Big blow to plant-based meat sector as France bans associated meaty terms

FRANCE – Meaty words such as ‘sausages’, ’steak’, and ‘bacon’ that plant-based meat manufacturers have been using to describe meat alternatives are banned in France, the largest producer of beef in the European Union and the 7th largest in the world.

France becomes the first European Union country to effectively illegalize the terms, claiming it’s intended to reduce ‘confusion’ for shoppers.

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The ban is a major blow to the plant-based sector which has in recent years attracted major investment from global agri-food groups hoping to capitalize on a trend toward healthy eating.

The meat and farming industry heavily backed the ruling; however, the ban claims it’s intended to reduce ‘confusion’ for shoppers.

“It will not be possible to use sector-specific terminology traditionally associated with meat and fish to designate products that do not belong to the animal world and which, in essence, are not comparable,” the official decree reads.

The regulation is only applicable to plant-based products that are manufactured in France and takes effect in October.

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However, the ban will not affect imported products from its European trade partners, for the time being, prompting a call by other farmers’ unions for Paris to push the matter in Brussels.

National Plant Food Observatory (ONAV), an association of scientists and health professionals specializing in meat alternatives, said the measure was clearly designed to protect the economic interest of the meat industry.

It said the measure risks hindering France from shifting towards more sustainable and healthy vegetable-based alternatives to meat which has a heavy climate impact.

ONAV also argues that consumers already use terms like “steaks, sausages, and nuggets” to describe plant-based foods and that they aren’t bothered by them.

In addition, the association noted that those names serve to give hints about the products’ taste, texture, and preparation methods.

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In the European Union terms, such as “butter,” “milk,” and “cheese” are already protected on the European level and cannot be applied to plant-based products while words like “burger” are allowed to be used on meat alternatives.

This is after the European Commission voted to ban dairy-related terms for plant-based alternatives in October 2020 also succeeding a 2017 ruling, which saw the European Court of Justice ban the use of dairy names such as ‘milk’, ‘butter’, ‘cheese’, and ‘yogurt’ in the dairy-free category.

Amendment 171 in EU parliament, which proposed to ban veggie burgers was dropped after a total of 456,000 consumers signed the public petition, which was spearheaded by ProVeg, Upfield, and Oatly, alongside 96 other associations.

Similarly, South Africa announced the banning of meaty terms such as ‘veggie biltong”, “mushroom biltong”, “plant-based meatballs” and “vegan nuggets” to describe plant-based foods from June 22nd.

The decree extended to any food items using traditional names to describe plant-based meats will be removed from the shelves.

The South African Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) said the terms do not meet the definition of “processed meat” under the country’s Regulation No.R.1283 thus found to be misleading.

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