Kebab panic: EU’s objection to phosphate ‘threatens’ a popular snack

This report by Stephanie Burnett should be read in conjunction with Julia Martin-Ortega’s article on how we are sleepwalking into a global crisis as the world’s phosphorus supply is disrupted.

Kebab shops in Germany and across the European Union are frequented – even treasured – by locals and tourists looking for a late-night meal or a quick snack. But the shops that cater to the demand may be under threat after the EU Parliament’s Health Committee objected to a plan to officially allow the use of phosphate additives in frozen kebab meat.

Phosphate additives are used in many foods to enhance flavour and moisture in not only frozen meats used often in kebabs, but also cheese, bran cereals and other baked goods. However, a 2012 study found that phosphate is linked to heart disease, prompting some MEPs to act, including Christel Schaldemose of Denmark.

“As there are significant scientific studies detecting phosphates in meat which prove that they have negative consequences on human health, there should have been no need for this vote. But, now we have voted, I’m pleased a broad majority voted in favour of the objection. This shows we are taking public health serious,” she said in a statement.

The news didn’t bode well in Germany for kebab, or döner, fans. Germany, and in particular Berlin, bills itself as the creator of döner kebab in the early 1970s (though this has not been officially proven). So when Germany’s go-to tabloid Bild reported that döner shops were “threatened” with closure over the EU health committee’s deceision, kebab fans were upset and took to social media.

However, German MEP Susanne Melior stressed there was no reason for “döner panic” and that it’s business as usual for kebab eaters in Europe.

“The existing legal situation in Europe and Germany does not change at all. Kebab skewers can be produced and sold as before. No one has to forego his döner or gyros,” said Melior, who represents Social Democratic Party of German MEPs on the health committee.

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