France to ban labelling food made from plants as meat or fish

France is first country in European Union to impose such restrictions

Customers dine on restaurant terraces in the Montmartre district of Paris, France. Bloomberg
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France is planning to ban the use of terms such as “steak” and “sausage” to describe plant-based food, a decree published on Thursday stated.

The market for plant-based imitation “meat” has surged, attracting major investment from global agrifood groups hoping to capitalise on a trend towards healthy eating, which includes consuming less red meat.

France will be the first country in the European Union to impose such restrictions when the law comes into force in October. In 2020, EU parliamentarians rejected a similar proposal, backed by farmers.

“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 only applies to products made in France, leaving the door open to exports, meaning the regulation does not go far enough, the country's largest farm lobby said.

Interbev, the French meat industry association, also welcomed the implementation of the law initially adopted in 2020.

“This provision is a first step on French territory, a pioneer in the protection of its names, which should be extended at the European level,” it said in a statement.

Terms such as “milk”, “butter” and “cheese” are already banned at the European level for products that are not of animal origin.

The word “burger” — used by many brands including US firms Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods to attract consumers — would still be allowed as the term does not specifically refer to meat, an Interbev representative said.

Angel investors and venture capitalists as well as increased investments from agrifood companies such as Cargill, Danone and Nestle, have helped boost projected annual sector growth to 19 per cent for the next five years, ResearchAndMarkets reported.

Updated: June 30, 2022, 10:30 PM
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