Belgium urged to back down on ‘plant-based chicken’ ban

22 February 2022

The Good Food Institute Europe has joined other food sustainability NGOs to call on the Belgian government to drop proposals to ban “meaty” names for plant-based products.

A shopper choosing products at the supermarket

The Good Food Institute Europe has joined other food sustainability NGOs to call on the Belgian government to back down from proposals to ban “meaty” names for plant-based products. 

Under guidelines currently going through a consultation process, names such as “vegetarian mince meat” and “plant-based chicken pieces” could be banned on the Belgian market.

A final decision is expected in the coming weeks.

Elena Walden, Policy Manager at the Good Food Institute Europe, said: “Banning everyday terms like ‘plant-based chicken’ is nonsensical. People aren’t buying these foods out of confusion – they’re actively seeking more sustainable options. 

“Instead of wasting time and resources on restricting common-sense language, the Belgian government should be supporting the development of plant-based meat as part of its climate strategy.”

The guidelines have been drafted despite research showing consumers are not confused by plant-based foods labelled with meaty names: 

The Belgian guidelines also go against a European Parliament decision in October 2020 to vote down restrictions (under Amendment 165 of EU Regulation 1308/2013) on the use of meat denominations for plant-based foods.

MEPs specifically rejected proposals to recognise steak, sausages, escalope, burgers, and hamburgers as exclusively animal meat-based products.

GFI Europe has joined the European Vegetarian Union and ProVeg International in urging the Belgian government to reject the guidelines in their current form.

Ronja Berthold, Head of Public Affairs at the European Vegetarian Union, said: “If more and more restrictions and rules are now introduced on a national level, we risk a fragmentation of the EU market, which could result in additional costs and resources needed as well as confusion.

“This development could hamper the progress and marketisation of veggie alternatives. We ask that the EU decision on this issue is recognised and that national authorities refrain from putting up barriers to the vitally-needed shift towards more plant-based diets.”

Jasmijn de Boo, Vice President of ProVeg International, said: “It would be ridiculous to censor plant-based products within the European Union at the same time as asking consumers to switch to a plant-based diet. Imagine censoring electric cars or recycled paper at this point in history.”

The EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy and the Beating Cancer plan explicitly acknowledge the need to shift to more plant-based diets with less red and processed meats in order to reduce the risk of life-threatening diseases and decrease the environmental footprint of the food system. With these guidelines, Belgium goes against Europe’s sustainability efforts. 

Jasmin de Boo added that national measures restricting plant-based products are in contradiction of the EU’s objectives of creating healthier and more sustainable food systems, as stated in the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy. 

The NGOs also point out that the guidelines go against Flemish policy ambitions to transition to increased consumption of plant protein.