The food industry has claimed victory over the South African government and its attempt to clamp down on the ‘meaty’ descriptions used by manufacturers of alt-meat products in the country.

The government had threatened to seize any meat analogue products sold in the country using such descriptions but the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA) has issued a statement saying the Johannesburg High Court has banned such action indefinitely while a review is conducted into the government’s plan.

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) said in June last year plant-based foods should not be allowed to use names intended for processed-meat products such as sausage or burger.

It argued that such descriptions – also encompassing veggie biltong, plant-based meatballs and vegan nuggets – did not meet the existing regulatory definition of “processed meat”.

The DALRRD wrote to “all processors, importers and retailers of meat analogues”, instructing them that meat alternatives “must not use the product names prescribed and reserved for processed meat products”.

It instructed the country’s Food Safety Agency (FSA) to seize and remove any plant-based products using names that traditionally refer to animal-based products.

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Alt-meat manufacturers in South Africa took their case to court and won a temporary reprieve against such seizures last August and that has now been reinforced for an indefinite period.

The CGCSA argued the planned seizure of vegetarian and vegan products represented an “act of significant overreach”, given there are no regulations in South Africa which regulate meat analogue products.

The court also ruled seizures of produce could lead to “irreparable financial harm” to the businesses involved.

Speaking about the court victory, Zinhle Tyikwe, CEO of the CGCSA, said it ”provided certainty for a growing industry that is not only providing alternative, healthy nutritious products but also creating employment and contributing to economic growth”.

She added: “We have always argued that there is need for the Department to work with the CGCSA and other industry stakeholders to formulate or draft new regulations for these products which the Department actually acknowledged during engagements with industry in April last year.

“We therefore look forward to working with the Department so that we can find common ground for the good of the analogue meat products industry and consumers in particular and the wider economy in general.”

Just Food has asked DALRRD for its reaction to the court’s ruling.