French ban on ‘meaty’ descriptions for plant-based products will harm local industry14 Jul 2022
The new French legislation banning the use of ‘meaty’ terms such as “sausage,” “steak,” and “nuggets” is self-destructive to its own food manufacturing industry, commenters have lamented.
The official decree – published earlier this month – comes into force on 1 October 2022.
Translated, a summary of the decree states: “It will not be possible to use the terminology specific to the sectors traditionally associated with meat and fish to designate products which do not belong to the animal kingdom and which, in essence, are not comparable.”
It makes France the first European country to ban the use of words like sausage or steak to describe a plant-based products.
Although Europe bans use of dairy words including “milk” and “cheese” to describe plant-based alternatives, it rejected the proposal to outlaw use of meaty terms for plant-based products in 2020.
‘Self-destructive’ and ‘delusional’ for French business
France’s new law has polarized the food sector. Meat lobbyists who have long pushed for the legislation are in favour, but pro-vegan campaigners say the move is detrimental in terms of environmental impact.
From a strictly business perspective, however, experts say that French companies will suffer.
Matthieu Vincent, co-founder of European foodtech insight and strategy consultancy DigitalFoodLab, stressed in a LinkedIn post that the rule will only apply to French companies selling in France. The rule does not, so far, apply to imported products.
“Hence if you are a Swiss (Planted), Spanish (Heura Foods) or American (but producing in the Netherlands, such as Beyond Meat), you will still be able to use the wording of your choice,” said Vincent.
“Let's say that is a beautiful example of self-destruction applied to your own innovation ecosystem (and to the benefit of others').”
The move has been similarly slammed among the plant-based food sector.
Nicolas Schweitzer, CEO of the French plant-based meat alternative company La Vie, took to LinkedIn to write (translated): “You won’t see anything more delusional today! After pushing for the reindustrialization of France, the government has just passed a decree pushing us to relocate.”
He added: “We produce 100% in France and we will therefore be among the only [products] penalized on the shelves.”
Promoting detrimental meat-eating
While it is the first country in Europe to implement a ban on meaty descriptions for plant-based products, the legislation is not the first globally. It follows just a few weeks after South Africa brought in similar blockades.
Plant-based and cultured meat alternatives lobbyist ProVeg International at the time called South Africa’s law a “major step backwards” and said that it “disrespects the consumer and discourages climate-friendly foods”.
Speaking this month on the incoming French policy, Jasmijn de Boo, vice president, ProVeg International, was quoted in a host of publications as saying the French decree promotes animal-based diets.
“When those responsible for one fifth of all GHGs [greenhouse gases] globally are allowed by governments to increase their share of emissions, pollution, land, water and animal use by actively making it harder for consumers to make informed and lower-carbon choices, we need to ask our politicians some tough questions,” she said.
Meat industry thumbs-up
Nevertheless, French meat trade association Interbev argues that the new rule will be beneficial to the animal agriculture sector.
In a statement sent to Ingredients Network, Interbev’s president Jean-François Guihard said: “(The) decree’s publication is very important for Interbev because it contributes to the consumer information,” adding that the decision also protects the “savoir-faire” (know-how) of meat-based products.
A (translated) press statement from Interbev adds that the law is a “major step forward” for transparency of information provided to consumers for not-of-animal-origin products which “in essence, are not comparable”.
The National Federation of Farmers' Unions (FNSEA) also welcomed the framework, but its administrator, Yannick Fialip, highlighted its limits, including “vague” wording on imports.
Given that a large proportion of plant-based protein foods are imported to France, the transparency afforded by the new legislation will quickly reach its limits, he said.
Both Interbev and FNSEA went on to call for the legislation to be implemented at European level.
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