Daily Newsletter

28 February 2024

Daily Newsletter

28 February 2024

France issues new decree to ban plant-based meat descriptors

Manufacturers of plant-based meat alternatives in countries outside of France would not be affected by the ruling.

Fiona Holland February 28 2024

The French government is making another attempt to ban French manufacturers from using meat-related descriptors for plant-based foods.

A new decree, issued earlier this week by the Ministry of Agriculture, looks to prohibit the use of terms such as “ham” and “steak” in products containing “plant-based proteins”.

The law is intended to come into play from 1 May.

Other words that could also face a ban include, “fillet” “false fillet”, “tendon”, “grill”, “escalope”, “entrecôte”, “rumpsteak”, “aiguillette baronne”, and “butcher”, among others.

The document also features a list of more than 100 terms that can be used for animal-based products that also contain plant-based proteins, though there is a limit on the amount of plant-based protein that can be used in a product if it is to use the meaty descriptor.

For example, to use “bacon”, a product must be made up of only 0.50% plant-based protein, while “chipolata” can contain 1%.

Food producers in the country that fail to adhere to the regulations will face fines ranging between €1,500 ($1,622) and €7,500.

Manufacturers of plant-based meat alternatives in countries outside of France would not be affected by the ruling.

France has already tried to pass a similar decree in 2022, which was suspended by the Council of State, France’s highest administrative court.

Paris showed signs of revisiting its intention to ban plant-based meaty terms last year, after receiving approval from Marc Fesneau, the French Minister of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty.

Speaking to Just Food, Nicolas Schweitzer, co-founder and CEO of plant-based bacon supplier La Vie said the group was not worried about the law affecting its sales, noting the company was “quite used to... being tormented by the lobbies of the meat industry”.

The group was “not that surprised at the decree itself”, Schweitzer said. “What is very surprising is that it's only for companies that produce in France. I can produce in Czech Republic and sell plant-based bacon and call my plant-based products bacon in France”.

He added: “It’s amazing that they love shooting themselves in the foot.”

When asked about the importance of meaty descriptors for communicating plant-based products to consumers, Schweitzer said: “Whenever there is a new innovation, you have to come up with with new descriptions with new words, and what happens usually is that you just go to whatever is the most explicit, and so typically, you go from a car to an electric, electric car... from a book to an ebook etc., and no-one has ever complained about this because it makes so much sense.”

He added that “in this very case, despite the fact that it is obviously the most explicit, they just saw an opportunity to try to slow us down. It’s just private interests that are trying to that are trying to prevent the language from evolving”.

La Vie said it would appeal the decree and had already begun the process. The company also appealed the law proposed in 2022.

“We won three years ago against the very same decree. So we think we're going to win again,” Schweitzer said.

Co-founders of plant-based whole cuts brand company Umiami, Martin Habfast and Tristan Maurel also told Just Food they were "dismayed by the introduction of this latest legislation."

They added that the law "serves as a setback to the progress made by French food companies and manufacturers striving to offer sustainable and healthier meat alternatives. Our dedication lies in local production and economic development, driven by our pride in our expertise. Yet, this places us at a disadvantage compared to foreign competitors who aren't bound by the same standards of transparency and precision."

In a statement, Elena Walden, senior policy manager at international nonprofit and think tank the Good Food Institute Europe said the move was "unnecessary" and would "only impact French companies, and leave consumers turning to plant-based imports from elsewhere in the EU".

She added: “Everyday language like ‘steak’ helps consumers know what to expect in terms of the taste and texture of plant-based foods, and this news is disappointing after the French Supreme Court recently confirmed consumers were not confused by these terms. Rather than wasting time on restrictions which attempt to stifle consumer choice, the government should support the country’s growing plant-based food sector.”

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