Greek gyros delicacy in jeopardy after potential EU kebab ban

Gyros, the most popular fast-food delicacy of Greeks around the globe, may be in danger after an EU Parliament vote to ban phosphate in frozen kebab meat.

The European Union’s legislators are moving to ban the phosphates used in the slabs of meat at the heart of kebab; the popular street snack that originated in Turkey and which is today’s Greek gyros.

EU lawmakers are citing health concerns based on studies that connected phosphates to cardiovascular disease.

But owners of takeout restaurants and industry groups claim the additives are necessary to keep seasoned kebab meat juicy and flavourful, both during transport and on the vertical retail rotisseries where it is cooked.

Interestingly enough, some sausages containing phosphates are permitted to be sold in EU countries and would not be affected by any move involving kebab meat.

The kebab issue emerged when the EU’s executive Commission proposed to officially authorize the use of phosphates in the lamb, mutton, beef or veal that goes onto a shop spit. Some other meats had previously received such clearance.

The proposal ran into trouble in the European Parliament earlier this week when its Health Committee voted 32-22 to counter it, with Green MEPs taking the lead on the opposition.

According to more recent health studies, legislators expressed concern that carving out blanket approval for kebab meat could put Europeans at greater risk of heart disease.

A rejection by the full Parliament when it convenes in two weeks would send the proposal back to the Commission — and keep the mighty kebab lingering in limbo.

Turkish food ventors in Germany, where kebab is a very popular street snack, are up in arms. Greek gyros makers are also watching the debate, which could decide the snack’s future, closely.

Theo Ioannou/

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