Politics & Law

Setback for French Government as Court Supports Plant-Based Meat and Rejects Label Confusion

After five years of legal battle, the French Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Nutrition & Santé Group (owner of Gerblé, Céréal, ValpiBio, Valpiform) which had been accused by the meat lobby Interbev (Association Nationale Interprofessionnelle du Bétail et des Viandes) of unfair competition and misleading plant-based meat labels, announces the Association Végétarienne de France

The court confirmed that a risk of confusion between “steak” and “veggie steak” had not been established. In the court’s view, consumers can distinguish between the different categories if the packaging and advertisements “clearly” indicate that the product is plant-based, reports the French media

Against plant-based meat

This ruling favoring plant-based meat is a significant setback for the French government, which recently renewed proposals to prohibit more than 21 meat names, including “steak” and “ham” on labels of alternative products. The country’s highest administrative, the French Conseil d’Etat, is awaiting the European Court of Justice’s opinion to clarify if such a move is compatible with EU law.

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

If the ban passes, operators will have three months to adjust their labeling and will be allowed to sell products with labels printed before the decree’s implementation for up to one year after publication.

France was the first country in the EU to take measures against plant-based meat labels and tried to pass a decree in 2022 backed by the country’s meat industry and farming lobby. But the move was suspended by the Conseil d’Etat a month later.

“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,” argues Jasmijn de Boo, CEO of ProVeg International.

Climate diet denial

Besides the government’s battle against plant-based meat labels, now the Les Républicains party is trying to prohibit cultivated meat in the country and has introduced a bill. 

meat vs vegetables
© Prostock-studio-stock.adobe.com

Such measures can only be seen as absurd when taking into account the impact of meat consumption versus plant-based diets on carbon emissions and human health, which 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 the act of disregarding or denying the consequences of the food system, specifically animal agriculture, on climate change.

“There is an ever broader consensus among the scientific community that the need to shift to more plant-based diets is crucial to mitigate climate change,” said de Boo.

“The high appetite for beef and large imports by Western nations fuels massive land, forest, and biodiversity loss, and pollution in the global south. This is as much a social justice issue as it is a climate issue,” she added.

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