Doner take our kebab away! Why MEPs could decide the fate of the mighty hangover snack

What the shish? One of Malta's favourite take-outs might be at the end of it days, as the European Parliament plans to ban phosphates in doner meat

MEPs ‘pitta’ not vote the wrong way…
MEPs ‘pitta’ not vote the wrong way…

Malta’s famous kebab take-outs might be coming to an end, as the European Commission moves towards banning what gives kebab its unique taste.

A vote by the European Parliament on whether to ban phosphates in doner meat is said to pose a direct threat for the kebab industry all around Europe.

While EU rules normally prohibit the use of phosphate additives in meat preparation, there are certain exceptions, and the law is currently silent on their use on frozen kebab meat.

The issue came up when the EU Commission proposed to officially authorize the use of phosphates in the lamb, mutton, beef or veal that goes onto a spit.

The European parliament’s health committee voted 33-22 to oppose the use of phosphoric acid, phosphates and polyphosphates on 'vertical spit meat', expressing concerns that "carving out blanket approval for kebab meat could put Europeans at greater risk of heart disease."

This was said after a scientific review in 2012 suggested a possible link between phosphates as food additives and heart disease, although the evidence remains inconclusive. The study is set to release its findings next year.

So, are we saying goodbye to one of our favourite hangover food on the island?

The European Parliament will vote on the issue when it sits in Strasbourg in two weeks’ time. If it is rejected by the parliament, the proposal would be sent back to the Commission, leaving the doner’s fate unknown.

Many European shop-owners and kebab lovers are striking back and have accused the EU of double standards as some sausages contain the same phosphates it plans to ban.

Kenan Koyuncu of the German Association of Doner Kebab Producers said: “If the European Parliament gets its way, this would be the death sentence for the entire doner kebab industry in the European Union.”

Across the whole of Europe, around 20,000 people work in the kebab industry, with around 50 shops in Malta and Gozo. Renate Sommer, a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party, wrote on Facebook that “a ban of the phosphate addition would be the end of doner production and would lead to the loss of thousands of jobs.”

The European parliament’s Socialist and Democrats (S&D) and Greens/European Free Alliance groups have also drafted a resolution to veto a proposal to authorise the use of phosphates in “frozen vertical spit meat” because they argue that there is no proven technological need.

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