Politics & Law

Victory for Plant-Based Meat as French Conseil d’Etat Suspends Labelling Decree

The French Conseil d’Etat has suspended a decree banning the use of meat-like terms such as “steak” and “ham” for plant-based products.

The suspension was requested by several plant-based food producers, including La Vie, Umiami, Happyvore, Nutrition & Santé, NxtFood, and Olga. The Conseil d’Etat agreed to suspend the decree, which would have come into force on May 1, on the basis that it may not be legal and could be damaging to plant-based meat producers.

“The interim relief judge considers that there is serious doubt as to the legality of this prohibition,” the Conseil d’Etat said in a statement. “Pending the reply of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the interim relief judge of the Conseil d’Etat suspends the new decree, as it would also bring a serious and immediate attack to the interests of manufacturers selling exclusively this type of product.”

The Conseil d’Etat also noted that the decree was “likely to lead to a significant decrease in the turnover of two applicant companies, most of whose sales relate to those products”.

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Image: La Vie on LinkedIn

Second suspension

France first proposed a decree to ban meat names on plant-based foods in 2022; this followed pressure from the animal agriculture industry, which claimed that the labelling practices were confusing for consumers. However, the decree was suspended just weeks later after the French body Protéines France argued that it would be impossible for companies to comply in time.

In 2023, the Conseil d’Etat asked the European Court of Justice for clarification on whether the ban would even be legal, since it was unclear whether individual EU member states could introduce this type of law. This came in response to a court case brought by The European Vegetarian Union (EVU) and other parties. So far, no answer has been received.

Despite this, a new draft decree was proposed in September 2023 which would again ban plant-based producers from using meat-like terms. This was finally published in February of this year, but has now been suspended until a response is received from the European Court of Justice.

“The decree that was set to turn our veggie ‘steaks’ into… well, ‘rectangular plant protein pieces’ come May 1st, has been put on ice,” said Martin Habfast, co-founder of Umiami, on LinkedIn. “Quite proud that Umiami was an integral part of this suspension. Let’s toast to keeping the veggie vibes alive and sizzling, no matter what you call them!”

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