France is to ban the use of the word ‘steak’ on the packaging of plant-based food items, the Ministry for Agriculture has announced.
The ministry said it was working on a new decree to ban the use of words that describe “food of animal origin” on food-based products.
Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau said on X (formerly Twitter): “Putting an end to misleading labelling claims is a government priority.”
He added that the issue was “a question of transparency and loyalty, which is a legitimate expectation from consumers and producers”. He added that “confidence” in labelling was essential when it comes to meat-based and plant-based products, as are labels on the geographic origin of food items.
Products including vegan and vegetarian ‘steak’, ‘sausage’ and ‘bacon’ will no longer be permitted to use these words on their packaging, and will need to change their names or descriptions to comply.
The move comes after much campaigning from the animal industry, which has long claimed that consumers could be misled by animal-related words on plant-based products.
Mettre fin aux allégations trompeuses sur les étiquetages est une priorité du @gouvernementFR.— Marc Fesneau (@MFesneau) September 4, 2023
Nous avons donc travaillé à la rédaction d’un nouveau décret visant l’interdiction d’utiliser pour les denrées alimentaires végétales des dénominations évoquant des denrées… https://t.co/y2Jyo1nvJ4
This is not the first time that the government has tried to legislate on this issue.
A decree to this effect was published in June 2022, but this was later suspended by the Conseil d’Etat, France's highest administrative court. The case was then referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), in relation to European laws on packaging labelling. The case is still ongoing.
The Agriculture Ministry has since said that its new decree will take these factors into account, and it will go ahead with the new rule even before the ECJ case has finished.
‘The ministry of meat’
Mr Fesneau’s announcement has attracted criticism from plant-based food manufacturers and animal rights campaigners.
“The term 'veggie steak' has been used for over 40 years,” said Guillaume Hannotin, a lawyer for Protéines France, a plant protein manufacturer advocate group, to the AFP. He said that these words tend to be used to describe a certain shape or cooking method - so that consumers know what they are buying and how to cook them - and are therefore “difficult to replace”.
Similarly, Brigitte Gothière, co-founder of the animal rights organisation L214, said that the new decree was an example of “extreme manipulation by the ministry of meat”.