France is revisiting a plan to prohibit the use of animal-derived names for plant-based foods such as ‘steak’.

The country’s Ministry of Agriculture took a step to ban animal-related designations for products incorporating vegetable protein alternatives with a labelling law in 2020. The subsequent decree was due to be implemented in 2022, but was, however, suspended by the Council of State, a judiciary body in Paris, based on feedback from appeals.

Approved by Marc Fesneau, France’s Minister of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty, after a review of the Council of State’s observations, the new decree will come into force three months after the 23 August notification. It has to be first approved by the European Commission.

In a statement published on 4 September, the Ministry noted “penalties” will be imposed in “case of infringement” to the orders of the decree once it is implemented.

Fesneau said: “This new draft decree reflects our desire to put an end to misleading claims as provided for by law, by using names relating to meat products for foodstuffs that do not contain them. It is an issue of transparency and loyalty which meets a legitimate expectation of consumers and producers.

“To maintain the bond of trust with consumers, labelling and its intelligibility are essential. This is the objective of this decree and of all government policy in this area.”

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France’s draft decree applies to plant-based foods “manufactured and marketed on French territory”, or the promotion of such foods, and applies to the “use of names traditionally designating foodstuffs of animal origin”.

In response to the decree, Jasmijn de Boo, the CEO of the plant-based advocacy group ProVeg International, said the labelling rules are “counter-productive” and suggested consumers are not misled by animal-type descriptions on alternative-foods packaging.

“Plant-based foods are a vital key to solving the climate crisis as well as ensuring economic growth. Many meat and dairy companies themselves know this, which is why they are investing in both plant-based and animal-based foods, and in some cases switching to plant-based foods entirely,” de Boo said in a statement.

“Governments need to be actively promoting plant-based food, such as through subsidies and public procurement, not introducing restrictive measures.”

Suppliers of plant-based protein products will have three months to comply once the decree comes into force to “give operators time to adapt their labelling, as well as the possibility of marketing foodstuffs manufactured or labelled before its entry into force until stocks last, and at the latest one year from its publication”, the Ministry said.

Protéines France, a consortium of plant-protein companies, declined to comment when approached by Just Food. FNSEA, an organisation representing agricultural unions in France, did not respond to a request for comment on the proposed ban.