STRASBOURG, France — The European Union Parliament on Wednesday narrowly defeated plans to ban the use of phosphates in shawarma meat, which critics say is linked to heart disease.
As a result, the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, can now authorize the addition of phosphates to “vertical meat spits” — the official EU term for the rotating towers of seasoned lamb and chicken beloved of late-night drinkers across the continent.
The decision had been hotly awaited by the doner kebab industry, which says it needs the phosphates to keep the frozen meat juicy, tender and tasty for consumption. Others argued that the phosphates were a health risk for cardiovascular diseases.
Phosphates are largely banned in food in Europe, but exceptions are made for some dishes including certain types of sausage — and now kebabs, or shawarma.
A resolution to block the proposal, put forward by the parliament’s public health and food safety committee, got 373 votes from MEPs sitting in the eastern French city of Strasbourg — just three short of the majority it needed.
The committee wanted to delay permission for phosphates in kebabs until the European Food Safety Authority completes a study into the risks of their use.
The Greens group of MEPs, which supported keeping the ban, called Wednesday’s vote a “disappointing result for consumer rights.”
Greens MEP Bart Staes blamed a “misinformation campaign led by some in the media and the meat industry.”
“Unless they can show without doubt that phosphate additives are not harmful, their use in all foods must be immediately reviewed by the Commission,” Staes said in a statement.
“We saved your kebab. You’re welcome,” said the Christian Democrat EPP group, which argued for keeping the phosphates in since it claims there is no proof of negative health effects.