Question for written answer to the Commission 23rd May 2018
Subject: Fraudulent use of the term ‘meat’
Such terms as meat, hamburger, beefsteak or sausage are being used unlawfully. All of them are clearly defined and cannot lawfully be used to refer to products that have nothing to do with meat. The dictionary definition of ‘meat’ is ‘musculature of human beings and animals’. Despite this, we observe that these words are increasingly being used in cases where there is little or no meat in the food product concerned. People selling it as meat are misleading consumers and evidently wish to imply a connection with meat for marketing reasons.
Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers leaves no room for doubt as to what comprises correction food information. The regulation stipulates that legislation on food information must prohibit the provision of information that is misleading for consumers, particularly as regards the nature, effects or properties of foods. To be effective, that prohibition should also apply to the advertising and presentation of foods.
A recent judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU prohibits the unlawful use, for example, of ‘vegan cheese’ or ‘soya milk’.
1. What initiatives is the Commission planning in order to combat fraudulent use of the term ‘meat’?
2. Has the Commission received any other complaints about this?
Answer given by Mr Andriukaitis on behalf of the European Commission – 19th July 2018
1. Where no specific legislation provides for particular designations for meat-based foods, the provisions of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011, which set the general labelling rules, apply.
The regulation contains a series of provisions empowering Member States to act when considering certain terms being misleading or misinforming for consumers.
In this respect, Article 7(1)(a) of the regulation requests that food information shall not be misleading as to the characteristics of the food and, in particular, as to its nature and composition.
Moreover, point 17, Part A of Annex VII to the regulation provides a definition of meat for labelling purpose: ‘skeletal muscles of mammalian and bird species recognised as fit for human consumption with naturally included or adherent tissue (…)’. On this basis, the term ‘meat’ can only be used on food labels when it complies with this definition.
Member States have the primary responsibility for the enforcement and the correct implementation of the legislation. The Commission considers that the abovementioned provisions give the Member States useful elements and criteria to combat the use of misleading terms on foods.
To complement this framework, Article 36(3)(b) of the regulation foresees that the Commission shall adopt an implementing act on the voluntary provision of information related to the suitability of foods for vegetarians or vegans. The Commission cannot, however, commit at this stage to a specific date or to the content of this measure.
2. The Commission has not received other complaints on this matter.
(Source: EU Parliament)