France bans 'steak' and 'sausage' labels on vegetarian meats

JUL 1, 2022 LISTEN

France is to become the first EU country to stop vegetarian plant-based protein foods from describing themselves as "steak" or "sausage", in a bid to counter increasingly popular meat alternatives.

The ban, published in an official decree on Thursday, will come into effect in October.

"It will no longer be possible to use terms proper to sectors traditionally associated with meat and fish to designate products not belonging to the animal world," the decree reads.

It has been keenly awaited by the meat industry as the market for plant-based meat alternatives surges.

The measure is "an essential step in favour of the transparency of information for consumers, as well as the preservation of our products and know-how," said Jean-François Guihard, head of the Interbev meat industry association.

Imports unaffected

The ban, originally agreed in 2020 at the behest of farmers, will apply to products made in France, but not to goods produced in its European trade partners.

France's largest farming union FNSEA said it left the door open to imports and called for Paris to push the matter in Brussels so that similar laws be enacted "at the European level".

Plant-based food resembling meat has attracted major investment from global agrifood groups hoping to capitalise on a trend towards healthy eating, including less meat.

ONAV, an association of scientists and health professionals specialising on meat alternatives, said the measure was clearly designed to protect the economic interest of the meat industry.

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

EU veggie burgers

Interbev described the provision as "a first step on French territory, a pioneer in the protection of its names, which shold be extended at European level".

Terms such as "butter", "milk", and "cheese" are already protected at the European level and the use of yoghurt and cheese in vegetable-based products is banned. 

But there is no ban on meat alternatives using the name of the product they imitate.

The market for vegetarian and vegan meat-like food has surged in recent years, fuelled by concerns over climate change, animal welfare, and nutrition. 

It's attracted major investment from global agrifood groups hoping to capitalise on the trend towards healthy eating.

Angel investors, venture capitalists, as well as increased investments from agrifood giants such as Cargill, Danone and Nestle, have helped boost growth to 19 percent per year.

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