The French government has said it is preparing a new decree against meaty terms like “steak”, “grill” and “spare ribs” being used to describe plant-based products.
Its latest decree is “an issue of transparency and honesty responding to the legitimate expectations of consumers and producers”, agriculture minister Marc Fesneau said in a statement on Monday.
Farmers and firms in France’s meat supply chain have long militated against terms like “plant-based burger” or “vegan sausage”, claiming that they confuse consumers.
But a 2022 decree protecting such words was suspended by the country’s top administrative court.
While that court, the council of state, has asked for guidance from the European court of justice (ECJ) before its final ruling, the agriculture ministry says it has already prepared a new language order taking the judges’ complaints into account.
The new draft decree, which applies only to products made and sold in France, bans a list of 21 meat names to describe protein-based products, including “steak”, “escalope”, “spare ribs”, “ham” or “butcher”.
However, over 120 meat-associated names such as “cooked ham”, “poultry”, “sausage” or “bacon” will still be authorised provided that the products do not exceed a certain amount of plant proteins, with percentages ranging between 0.5% and 6%.
The decree has been submitted to the European Commission for checking against its detailed food labelling rules.
Guillaume Hannotin, 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.
He argued France’s new decree still contravenes EU regulation on labelling for products which – unlike milk – lack a strict legal definition and can be referred to by terms in popular use.
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 its entry into force, at the latest one year after publication.
With Reuters and Agence France-Presse