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As COVID-19 cases spike, pneumonia vaccine demand rockets and Europe runs low

By Emilio Parodi, Ludwig Burger and Michael Erman

MILAN/FRANKFURT/NEW YORK (Reuters) – As COVID-19 infections rise, people seeking to avoid one lung disease compounding another are queuing up to get inoculated against bacterial pneumonia, causing shortages of a Merck & Co <MRK.N> vaccine in parts of Europe.

Demand for Merck’s Pneumovax 23, which is used to prevent pneumococcal lung infections, has hit record highs across the world, the company said.

More than 40 companies and researchers are testing vaccines against the novel coronavirus, but none have been approved in the West.

In the meantime, doctors are giving the pneumonia shot to more people than ever as a preventative measure.

Pneumococcal prevention, the largest segment of the vaccine market by value, rang up about $7 billion in sales in 2019, contested by Pfizer <PFE.N>, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline <GSK.L>.

Pfizer’s Prevenar 13, known as Prevnar 13 in North America, is the global market leader, and brought in about $5.8 billion in sales in 2019. It works for both infants and the elderly but it covers fewer bacterial strands than the Merck product.

GSK’s Synflorix is designed for children.

Usage differs by country, but Pneumovax 23, which lasts about five years, is primarily given to the elderly.

“During the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, there has been increased emphasis on adult vaccination, and we have seen an unprecedented surge in demand for Pneumovax 23 around the world,” a Merck spokesman told Reuters in an email.

Pneumovax 23’s international sales more than doubled to $96 million in the second quarter, though U.S. sales fell substantially, according to the quarterly report.

The U.S. drugmaker is working to make as much as possible, but demand is outpacing supplies in some markets, the spokesman added.

And supplies in Germany, Italy, Belgium, Ireland and Austria are running low, according to drug agencies monitoring supplies for those countries.

The news is likely to stoke worries about the availability of medicines as people seek ways to boost their immunity during the cold winter months.

Stocks of seasonal flu vaccine are also low in some European cities amid worries about the risk of a potentially lethal “twindemic”.

Delfino Legnani, professor at Milan University, said he has been recommending the Pneumovax 23 shot to his older patients for years, but some have only been willing to get it for the first time this winter.

“It is practically impossible to find. Now everyone wants it, so there aren’t enough doses,” he said.

Italy’s drug agency listed the drug as being in short supply and has authorised pharmacies to buy supplies from abroad approved under a special marketing authorisation scheme.

There are no signs of supply issues in the United States.

RATIONING

Other countries are feeling the pinch too.

Ireland’s Health Products Regulatory Authority said on its website an unexpected increase in demand had caused a shortage since March and that multiple countries were affected.

Its Belgian equivalent also said that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a global increase in demand for

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Europe Daily Coronavirus Cases Double in 10 Days, Reports 200,000 Daily Cases for the First Time | World News

By Anurag Maan and Shaina Ahluwalia

(Reuters) – Europe’s reported coronavirus cases more than doubled in 10 days, crossing 200,000 daily infections for the first time on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally, with many Southern European countries reporting their highest single-day cases this week.

Europe reported 100,000 daily cases for the first time on Oct. 12.

Europe has so far reported about 7.8 million total coronavirus cases and about 247,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally.

European countries like Italy, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia reported their highest single-day coronavirus cases on Thursday.

Europe as a region is reporting more daily cases than India, Brazil and the United States combined. The increase is partly explained by far more testing than was done in the first wave of the pandemic.

The global coronavirus tally stands at about 41.4 million cases and about 1.1 million deaths.

According to a Reuters tally, Wednesday saw the highest total of infections reported in a single day across the world, at 422,835.

As of now, Europe accounts for nearly 19% of global cases and about 22% of global deaths, according to Reuters tally.

In Western Europe, France, which is reporting the highest seven-day average of new cases in Europe with 25,480 infections per day, reported an all-time high of 41,622 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday, according to French health authorities.

To slow the spread of infection, France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex on Thursday announced widening of a coronavirus curfew to more than two thirds of its population.

Another Western European country Netherlands reported more than 9,000 in 24 hours, a new record, data released by the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) on Thursday showed.

Germany, which reported more than 10,000 daily cases for the first time on Thursday, extended travel warnings for Switzerland, Ireland, Poland, most of Austria and Italian regions including Rome.

Hospitals across Europe remain under strain. Even though the it remains well below levels at the peak of the crisis six months ago in the region, COVID-19 hospital admissions and occupancy are going up again.

A World Health Organization (WHO) expert said on Monday said Europe and North America should follow the example of Asian states by persevering with anti-COVID measures and quarantining anyone who comes into contact with infected people,.

(Reporting by Anurag Maan and Shaina Ahluwalia in Bengaluru; Editing by David Gregorio)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Curfews, lockdowns rain down on Europe amid record Covid cases

France extended its anti-Covid curfew to cover two-thirds of the population and Ireland locked down again on Thursday as governments warned of a dire situation in Europe where countries are registering record cases.

Most European governments have been reluctant to reimpose national stay-at-home orders after previous restrictions led to deep recessions and widespread bitterness.

But Ireland became the first country on the continent to re-impose a full-on lockdown on Thursday, with its five-million-strong weary population ordered to stay home for six weeks, and non-essential businesses told to shut up shop.

“The infection rates, hospital occupancy rates but also death rates are rising all over Europe,” warned Andrea Ammon, head of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, in an interview with the BBC.

In Dublin, resident Jo Finn told AFP a lot of friends were  struggling with mental health issues.

“Because of this second lockdown we can’t socialise, we can’t meet up,” Finn said during a muted morning rush hour.

In France, meanwhile, a nighttime curfew that had already been in place in Paris and eight other cities was extended to wide swathes of the country, more than doubling the number of people affected to 46 million.

“The health situation of our country continues to deteriorate,” Prime Minister Jean Castex warned as France registered a record 41,622 new cases over 24 hours on Thursday, and 165 deaths.

– Curfews galore –

Germany, Denmark, Portugal and Italy all registered their highest one-day tallies since the pandemic began, and a slew of other European countries are voicing alarm at rapidly rising infections.

Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute disease control centre, said “the overall situation has become very serious”.

German health experts said it was still possible to combat the outbreak by observing recently-toughened rules on distancing and gatherings.

For its part, Italy ordered curfews in regions that cover the capital Rome and business hub Milan. 

And Portugal has banned people from travelling between cities for five days starting October 30, which includes a bank holiday.

Greece meanwhile declared a night curfew in Athens, Thessaloniki in the north and other areas.

As Europe suffers, China — where the virus first emerged at the end of last year — continues to make strides back to normality, announcing it would allow 10,000 fans to watch the final of its Super League football competition.

The virus has killed more than 1.1 million people and prompted a catastrophic economic downturn, with the International Monetary Fund predicting a 4.4 percent drop in global output for 2020.

– ‘Irresponsible behaviour’ –

Politicians meanwhile continued to be hit by the virus.

Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn — widely praised for his calm stewardship during the pandemic — tested positive and went into home isolation.

In Belgium, which has one of the worst rates of infections per person, Foreign Minister and former prime minister Sophie Wilmes is being treated in intensive care after testing positive.

“She is conscious and she can communicate,” her spokeswoman said.

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Germany Issues Travel Warnings as COVID Surges in Europe | World News

By Kirsti Knolle and Inti Landauro

BERLIN/MADRID (Reuters) – Germany warned on Thursday against travel to neighbouring countries, Belgium’s foreign minister went into intensive care and Spain said COVID-19 was “out of control” in many areas, as governments across Europe took action to fight the pandemic.

As German authorities reported more than 10,000 daily cases for the first time, Berlin issued travel warnings for Switzerland, Ireland, Poland, most of Austria and many Italian regions, including the capital Rome.

“The situation overall has become very serious,” Lothar Wieler, of the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s infectious diseases agency, said in Berlin, adding: “We still have a chance to slow a further spread of the virus.”

After Europe appeared to have gained a measure of control over the epidemic following the dramatic lockdowns of March and April, a surge in cases over recent weeks has put the continent back at the heart of the crisis.

Hospitalisations and deaths across most of Europe have not yet reached the levels of the initial wave early this year, but authorities in many countries worry the situation could rapidly get worse.

More than 5.3 million people in Europe have contracted the disease and over 204,000 have died, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

India has had more than 7.7 million cases – the world’s highest tally after the United States with 8.3 million. But elsewhere in Asia, from China to South Korea or New Zealand, draconian lockdowns and rigorous contact tracing have helped contain the disease.

Grappling with the enormous costs of the coronavirus, Europe’s leaders are desperate to avoid a repeat of the blanket lockdowns that shut down their economies in the spring.

But as cases have surged, and health services have come under increasing pressure, they have been forced to impose and expand local restrictions aimed at reducing public gatherings to ever wider areas.

Underlining the reach of the disease, Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes went into intensive care on Thursday. German Health Minister Jens Spahn tested positive a day earlier.

“The second wave is a reality,” Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa said on Thursday. “In many areas of our country, the epidemic is out of control.”

A number of Spanish regions are calling for localised curfews such as those implemented in France and Italy, where Lazio, the region around Rome, has joined Lombardy and Campania around Milan and Naples in imposing overnight curfews.

Amid the growing public alarm, Germany’s statistics office noted that sales of toilet paper rose almost 90% last week from pre-crisis levels with almost equally sharp jumps in sales of disinfectants and soap.

Only Sweden, a European outlier which has relied largely on voluntary measures to promote social distancing, was an exception, declaring senior citizens no longer need to isolate themselves given lower COVID infection rates than in spring.

As the crisis has intensified, much of the public goodwill seen in the first phase of lockdowns has evaporated and central governments have engaged in angry spats

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U.S. on Brink of Rampant Coronavirus Spread, Europe Hospitals Strained | Top News

By Maria Caspani and Bart H. Meijer

NEW YORK/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Nearly two-thirds of U.S. states were in a danger zone of coronavirus spread and six, including election battleground Wisconsin, reported a record one-day increase in COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday while the pandemic’s resurgence in Europe strained hospitals.

Coronavirus deaths hit fresh daily records in Hawaii, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin, a state that also reported a record daily increase in new cases together with Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio, according to a Reuters analysis.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers announced that a field hospital in the Milwaukee suburbs admitted its first COVID-19 patient since it opened last week.

“Folks, please stay home,” Evers said. “Help us protect our communities from this highly contagious virus and avoid further strain on our hospitals.”

European case numbers, which were brought largely under control by the unprecedented lockdowns in March and April are also surging, and authorities in countries from Poland to Portugal expressed mounting alarm at the renewed crisis confronting their health infrastructure.

Belgium, struggling with what its health minister called a “tsunami” of infections, is postponing all non-essential hospital procedures, and similar measures are looming in other countries.

“If the rhythm of the past week continues, rescheduling and suspending some non-priority activities will become unavoidable,” said Julio Pascual, medical director at Barcelona’s Hospital del Mar.

A Belgian official said another lockdown could be imposed as soon as next week in the country, which has one of the world’s highest fatality rates per capita.

In the United States, President Donald Trump has repeatedly opposed re-imposing restrictions, saying economic recovery depended on people being able to return to normal life.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 221,000 people in the United States and thrown millions out of work, has taken a toll on Trump’s re-election prospects. Negotiations on a new package of coronavirus economic aid have dragged on and a deal appeared unlikely before the Nov. 3 election.

Thirty-two of 50 states have entered a danger zone with more than 100 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past week, and nationally the case rate has reached its highest level since a peak in July, Reuters found.

A block of states in the Midwest and Mountain regions from Idaho to Illinois were a red zone along with Alaska, denoting rapidly rising infection.

Nationally, cases have been trending higher for five weeks, rising to 60,000 on average over the past seven days from a recent low of 35,000 a day in mid-September.

U.S. public health experts have warned for months that a premature rollback of social-distancing policies and politicizing the wearing of masks could trigger a resurgence of infections.

“We are not far from the period of exponential, explosive growth of #covid19 in the U.S.,” said Dr. Leana Wen, former Baltimore health commissioner, on Twitter.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday tightened its definition of “close contact” exposure that puts an individual at risk, a standard that triggers contact

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Leaders in US, Europe divided on response to surging virus

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Virus cases are surging across Europe and many U.S. states, but responses by leaders are miles apart, with officials in Ireland, France and elsewhere imposing curfews and restricting gatherings even as some U.S. governors resist mask mandates or more aggressive measures.

The stark contrasts in efforts to contain infections come as outbreaks on both sides of the Atlantic raise similar alarms, including shrinking availability of hospital beds and rising deaths.

Governors of states including Tennessee, Oklahoma, Nebraska and North Dakota are all facing calls from doctors and public health officials to require masks.

In Utah, a spike in cases since school reopened has created a dynamic that Republican Gov. Gary Herbert has called “unsustainable.”

But schools remain open and Herbert, who has been pressured by an outspoken contingent of residents opposed to masks, has resisted a statewide mandate. Instead, he announced last week that they would be required only in six counties with the highest infection rates, while leaving it to others to make their own rules. Meanwhile, many hospitals are being pushed to the breaking point.

“We are not just managing COVID. We are also managing heart attacks and strokes and respiratory failure and all those other things that need ICU-level care,” said Dr. Kencee Graves, chief medical officer for inpatient care at the University of Utah Health hospital in Salt Lake City. The hospital’s intensive care unit was filled by the end of last week, forcing the reopening of a backup intensive care unit.

“The sooner we take care of each other, wear masks, physically distance, the sooner we can have some gatherings in a safe way,” Graves said.

In Oklahoma, where the number of people hospitalized for the virus has reached record levels, doctors have called on officials to do more.

“We need face mask mandates to protect more of our Oklahoma citizens,” Dr. George Monks, the president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said in a tweet Sunday.

But Gov. Kevin Stitt has said repeatedly he has no plans to do so, citing concerns about how such a mandate would be enforced.

Oklahoma health officials reported a record high of 821 people hospitalized Tuesday with the virus or under investigation for the infection. Wyoming also reported a record high number of patients hospitalized for the virus.

New virus cases in the U.S. have surged in recent weeks from a daily average of about 42,000 in early October to about 58,000 — the highest level since late July, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In one of the most troubling outbreaks, 10 residents of a nursing home in northwest Kansas have died from the virus, health officials said. All 62 residents of the Andbe Home in Norton County, as well as an unspecified number of employees, have tested positive for the infection.

The surge in new cases prompted a change of heart Monday from the mayor of North Dakota’s largest city, in favor of a mask mandate.

Tim Mahoney, who in

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Covid is accelerating across the globe as U.S. and Europe head into flu season

Members of the medical personnel move a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the CHR Centre Hospitalier Regional de la Citadelle hospital, in Liege, Belgium October 20, 2020.

Yves Herman | Reuters

The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating across the globe as U.S. cases climb and at least 10 other countries, half in Europe, report record highs in average daily new cases.

Argentina, Canada, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Russia, Spain, Ukraine and the United Kingdom all hit record highs in average daily new Covid-19 cases on Monday, according to a CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. Figures are based on a weekly average to smooth out fluctuations in daily reporting. Iran, Russia and Ukraine each hit record highs for deaths, Hopkins data shows.

When adjusting for population, the number of new infections in Europe has now overtaken that in the United States, with Europe reporting 231 new Covid-19 cases per 1 million people, based on a seven-day average, compared with 177 new Covid-19 cases per 1 million people in the U.S. Overall, Europe, which includes 27 European Union countries and the UK, is seeing nearly 120,000 new cases per day, Hopkins data shows.

In the United States, cases are also accelerating. New daily U.S. cases, as a seven-day average, totaled 58,397 on Monday, almost 18% higher than last week’s levels, according to Hopkins data. Cases are growing by at least 5% in 35 states, with 16 states reporting record high averages in daily cases Monday, according to the data. The U.S. still has the worst outbreak in the world with more than 8.2 million cases.

President Donald Trump, who tested positive for the virus earlier this month, has repeatedly insisted that the U.S. has more cases than any other country because the nation tests more people. But health officials and infectious disease experts dispute that claim, saying the rate of positive tests in the U.S. and hospitalizations are high in some states.

The overall U.S. positivity rate, or the percentage of Covid-19 tests that come back positive, is at 5.3%, according to Hopkins. Wisconsin, which hit a record high in average daily cases Monday, has a positivity rate of 12.6%. Kansas, another state that hit a new high, has a positivity rate of 19.4%, according to the tracker.

Additionally, Covid-19 hospitalizations were growing by 5% or more in 36 states Monday, according to a CNBC analysis of data collected by the Covid Tracking Project. Eleven states hit record highs in hospitalizations. The increase in hospitalizations could be especially dire as flu season approaches and more people seek treatment, medical experts warn.

“We are clearly in the second wave in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere and we really need to have more control of this infection at the community level,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the University of Toronto.

Bogoch, also a member of the data and safety monitoring board, an independent group of experts that oversees U.S. clinical trials, said

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DVIDS – News – Army Medicine Europe maintains robust COVID testing and reporting process


SEMBACH KASERNE, Germany – Army Medicine Europe maintains a robust COVID testing and reporting process, ensuring the health and safety of the entire military community across the European theater. At the same time, Army health officials maintain open lines of communication with host nation public health officials responsible for tracking COVID cases.

According to Army health officials, the COVID reporting process in Europe has matured over the past several months and has proven to be an effective tool in providing military leadership an overall picture of how the epidemic is impacting the DOD population in Europe.

“There are multiple mechanisms and systems in place to ensure senior leadership at MEDCOM and USAREUR are promptly notified about positive COVID cases,” said Col. Scott Mower, force health protection officer for Regional Health Command Europe. “These processes have grown better over time and we are continuously searching for ways to further improve them.”

“The reporting of this critical information through operational channels allows senior Army leaders in Europe to make better decisions when it comes to force health protection of the overall military population.”

Army health officials emphasize that maintaining close relations with the host nation medical offices is critical.

“The Departments of Public Health and the Public Health Emergency Officers at RHCE clinics are at the tip of the spear in executing these vital reporting missions,” Mower added. “The PHEOs work closely with their German counterparts at the community level to ensure COVID cases are reported in a timely and accurate fashion. They also immediately alert installation leadership when new cases are discovered.”

“COVID is, by regulation, a reportable medical event and must be inputted into an electronic disease reporting system just like other serious communicable diseases of public health interest,” said Mower. “The bulk of the COVID reporting work is being done by MTFs and their Departments of Public Health. They are the true worker bees in executing this mission.”

Reporting COVID cases to German health authorities is handled at the local level by each of the respective Army health clinics.

“Army medical treatment facilities from each respective military community across the region submit routine COVID reports to their local German Public Health office (Gesundheitsamt),” said Dr. Robert Weien, public health emergency officer for U.S. Army Garrison Rhineland-Pfalz. “Here in Rhineland-Pfalz, we submit our reports to the local German Public Health Department on a daily basis.”

When it comes to COVID reporting processes across the theater, there is no one size fits all approach and each garrison does it differently, according to Col. (Dr.) Jon Allison, chief of preventive medicine for MEDDAC Bavaria.

“The reporting process and timelines vary from installation to installation depending on the local German Gesundheitsamt,” said Allison. “For example, the COVID-19 total positive numbers for Grafenwoehr are sent to the Neustadt (Weiden) Gesundheitsamt and the total numbers for Vilseck are sent to the Amberg-Sulzbach Gesundheitsamt. This is done on a weekly base with the assistance of the community health nurses.”

Allison says that one of the

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Army Medicine Europe maintains robust COVID testing and reporting process | Article

By Kirk FradyOctober 20, 2020

SEMBACH KASERNE, Germany – Army Medicine Europe maintains a robust COVID testing and reporting process, ensuring the health and safety of the entire military community across the European theater. At the same time, Army health officials maintain open lines of communication with host nation public health officials responsible for tracking COVID cases.According to Army health officials, the COVID reporting process in Europe has matured over the past several months and has proven to be an effective tool in providing military leadership an overall picture of how the epidemic is impacting the DOD population in Europe.“There are multiple mechanisms and systems in place to ensure senior leadership at MEDCOM and USAREUR are promptly notified about positive COVID cases,” said Col. Scott Mower, force health protection officer for Regional Health Command Europe. “These processes have grown better over time and we are continuously searching for ways to further improve them.”“The reporting of this critical information through operational channels allows senior Army leaders in Europe to make better decisions when it comes to force health protection of the overall military population.”Army health officials emphasize that maintaining close relations with the host nation medical offices is critical.“The Departments of Public Health and the Public Health Emergency Officers at RHCE clinics are at the tip of the spear in executing these vital reporting missions,” Mower added. “The PHEOs work closely with their German counterparts at the community level to ensure COVID cases are reported in a timely and accurate fashion. They also immediately alert installation leadership when new cases are discovered.”“COVID is, by regulation, a reportable medical event and must be inputted into an electronic disease reporting system just like other serious communicable diseases of public health interest,” said Mower. “The bulk of the COVID reporting work is being done by MTFs and their Departments of Public Health. They are the true worker bees in executing this mission.”Reporting COVID cases to German health authorities is handled at the local level by each of the respective Army health clinics.“Army medical treatment facilities from each respective military community across the region submit routine COVID reports to their local German Public Health office (Gesundheitsamt),” said Dr. Robert Weien, public health emergency officer for U.S. Army Garrison Rhineland-Pfalz. “Here in Rhineland-Pfalz, we submit our reports to the local German Public Health Department on a daily basis.”When it comes to COVID reporting processes across the theater, there is no one size fits all approach and each garrison does it differently, according to Col. (Dr.) Jon Allison, chief of preventive medicine for MEDDAC Bavaria.“The reporting process and timelines vary from installation to installation depending on the local German Gesundheitsamt,” said Allison. “For example, the COVID-19 total positive numbers for Grafenwoehr are sent to the Neustadt (Weiden) Gesundheitsamt and the total numbers for Vilseck are sent to the Amberg-Sulzbach Gesundheitsamt. This is done on a weekly base with the assistance of the community health nurses.”Allison says that one of the benefits of Germany’s decentralized local health

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Farmers push ‘veggieburger’ label ban in Europe

Angry European farmers are pushing for a ban on calling vegetarian products a “burger” or a “sausage” that they say mislead consumers into thinking certain products contain meat.

Their demand was part of a legislative proposal on Monday at the European Parliament, which MEPs will vote on later this week in Brussels. 

The ban request comes on the back of the rising success of high-end veggieburgers that closely replicate the taste and sensation of eating meat.

Vegetarianism is also gaining ground due to the link between raising cattle and climate change.

Also banned would be products labelled as “yoghurt-style” or “cheese-like” for non-dairy based products. Terms such as “almond milk” and “vegan cheese” are already banned in the EU.

According to the proposal for an amendment, “terms and descriptions referring to ‘meat’ should be reserved exclusively for the parts of animals fit for human consumption”. 

The draft text lists “steak”, “sausage”, “escalope”, “burger” and “hamburger” as examples of banned words.

The parliament’s agriculture committee proposed the passage as amendments to a vast farming bill that would go to a vote on Tuesday.

Jean-Pierre Fleury, of the EU’s farmers association Copa and Cogeca, called the misuse of meat labels “an obvious case of cultural hijacking.”

“We are about to create a brave new world where marketing is disconnected from the real nature of products, which is just asking for things to spin out of control!” he said earlier this month. 

Food advocacy group ProVeg International said the opposite was true and that the terms “provide important information regarding the taste and uses that people can expect from a product.”

“Just as we all know that peanut butter does not contain butter, consumers know exactly what they are getting when they buy veggie burgers or veggie sausages,” said ProVeg’s Alex Gromminger. 

Voting results should be available no earlier than Wednesday. If the present text is adopted, it would then be negotiated with EU member states as part of a reform to the EU’s agriculture policies.

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