Politics & Law

Temporary Victory in South Africa Where Seizure of Plant-Based Foods Has Been Halted

Plant-based advocates in South Africa are celebrating a temporary victory after succeeding at the Johannesburg High Court on Saturday in halting thousands of product seizures scheduled to take place today, 22nd August.

The Food Safety Agency (FSA) was set to begin the seizure of thousands of plant-based meat alternatives from retailers across the country for using terms such as “burger”, “nugget”, and “sausage”, in a now familiar battle that plant-based industry has been winning in various markets. To name recent examples, the French decree on labelling was suspended just three weeks ago down to insufficient legality, and famously, Amendment 171 actioned by the dairy lobby was rejected by the EU parliament last May.

ProVeg South Africa at court
Anusha Lakha, ProVeg South Africa Corporate Engagement and V-Label Coordinator, and Sarah Goldman, Head of Pro Bono and Citizenship at Lawtons Africa at the Johannesburg High Court.

Saturday’s ruling prohibits the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) and its designated assignee, FSA, from seizing any plant-based meat alternatives they deemed to be in breach of Regulation 1283 of the Agricultural Product Standards Act 199 of 1990, “the APS Act”. In June, a directive from DALRRD to processors, importers and retailers of plant-based meat alternatives gave just 30 business days to remove their products from shelves for relabelling or face seizures.

ProVeg South Africa and several of its stakeholders have been active in the procedures; Donovan Will, ProVeg South Africa Country Director, states: “Although we welcome the decision by the court, we would like to reiterate our call for further dialogue as we still believe that this matter should be settled through discussion between the plant-based food industry, DALLRD and the meat industry.”

The release from ProVeg South Africa states further that “Unfortunately, industry-wide discussions have not been possible and all diplomatic efforts by the plant-based food industry have not led to amenable results.”

ProVeg South Africa at court
Meagan Ruthman, Candidate Attorney, and Prudence Moselakgomo, administrator, both at Lawtons Africa, with ProVeg South Africa Corporate Engagement and V-Label Coordinator, Anusha Lakha (middle).

Agricultural Product Standards Act

The Agricultural Product Standards Act of 2019 relates to the classification, packing and labelling of processed meats in South Africa. ProVeg explains that it was decided in 2019 that plant-based meat alternatives were to be excluded and would be dealt with differently than processed meats.

Section 2(2)(c) of the regulation states that “[t]hese regulations shall not apply to . . . (c) Meat analogue products or non-meat based products that in general appearance, presentation and intended use correspond to processed meat products (e.g. vegan or vegetarian type processed products).’’

As such, plant-based meat alternatives are not currently covered by legislation and are also excluded from the scope of the processed meat regulations.

ProVeg states today on the development: “ProVeg South Africa has and will continue to opt for non-legal routes to ensure that new and appropriate regulations are developed for plant-based meat alternatives that are approved and carry the interests of the plant-based food industry, DALRRD and the meat and processed meat industries. ProVeg South Africa carries the interests of both plant-based manufacturers and consumers and will continue to be a public voice for both. We urge the government to fast-track the development of new regulations without any punitive measures on the plant-based sector in the interim.”

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