FRANCE – France’s Conseil d’État has suspended a government decree aimed at prohibiting food producers from using plant-based meat descriptors, which was slated to take effect on 1 May. 

The Supreme Administrative Court expressed “serious doubts about the legality” of the ban, recognizing the potential harm to manufacturers exclusively selling such products.

The decree, proposed by the Ministry of Agriculture in February, sought to restrict alternative-protein manufacturers from utilizing meat-related terms like steak, ham, escalope, and butcher, among others.

In fact, over 100 terms were listed for animal-based products containing plant-based proteins, with strict limits on the allowable amount of plant-based protein – violators of this policy would be expected to face fines ranging from €1,500 to €7,500 (US$ 1,598- US$7,994) for non-compliance.

This recent development marks the second time the Conseil d’État has suspended such a decree in France, following a similar instance in 2022. 

Following the initial suspension, the council referred the matter to the EU Court of Justice in July 2023, awaiting a response “in the coming months.”

Nicolas Schweitzer, co-founder and CEO of plant-based bacon and ham group La Vie, expressed relief at the court’s decision, cautioning that the battle is far from over. 

“We are very happy that, once again, the Conseil d’État has decided to suspend this silly decree,” he said in response to the decision.

He also stressed the need for vigilance within the plant-based sector, anticipating continued lobbying efforts from French meat advocates to enforce the ban in the future.

Cedric Meston, co-founder of meat alternatives brand HappyVore, hailed the court’s decision as a victory for the category, highlighting concerns about unfair competition between domestic and international producers. 

“By suspending the decree, the Conseil d’État chooses, in particular, to go in the direction of the reindustrialization of France, a major axis in the priorities of the current policy,” he added.

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