mandate for action stipulated in the Food Information to Consumers Regulation (FIC), the Commission has remained inactive.
The EVU invites you to spread and use the translations.
The translations can be found here.
Veggie definition: 5 years of inactivity by the European Commission
“5 years ago, the EU Food Information to Consumers Regulation (FIC) stipulated that the European Commission is to issue an implementing act defining requirements for information related to the suitability of a food for vegetarians and vegans”, says Till Strecker, the European Vegetarian Union’s (EVU) Public Affairs Manager. Despite growing pressure from politicians, consumer organisations, and the food industry, the Commission has failed to act upon this responsibility in the past five years.
Find the recent EVU information and EVU’s position paper here.
Updated EVU position paper on Novel Foods
As the legislative procedure concerning the modernisation of the European Regulation on Novel Foods is concluded, the EVU has published an updated position paper.
The EVU welcomes the new Regulation as a necessary and timely measure for bringing more numerous and more varied plant-based foods to the European market and to the consumer’s plate.
The EVU expresses the hope that the market entry threshold for developers and importers of novel vegetarian and vegan foods is lowered compared to the situation set to prevail until 2018. Furthermore, the EVU offers its expertise and hopes to be included in the circle of stakeholders consulted for the implementation.
$1.25 Trillion investor coalition urges multinational companies to move away from animal-based proteins
A coalition of 40 institutional investors has launched an engagement with 16 multinational food companies (including Kraft Heinz, Nestle and Unilever) highlighting the material risks posed by industrial animal production. The coalition urges companies to set strategies to diversify into plant-based sources of protein.
The investors warn of the risks associated with the growing global demand for protein and an overreliance on the unsustainable factory farming of livestock for its supply. They highlight the environmental, social and public health risks inherent in this model, which financial markets are not currently valuing appropriately.
Jeremy Coller, founder of the Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR) Initiative, that has brought together the coalition, said:
“The world’s overreliance on factory farmed livestock to feed the growing global demand for protein is a recipe for a financial, social and environmental crisis. Intensive livestock production already has levels of emissions and pollution that are too high, and standards of safety and welfare that are too low. It simply can’t cope with the projected increase in global protein demand. Investors want to know if major food companies have a strategy to avoid this protein bubble and to profit from a plant-based protein market”.
Together with ShareAction, FAIRR has published a a new briefing entitled “The future of food – the investment case for a protein shake up”.
Read FAIRR’s press release here.
UN expert calls for tax on meat production
Prof Maarten Hajer, lead author of a recently published UN-report, has stated that governments “should tax meat production in order to stem the global rise in consumption and the environmental damage that goes with it”, according to the Guardian.
As global consumption is projected to rise significantly over the next 10 years (20 per cent rise in chicken and dairy consumption, 14 per cent in pig and beef), people have to be deterred from eating meat by increasing its price. According to Hajer, “our current food system has to change because it’s not sustainable”.
Big companies identify appetite for plant-based milk
Financial Times has published an interesting article on the boom of plant-based milk products, featuring many facts and figures.
As per capita consumption of milk has dropped 4.1 per cent in Europe over the past five years and even stronger in the US (13 per cent), worldwide sales of non-dairy milk alternatives more than doubled between 2009 and 2015, according to Euromonitor. The market has grown to a sales volume of $21 bn.
As a new development, “big global beverage food and drinks companies that traditionally have not been dairy focused are also entering the market as they seek to diversify away from fizzy drinks”. Names include Coca Cola, Unilever and Danone.
While serving the same needs, plant-based milk has an ecological advantage over animal’s milk. Furthermore, more and more consumers choose plant-based alternatives due to obvious concerns over issues such as animal welfare and antibiotic use.
China plans to cut meat consumption by 50 per cent
The Guardian reports that new dietary guidelines recently published by the Chinese government outline a plan to reduce its citizens’ meat consumption by 50 per cent. The measures, designed to improve public health, have been cheered by climate campaigners as a major step to tackle climate change.
Furthermore, it is perceived as an important leadership step. Last year, the Chatham House Institute has stated in a groundbreaking study that as the general public is unaware of the issue and unlikely to change consumption patterns, governments must lead in shifting attitudes and behavior.
As China became a global economic power, the country’s meat consumption has skyrocketed from 13 kg of meat per person/year in 1982 to 63 kg today. This trend is expected to continue. Animal farming is responsible for 14.5 per cent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (latest FAO figures) and is therefore one of the key drivers of climate change.
Read the in-depth article here.
Expert group proposes new global food waste standard – ignores food loss due to animal farming
A group of specialist institutions including the FAO has issued a report, proposing a universal standard to measure food waste and setting definitions and measurement requirements.
“The amount of food lost or wasted translates into about a quarter of all water used by agriculture, requires cropland equivalent an area the size of China, and is responsible for an estimated 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emission“
However, EVU highlights that even though the report aims at cutting food waste, it fails to recognise that over one third of global crop calories are used as animal feedstuff. Inefficient conversion into animal protein means that enormous amounts of agricultural produce are lost in the course of the production of animal products. Therefore, shifting production patterns and diets is key for cutting food waste and should be recognised by stakeholders.
Read the study here.
Politico EU policy newsletter features German breakthrough
EVU’s Till Strecker talked to “Politico Morning Agri & Food”, the main source for EU food policy updates, about Germany’s new
de facto vegetarian labelling rules.
Read it here (“Germany leads way on vegetarian food labelling”).
FoodNavigator features article on Germany’s definition breakthrough
FoodNavigator covers the recent German development concerning the definitions of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian”
for food labelling and EVU’s efforts in detail.
Read the full article here.
Vegetarian Food labelling breakthrough: Updates & Information
As mentioned before, the consumer protection ministers of the German Länder unanimously voted in favour of a proposal for a legally binding definition of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian”.
The EVU is positive that this will send a strong signal to the European Commission in order to fulfil its obligation to adopt an implementing act on legally binding definitions as stated in the Food Information Regulation.
Find more information and an updated position paper here.
Commission will prosecute Germany for water pollution
EurActiv reports that the European Commission will prosecute Germany “for failing to take effective measures against water pollution caused by nitrates”. Despite worsening pollution in surface waters and groundwater and earlier warnings, Brussels has stated that Germany did not take sufficient measures “to effectively address nitrates pollution and revise its relevant legislation to comply with the EU rules”.
The main source of nitrate, predominantly used for fertilization, is intensive livestock farming.
Read the Commissions’ press release here.
2 May 2016
Google names “plants to replace meat” as one of the most important tech trends
Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent, Alphabet, has laid out several game changing technologies that have the potential to change the world. Among them, he named synthetic food from plant proteins that communities could use to replace meat.
“Replacing livestock with growing and harvesting plants could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change”, he argued. Furthermore, as meat production is costly and inefficient, cost of foods could be lowered in developing countries.
Find the tech trends here.
Denmark is considering to tax meat to help combat climate change
Denmark currently discusses taxing meat in order to reduce consumers’ meat consumption. Initially, there would be a tax on beef, subsequently extended to all meats, varying according to their contribution to climate change.
Interestingly, Danish Council of Ethic’s spokesperson Mickey Gjerris stated that as relying on consumers to change their own consumption “will not be effective”, regulation will be required.
Animal farming is responsible for 14.5 – 18 per cent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (FAO figures) and is therefore one of the key drivers of climate change.
Vegetarian Food Labelling: Breakthrough in Germany
The consumer protection ministers of the German Länder unanimously voted in favour of a proposal for a legally binding definition of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian”. At their meeting in Düsseldorf, the ministers backed a formula which had been consensually developed by a working group of the Länder, the German food industry and the EVU’s German affiliate VEBU.
Whilst the decided definition is meant to be implemented at European level, the consumer protection ministers put it into effect for the food control authorities of their jurisdictions.
The EVU expects this decision to send a strong signal to the European Commission to fulfil its obligation to adopt an implementing act on voluntary labelling of vegan and vegetarian food according to the Food Information Regulation 1169/2011.
23 April 2016
1st International Law Symposium on Vegan Rights
On 23rd of April 2016, Germany’s VEBU und and International Vegan Rights Alliance presented the 1st International Law Symposium on the Right to a plant based diet. This pioneering event brought lawyers and experts from different countries together in Berlin to share knowledge and discuss ways to progress the campaign for the right to a vegan diet.
The group issued a concluding declaration, available here.
12 April 2016
Scientists at Oxford University have tried to quantify the potential health and environmental benefits of a global shift towards more plant-based diets. They found that vegetarian diets could save millions of lives. Even a transition in line with standard dietary guidelines already could reduce global mortality by 6-10 % and food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 29-70 % compared with a reference scenario in 2050.
“Our study provides a comparative analysis of the health and climate change benefits of global dietary changes for all major world regions. We project that health and climate change benefits will both be greater the lower the fraction of animal-sourced foods in our diets.”
Read the full study here.
Eurobarometer on Animal Welfare ignores potential of vegetarian products
The statistical agency of the European Commission, EUROSTAT, has published a Special Eurobarometer on the “Attitudes of Europeans towards Animal Welfare”.
The report shows some encouraging results. It reveals that an overwhelming majority of European citizens demands better welfare standards for farmed animals as well as for companion animals. About 90 per cent think that imported animal products should fulfil the same requirements with regard to animal welfare as products from within the EU. This is an important hint to policymakers in Europe and the Member States. They need to take this clear demand into consideration when negotiating international trade agreements etc.
However, the report fails to see the immense animal welfare potentials of vegetarian products. Plant-based foodstuffs are always more animal-friendly than their animal-based counterparts. Vegetarian lifestyles – from meat-reduced flexitarianism to veganism –provide the opportunity to improve animal welfare without cutbacks on taste and enjoyment of food. Plant-based foods are also more environmentally friendly.
In future surveys on animal welfare, this perspective needs to be taken into account and plant-based alternatives to animal products and vegetarian lifestyles need to be included into the questionnaires. Policy plans in general as well as statistical reports on animal welfare are incomplete without reference to vegetarian lifestyles and their potentials.
Read the full report here.
15 March 2016
EU healthy eating funding discriminates against plant proteins, ENSA says
As the European Union is currently merging today’s separate EU school milk and fruit schemes and boosting their combined annual budget by 20 million to 250 million a year, the European Natural Soy and Plant-Based Foods Manufacturers Association (ENSA) complains that the scheme excludes products that are as nutritious as dairy and serve the same needs, namely plant-based proteins.
For years, the EVU has voiced that the scheme, designed to improve the health of young Europeans, leaves many pupils behind and has called for an inclusion of plant milk. Furthermore, plant-based milk has an ecological advantage over cow’s milk. Download EVU’s position paper here.
What is vegetarian? EVU comments on legal professional discourse
In its current issue, the leading European food law magazine European Food and Feed Law Review features an article written by EVU’s Public Affairs’ manager Till Strecker on the topic of defining the terms vegan and vegetarian, legal situation and latest political developments.
Take a look at the current issue here.
16 February 2016
EurActiv has published an video that highlights the fact that meat production is the most significant contributor to agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. In 2012, agriculture accounted for 10 per cent of total emissions. “Experts say that if Europe were to cut its meat and dairy intake by half, net greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture would decrease by 42%”. The video states that even though the European Commission is working on reducing agricultural emissions, changing consumption patterns is not on the agenda.
The connection between meat consumption and global warming is clearly acknowledged by the video that was even co-financed by the European Commission. Ironically, the video states that “changing consumption patterns is not currently on Europe’s agenda, but the Commission is working on reducing the impact of agriculture on global warming”. Unambitiously, this is done by shifting 30 per cent of the Common Agriculture Policy’s direct payments towards “green farming practices that focus on biodiversity, water and soil quality and capturing carbon”. The mismatch between livestock’s impact on global warming and the lack of action to tackle this urgent problem is obvious.
Immediate actions must be taken to shift consumption patterns.
Watch the video here.
Europes’s climate change goals ‘need profound lifestyle changes’
According to a leaked European Commission document obtained by the Guardian, EU member states should prepare for a far-reaching debate on how to limit global warming to 1,5°C. Slamming the brakes on climate change will require exploring possibilities for “profound lifestyle changes of current generations”.
Considering the fact that 14.5 per cent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions originate from livestock farming, it is clear that reducing global consumption of animal products will be crucial for mitigating the catastrophic effects of climate change.
Read the full article here.
25 January 2016
EurActiv, the leading online media on EU affairs, states: “Carbon emissions from agriculture have doubled in just five years, mainly due to increases in livestock breeding and the methane these animals emit”. Agriculture’s carbon footprint has exploded – however, this has not triggered any meaningful regulatory response from the EU. Recently, the EU decided not to limit enteric methane emissions from livestock farming. The current EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), due to be reformed in 2020, largely ignores the threat posed by emissions from the livestock farming sector.
Read the full article here.
13 January 2016
By 2050, the world’s population will likely increase by 35%. To feed that population, crop production will need to double. What can we do to feed the growing population and protect the environment at the same time? In this video, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations answers the question. 36% of global crop calories are used as animal feedstuff. A change in diets is much-needed.
05 December 2015
Initiated by several members of the EP, 110 participants joined a movie screening of “Cowspiracy – The Sustainability Secret” in the EP this week. Cowspiracy is a documentary following filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the devastating ecological effects of animal agriculture. Among other speakers, EVU’s vicepresident Felix Hnat gave input by conducting a presentationon on the much-needed vegan trend and participated in the ensuing debate.
See the trailer here.
24 November 2015
“Changing Climate, Changing Diets: Pathways to Lower Meat Consumption” – a new report published by the Chatham House Royal Institute of International Affairs finds that reducing global meat consumption will be critical to keeping global warming below a dangerous level. Even though global appetite for meat is a major driver of climate change, meat remains largely off the policy agenda. As public awareness of the issue is low, the report states that governments must lead in shifting attitudes and behavior.
Read the full report including findings, analyses and recommendations here.
20 November 2015
This week, EVU’s Public Affairs Manager Till Strecker was invited as a guest to a discussion at FoodDrinkEurope’s expert group meeting on food information to consumers. During the constructive debate, several questions concerning EVU’s proposal for definitions of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian” were discussed. EVU appreciated the interest in the topic and is confident that in further discussions, a reasonable solution that incorporates the interests of consumers, industry and retailers will be found.
FoodDrinkEurope is the leading food industry confederation in the European Union.
26 October 2015
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), has officially classified processed meats (such as bacon, ham and sausages) as carcinogenic, hence increasing the risk of certain forms of cancer. Based on a meta-review of more than 800 studies, the experts found convincing evidence that eating 50 grams of processed meat everyday increased the risk of bowel cancer by 18%. Furthermore, red meat was declared as probably carcinogenic. IARC’s classification refers to the strength of the scientific evidence about an agent being a cause of cancer.
Further information can be found here (IARC press release).
13 October 2015
Currently, a reform of the regulation on organic farming is underway. In its vote on the reform proposal, the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament (COMAGRI) has endorsed amendments extending the organic farming proposal mentioning lithothamne algae. If passed in the continuing legislative procedure, the law would expressly provide that “algae, including seaweed and lithothamne” may be used in the processing of organic food. Lithothamne algae is commonly added to milk alternatives due to its high content of calcium. In the past, there has be a legal challenge debating the question whether lithothamne may be used in organic food. As a result, producers face uncertainty whether milk alternatives with an increased calcium content can be labelled organic, an issue that can be regarded as a competitive disadvantage.
The EVU will closely observe the ongoing trilogue discussions and try to increase awareness. Find more information here.
25 September 2015
To date, there is no legally binding definition of the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian”, which makes food labelling of veggie products difficult. As the number of vegans, vegetarians and people who turn to more plant-based lifestyles is steadily increasing, the EVU urges the European Commission to follow its obligation and issue a definition.
Find more information and the updated position paper here.
23 September 2015
Sustainable food and animal protection NGOs join forces this Tuesday with Members of the EP to urge the European Commission to develop a strategy towards a sustainable food and farming system in the EU. Humane Society International in collaboration with Compassion in world farming, Food for life and EP’s Sustainable Food Systems Group offer a lunch free from animal products, additives and GMOs. The alliance highlights that current levels of meat consumption are completely unsustainable. “For the sake of animal welfare, the environment and our own health and well-being, it is essential that we do not delay in taking steps to moderate our consumption of animal procuts” (Dr Joanna Swabe, executive director of HSI/Europe).
When? 29 September 2015, 12:00 – 14:30.
Where? On the Esplanade of the European Parliament, Brussels.
Further information can be found here.
21 June 2013
Millions of Europeans adhere to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Far more are reducing their intake of animal products. Surprisingly, no precise statistics on numbers, motivations and market shares of vegetarian/vegan products are available. Initiated by the EVU, MEP Ismail Ertug (Social Democrat) has asked the Commission if aspects of vegetarian diets and the market for vegetarian products will be surveyed by Eurostat or other adequate authorities in order to obtain reliable figures. However, The Commission has responded by stating that there are no plans to prioritise this issue.
Clearly, data on vegetarianism/veganism would be of great interest and relevance to the vegetarian movement, national and local governments, to the food and catering industry as well as to social and health sciences.