Politics & Law

Polish Ministry of Agriculture Drafts Decree to Censor Plant-Based Meat Labelling

Article update 12/12: “We have been informed that the Ministry has extended the consultation, de facto dropping the issue to a future government. The Ministry is aware of how strong the lobby and the meat industry are and they know that the future government will have a difficult nut to crack, as the Ministry will be handed over to the PSL (Polish People’s Party). At the same time, the industry is already talking about extending the ban to other products. It is also an interesting moment as negotiations on the Common Agricultural Policy after 2027 are already starting at EU level. This could mean that a future European Parliament and the European Commission, being more conservative, could return to the famous AM165.”

The Polish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has proposed a new draft decree which aims to amend existing regulations on food labels, specifically targeting the labelling of vegan meat alternatives, potentially impacting how these products are presented to consumers. 

The proposed amendment, released yesterday on the Government Legislation Centre’s website, seeks to regulate the use of terms traditionally associated with meat products, such as “ham,” “smoked meat,” and “sausage”. According to the Ministry, the objective is to protect terms customarily used to describe meat products and ensure that the interests of consumers are protected, allowing for more informed choices.

“The animal agriculture sector is benefiting from marketing […] while the plant-based industry suffers through the power of the meat lobby”

This initiative follows requests from eight agricultural organizations, including #HodowcyRazem and the Association of Butchers and Wędliniarzy RP, advocating for legal protection of these terms to avoid misleading consumers.

© aamulya – stock.adobe.com

Criticism from the plant-based sector

However, this move has been met with resistance from the plant-based food sector. Critics argue that it represents a form of censorship favouring the meat industry. Anna Spurek from the Green REV Institute criticized the government’s bias, stating, “The animal agriculture sector is benefiting from marketing and is taking advantage of the Common Agricultural Policy, while the plant-based industry suffers through the power of the meat lobby and the politicians who support it.” 

She emphasized the ongoing struggle for equal treatment of the plant-based sector, continuing, “Since 2020, we have been fighting for the plant-based sector to be treated the same. But the meat lobby defends their business – here for funding, there for censorship. They hide behind the welfare of the consumers, although it is the animal agriculture sector that does not show how ham, sausage, and sausages are ‘produced’. The Ministry with this project shows that it is biased, does not want a just transition of the food system and supports polluters.”

Global context

The Ministry’s initiative is not unprecedented. Similar attempts have been made in France with a recent draft decree banning 21 meat names used to describe foodstuffs containing plant proteins, including “steak,” “ham,” and “escalope.” In Australia, politicians are also pushing to introduce alt-meat labelling restrictions. In the UK, the Food Standards and Information Focus Group (FSIFG) is lobbying to tighten labelling laws on dairy alternatives. 

Australian meat lobby calls for alt meat labelling restrictions
© v2food

The draft decree opened a brief, 24-hour window for public commentary. This tight deadline has intensified the urgency for various stakeholders to voice their concerns and influence the outcome of this controversial proposal. The decision could have significant implications for the vegan and plant-based food industry, both in Poland and potentially across Europe, as other nations observe the unfolding developments.

Morgan Janowicz of Green REV Institute highlighted the Ministry’s apparent prioritization of meat producers over consumer interests, commenting, “It is a scandal that a group that pollutes, destroys the environment, health, and our future is given priority and special treatment by those in power.”

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