No need for “doner panic” in Europe

You have probably  heard the old British  joke –  “police are thinking about thinking of introducing an alternative breathalyzer test; they offer the driver a kebab – if he eats it he is drunk”.

Even though the British late night doner –  if my memory serves me right –  bears little resemblance to the freshly prepared gyros spits found in many outlets in Greece, it is an extremely popular snack  with late night revellers in Britain as in the rest of northern Europe.

But now a move by the European parliament to ban the phosphates used to keep frozen seasoned kebab meat moist even after long  periods on the  spit, is said to pose a direct threat to the future of the high street snack.

An estimated 1.3m doner kebabs are sold every day in the UK from more than 20,000 outlets.

Across the whole of Europe, some 200,000 people work in the industry, not only in outlets but also in the processing plants that supply kebab shops around Europe, a large proportion of which comes from German suppliers.

In Germany, where the doner kebab is by far and away the most popular fast food,  the development has prompted apocalyptic visions of the death of an entire industry.

Phosphate additives are used in many foods to enhance flavour and moisture in not only frozen meats used in kebabs, but also cheese, bran cereals and other baked goods

EU rules normally prohibit the use of phosphate additives in meat preparation. But due to an accumulation of exceptions, they are increasingly being used, for example in sausages and some processed frozen meat products “to protect flavour and retain water’. There are no  exceptions made on their use in frozen kebab meat.

Last week the European parliament’s health committee examined a proposal  from the European commission to allow the use of phosphoric acid, phosphates and polyphosphates in kebab meat made of mutton, lamb, veal, beef or poultry. 

But EU lawmakers citing health concerns based on studies that linked phosphates to cardiovascular disease rejected the proposal.

The disparity led some vendors in Germany alleging that “doner discrimination” was cooked up deliberately to disadvantage Turkish-owned businesses.

“They are looking for ways to hurt Turkish businesses here,” said Baris Donmez, the owner of a 24-hour kebab bistro in Berlin’s Mitte district. “Such a ban would be the biggest pile of garbage imaginable’ he said, adding “Germans love doner. Nobody’s going to take away it away from them.”

German MEP Susanne Melior stressed there was no reason for “doner panic” and that it’s business is 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,” as long as they are prepared without the use of phosphates, said Melior, who represents Social Democratic Party of German MEPs on the health committee.
Greek gyros outlet representatives issued a statement saying that Greek food and drink authority regulations do not allow the use of phosphates in the preparation of Gyros spits. “The proposal to legalise the use phosphates was a German initiative” the statement said.

Source: The Guardian, Euronews – Edited for Apokoronas News