BERLIN – The doner kebab, that grilled fast-food sandwich which is the gastronomic equivalent of an American hamburger in many European cities, is under fire.
The European Union’s legislature is moving to ban the phosphates used in the slabs of meat at the heart of the popular street snack that originated in Turkey. Up-in-arms kebab vendors in Germany have skewered the idea.
EU lawmakers are citing health concerns based on studies that linked phosphates to cardiovascular disease. Owners of takeout restaurants and industry groups claim the additives are needed to keep seasoned kebab meat juicy and flavorful, both during transport and on the vertical retail rotisseries where it is cooked.
Fueling the brouhaha is that some sausages containing phosphates are allowed to be sold in EU countries and would not be affected by any move involving kebab meat.
The disparity has some vendors 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.”
The kebab issue came up 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.