France BANS food-makers from using meaty terms to sell vegan products

France BANS food-makers from using meaty terms to sell vegan products

September 6, 2023

France BANS vegan food-makers from using meaty terms to advertise plant-based products over issues of ‘transparency and honesty’

  • A new decree is set to ban food-makers from using meaty words for vegan food
  • Critics claim the French government has sided with the meat industry
  • France has one of the slowest uptakes of vegan food in Europe 

France has banned makers of vegan food from using meaty names to advertise their products, claiming the industry has deep issues of ‘transparency and honesty’. 

A draft decree, in its final stages before it becomes law, has banned food-makers from using 21 words and phrases to describe plant-based products, including ‘steak’, ‘escalope’, ‘spare ribs’, ‘ham’, and ‘butcher’.

Over 120 more meaty names and phrases will only be allowed on packaging and advertising if producers can prove that products do not exceed a threshold of plant proteins. 

This would mean that vegan ‘nuggets’ or vegan ‘bacon’ would have to take on new names if levels of plant protein exceeds legal limits. 

The decree will come into force three months after publication to give operators time to adapt their labelling. 

It also leaves open the possibility for manufacturers to sell all product stocks labelled before it comes into force, at the latest one year after publication 

The country’s agriculture minister, Marc Fesneau (pictured right) said that the government’s decree is all about helping consumers

Veganism is not a popular lifestyle in France, and in often associated with negative political connotations

The country’s agriculture minister, Marc Fesneau, said that the government’s decree, which has been submitted to the European Commission to make sure it doesn’t violate its food labelling laws, is all about helping consumers. 

He said that the vegan food industry has ‘an issue of transparency and honesty responding to the legitimate expectations of consumers and producers.’

But vegan groups and animal rights activists claim that the French government is siding with the meat industry. 

Guillaume Hannotin, a lawyer for the Proteines France organisation representing makers of vegan and vegetarian alternatives, said the term ‘plant-based steak’ had been in use for more than 40 years. 

Meanwhile, Brigitte Gothière, of the French animal rights’ group L214, tweeted that the decree was an example of ‘manipulation’, calling the French agriculture ministry ‘the ministry of meat’. 

She said: ‘Do people confuse motor oil, olive oil and jojoba oil? I think not. No more than they confuse vegan steak from beef steak.’ 

Despite the fuss, France has historically been a predominantly meat-eating country, and ranks the highest in beef and veal consumption per person in Europe. 

According to an Ifop poll in 2020, less than 1% of the French population is vegan, and the word ‘vegan’ itself had become laden with negative political associations amid rows over activism against butcher shops.

Nearly a quarter of French people identify as flexitarian and are cutting down on meat. 

But studies have shown that sales of vegan products in French supermarkets, including fake meat, are less than in neighbouring countries, such as the UK.

This isn’t the first time France has tried banning food manufacturers from using meaty words for non-meat products. 

The government’s first decree on the matter, put forward last year, was considered too vague and was suspended by France’s top administrative court, the council of state. 

The court has asked for guidance from the European court of justice before making its final ruling at a later date. 

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