France suspends ban on ‘meaty’ names for plant-based alternatives

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

As long as the ban is suspended, plant-based brands can continue to borrow 'meaty' terminology from classic French meat products. GettyImages/Richard Villalonundefined undefined
As long as the ban is suspended, plant-based brands can continue to borrow 'meaty' terminology from classic French meat products. GettyImages/Richard Villalonundefined undefined

Related tags plant-based plant-based meat France

Less than one month out, an upcoming ban on the use of ‘steak’, ‘sausage’ and ‘bacon’ terms for French plant-based meat products has been postponed.

Well, that was short-lived. A new law prohibiting the use of ‘meaty’ terminology for plant-based meat products in France – announced in February and due to be enforced 1 May​ – has been suspended.

The decision comes from France’s Council of State (Conseil d’État), which has thrown the legality of the ban into question. A Member State may not have the power to adopt national measures regulating or prohibiting this type of designation.

What was the ban all about?

The proposed ban sought to prohibit plant-based manufacturers in France from borrowing ‘meaty’ terminology for their products. The list of terms off the table​ included steak, sausage and bacon. Those that didn’t comply could have been fined up to €7,500.

The ban was not targeting plant-based products only: organisms belonging to other kingdoms – such as the fungi kingdom (from which mycoprotein is derived) – were also implicated.

It was argued that such a ban would avoid misleading consumers. The French government is supposedly concerned shoppers are putting ‘vegan bacon’ products into their baskets believing they were buying the real thing.

Importantly, the ban would not apply to products manufactured or marketed in another Member State or third country. That means that foreign plant-based meat products could continue to use the ‘meaty’ terminology in France.

France is not the only country to have been toying with ‘meaty’ terminology bans for plant-based products of late. South Africa​ has also banned ‘meaty’ denominations from being used on vegan products. In Italy, a new law has been proposed​ to ban ‘tofu steak’, ‘veg ham’ or ‘vegan mortadella’ from hitting the shelves.

An EU-wide ban was also proposed back in 2020, but was vetoed by the European Parliament​.

Potential impact on plant-based meat sector

At the time the law was announced, the plant-based sector in France expressed fears it would compromise its sales prospects on home soil. Maker of plant-based whole cut chicken alternatives Umiami said such regulations ‘seriously’ impact the sector’s economic development. Another plant-based brand, HappyVore, stressed the law would benefit multinationals but penalise small, French players.

Want more background on France's proposed plant-based meat laws?

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Catch up here: It's official: France outlaws 'steak', 'sausage' and 'bacon' terms for plant-based meat

To a certain extent, France’s Council of State agrees. The judge noted that enforcement from 1 May would seriously and immediately harm the interest of French plant-based meat companies. Not only would they be required to rename their products – and hope that consumer loyalty is maintained – but pay to change marketing material and packaging. To achieve all this before next month would likely have resulted in withdrawing products from shelf.

As a result, the decree has been suspended.

“After weeks of uncertainty, doubts and fears, we are very relieved and happy that the Conseil d’État has ruled in our favour,” commented Cedric Meston, co-founder of HappyVore, on social media.

“This victory marks a major step forward for the plant-based meat market in France. The point that bothered us most was the creation of unfair competition between companies producing in France and those producing abroad. By suspending the decree, the Conseil d’État chooses to go in the direction of reindustrialisation in France – a major axis in the priorities of current policy.”

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