Meats and sausages of plant origin would have been considered deceiving and misleading up to ten years ago, but have become common practice today. The variety of meat analogues has been growing rapidly in recent years, and keeping track of the products available has become quite a task. However, the quality of these new options may vary. Consumers are well advised to take a close look at the list of ingredients.
Centuries ago, vegetable ‘steaks’ – slices of turnip or celeriac – made a virtue out of necessity in times of extreme meat shortage. Today, they are back in trend. Modern menus may list vegan or vegetarian steaks, sausages or cold cuts. For some consumers, these plant-based meat analogues are welcome options for enjoying meat-like meals, either permanently or occasionally.
Producers of faux meats are extremely creative when it comes to producing a wide range of ‘meats’ and ‘sausages’, sometimes remarkably similar to the original meat products in colour, texture and shape. However, the various substitutes differ not only in their ingredients, but also in their constituent substances, production processes and flavouring additives.
Common ingredients used as basis for meat analogues
| Raw materials||Type||Taste ||Products offered |
|Lupins||Pulses||Neutral, Slight nutty flavour||Steaks, kebab meat, sausages|
|Soy granules||Soy flour||Neutral||Ragout, bolognese, filling for wraps and kebabs|
|Tofu||Soy beans||Neutral||Burgers, patties, sausages, cold cuts|
|Amaranth||Pseudo-cereals (gluten free)||Nutty||Burgers|
These raw materials are free from lactose, gluten and cholesterol. The nutrient contents of the raw materials in this category, e.g. lupin seeds and soy beans, are similar. However, only some of these plants are indigenous in Germany. Unlike soy, lupins can be cultivated easily throughout virtually all of Germany. Most soy is sourced outside Europe; while cultivation of soy is possible in some areas, weather-related crop losses may make it a high-risk crop for farmers.
No quality guidelines for meat analogues
While German law clearly defines which ingredients are allowed or not allowed in sausages made from turkey, there are no such regulations when it comes to vegan turkey breast. “The established principles of the German Food Code, including the relevant characteristics for quality and ingredients, have applied to conventional meat and sausage products for years. However, no such principles have been defined so far for meatless substitutes”, says Dr Andreas Daxenberger, food expert at TÜV SÜD. The ingredients in meat analogue products thus may differ largely. Given this, it may be worthwhile to take a close look at the list of ingredients. After all, the same applies to faux meats as to all other raw products that have little taste of their own: the more a product is processed, the longer its list of ingredients – including binders, flavour enhancers, colourants and flavourings.
Risk of confusion
In late June 2017, the European Court of Justice ruled that the terms ‘milk’, ‘cheese‘, ‘butter‘ and ‘yoghurt‘ may only be used for food products made of milk from animal origin. According to the court, the use of these terms for other plant-based substances would pose a risk of confusion for consumers. “So far, there has been no similar legal ruling regarding meat and faux meat products”, explains Dr Andreas Daxenberger. Given this, the terms ‘steak’, ‘escalope’ and ‘sausage’ can be applied to products of both animal and plant origin.
Take a close look when shopping
In light of the above, consumers have no choice but to study the list of ingredients of meat and faux meat products. After all, the product name on the front gives no indication as to whether the product actually contains the expected or requested ingredients. For allergy sufferers, for instance, the fact whether a product includes ingredients such as soy, egg white, cereal, celery or lupins may be important, as these are some of the main triggers of allergies. Given this, they are subject to specific regulations of the food information regulation and require specific labelling.
Further information on food safety can be found at: www.tuv-sud.com/food.
Press contact: Carolin Eckert