France’s Conseil d’État has suspended a government decree proposing to ban food producers from using plant-based meat descriptors.

The supreme administrative court said it had “serious doubts about the legality” of the ban, intended to come into force on 1 May.

It added that it believed the ruling would “cause serious and immediate harm to the interests of manufacturers selling exclusively this type of product”.

In February, the Ministry of Agriculture attempted to ban alternative-protein manufacturers from using meat terms such as steak, ham, escalope and butcher, among others.

The proposal also listed over 100 terms that could be used for animal-based products that contain plant-based proteins, though these products could only include a certain amount of plant-based protein.

If manufacturers wanted to use the term bacon, for instance, their product could only be made up of a maximum of 0.5% plant-protein.

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Producers would have faced fines ranging from €1,500 ($1,609) to €7,500 for failing to comply with the regulations.

The news marks the second time the Conseil d’État has suspended such a decree in France, with the first dismissal taking place in 2022.

Following the first suspension, the council sent a request to annul the decree to the EU Court of Justice in July 2023. It is still awaiting a response to that request, which is due “in the coming months”, it said.

Responding to the court’s latest decision, co-founder and CEO of plant-based bacon and ham group La Vie, Nicolas Schweitzer, told Just Food: “We are obviously very happy that, once again, the Conseil d’État has decided to suspend this silly decree.”

He added that “the war is not over”, and that the plant-based sector should “stay vigilant”, with French meat lobbyists likely to continue to push for implementation of the ban in the future.

Co-founder of meat alternatives brand HappyVore, Cedric Meston, described the decision as a “victory” for the category, in a post on LinkedIn.

“Indeed, the point that bothered us the most was the creation of unfair competition between companies producing in France and those producing abroad,” he said.

“By suspending the decree, the Conseil d’État chooses in particular to go in the direction of the reindustrialisation of France, a major axis in the priorities of the current policy.”

He added: “We have fought, and we will continue to fight if necessary, for the preservation of French industry, for our jobs and our agriculture.”