Politics & Law

France Finally Bans “Meaty” Names from Plant-Based Labels in New Decree

The French government has finally published a decree specifying the list of names that plant-based companies cannot use to label their products, including, among many others, ‘steak,’ ‘entrecote,’ ‘ham,’ ‘butcher,’ and ‘cutlet.’

The text responds to a long-standing demand of animal agri-food players to ban meat-product names in plant-based foods, claiming that these labels mislead and confuse consumers.  

France, the first country in the EU to take measures against plant-based meat labels, published the first decree in June 2022, but last year, the French Conseil d’Etat halted the process to ask the European Court of Justice if banning these names in plant-based products was compatible with the EU. However, the government revealed a renewed proposal to ban “meaty” names last September, alleging consumer confusion.

A package of La Vie's new plant-based ham
Image courtesy of La Vie

Two prohibiting lists

France’s new decree specifies the prohibitions in two lists.

First, the names of meat-derived products that cannot be used for describing, marketing, or promoting plant-based products. These include terms that refer to specific animals or their morphology or anatomy, like ‘steak’ or ‘spare ribs.’

Second, a list of animal products that may contain plant proteins as part of their ingredients but do not replace animal products. These include andouille, bacon, chorizo, cordon-bleu, ham, bacon, pastrami, pâté, terrines, and all sausages. These products are obviously not plant-based.

The decree has introduced a mutual recognition clause that excludes products legally manufactured or marketed in another EU member state or a third country from this ban.

Operators will have three months to adjust their labeling after the decree takes effect. After the decree’s implementation, companies have a year to sell products with labels displaying the prohibited animal names printed before the resolution. 

Administrative fines include maximum fines of 1,500 euros for individuals and 7,500 euros for companies.

A close up- of Foi Green
© Aberyne

Meat and dairy lobbies

In January, the French Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Nutrition & Santé Group, which was accused of unfair competition and misleading plant-based meat labels by the meat lobby Interbev. The court confirmed that a risk of confusion between “steak” and “veggie steak” had not been established during the trial.

Santé Group’s victory was considered a setback for the French government, which is poised to prioritize gastronomy and culture over the sustainability of food production.

The impact of meat consumption versus plant-based diets on human health, carbon emissions, and climate change have been widely discussed and debated in the public sphere, including COP28.

The food awareness organization ProVeg International has warned of a new phenomenon, climate diet denial, which refers to denying the consequences of the food system, specifically animal agriculture, on climate change.

Italy has also banned meat-related nomenclature in plant-based food labeling and cultivated meat, alleging cultural and heritage concerns.

Morgan Janowicz, a Board Member of Green REV Institute, commented on Italy’s decision: “We cannot ignore the fact that the meat and dairy lobbies have consistently cut off the plant-based food sector from support, funding, and censored nomenclature.”

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