QeA EU Parliament – EU Commission to EU Parliament on Meat Sounding

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)

Food defense requirements in EU?

During the next meeting of the ENVI Committee (Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety of the EU Parliament), on 27-28th February, there will be an extremely interesting exchange of views with the EU Commission about the food defense topic.

This is a very very preliminary step and no specific initiative at EU level at the moment is foreseen, but for sure it could be a starting point in that sense.

Here below an extract from the ENVI Committee report, explaining where do we stand now:

“Food defense means the protection of food from intentional contamination or adulteration by biological, chemical, physical, or radiological agents. It includes measures regarding prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery from intentional acts of food contamination.

The WHO, in 2007, identified intentional food contamination as one of the main global health threats of the 21st century and stated that food has become an instrument for terrorist attacks.

In the European food industry, food defense is a rather new concept, unlike in the USA where the concept of food defense originated and where it is extensively regulated. In the past years, incidents such as terrorist attacks and food fraud have contributed to the development and implementation of food defense systems in at least some Member States.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in 2001 in the US, the “Health and Security Committee” was set up in the EU. This group was given a formal status and assigned specific tasks in 2013, when Decision 1082/2013/EU on serious cross-border threats was adopted. At global level, the Commission also participates in the Global Health Security Initiative on CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) threats, working closely with the WHO and the G7+ states to create a global strategy for preparedness and response to potential health threats.

However, there is no comprehensive regulation of food defense at EU level. In view of the rising importance of the issue, the objective of this exchange of views is to discuss existing EU and Member State policies and to hear the Commission’s point of view in relation to possible EU action in this area.”

(Source: ENVI Committee, European Parliament)