France has revealed renewed proposals to prohibit using meat-related terms such as “steak” and “ham” to describe and market plant-based meat products made and sold in the country.
A new draft decree bans 21 meat names used to describe “foodstuffs containing plant proteins,” including “steak”, “ham”, “escalope,” or “spare ribs“, and even “butcher” or “meat maker”. However, over 100 meat-related names, such as “cooked ham”, “poultry”, “sausage”, or “bacon”, will be permitted as long as the products contain plant proteins within the range of 0.5% to 6%. The term “burger” is not included in any of the lists.
“These regulations are counterproductive and based on misunderstandings”
France, the first country in the EU to take such measures against plant-based meat labels, tried to pass a decree last year backed by the country’s meat industry and farming lobby. However, the country’s highest administrative, the French Conseil d’Etat, decided to suspend the decree a month later.
But at the beginning of August, the French Conseil d’Etat asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to clarify if banning meat-like terms for plant-based products was compatible with EU law and if individual member states could introduce such regulations.
The new proposal aims to prevent confusion, bringing transparency for consumers and avoiding misleading claims about the proteins plant-based meat products have, argues French Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau.
Operators will have three months to adjust their labelling before the decree takes effect. In addition, manufacturers can still sell products with labels printed before the decree’s implementation for up to one year after publication.
Similar moves to regulate plant-based food labelling include, South Africa’s attempt to ban the use of meat-like terms on plant-based products last year. In the UK, the Food Standards and Information Focus Group (FSIFG) drafted guidance to restrict the labelling of plant-based products, contradicting the efforts by the UK government to make society more sustainable. Other countries such as Australia, Belgium, and Turkey have also proposed restrictions on the way plant-based products can be marketed, leading to condemnation from organisations such as ProVeg International.
“These regulations are counterproductive and based on misunderstandings. Plant-based foods are a vital key to solving the climate crisis as well as ensuring economic growth. Many meat and dairy companies themselves know this, which is why they are investing in both plant-based and animal-based foods, and in some cases switching to plant-based foods entirely,” argues Jasmijn de Boo, CEO of ProVeg’s Global.