Plant-based food can be called a ‘steak’ in France, court rules

The highest administrative court has suspended a law that would have banned meat-related words from being used to describe plant-based meat-style products

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Plant-based food manufacturers can use the word ‘steak’ for their products, France’s highest administrative court has ruled, after overturning a law that was set to come into force on October 1.

On July 27, le Conseil d’Etat overturned a government decree that was set to outlaw the use of meat-related words such as ‘steak’ or ‘lardons’ on plant-based products. The law was set to come into force by October 1.

Read more: Meat substitute products can no longer use ‘meat’ terms, France rules

The law had long been called for by the meat and livestock industry.

Yet, its overturning brings France more in line with the EU position on the matter, which authorises meat-style words for plant-based products, except for dairy items.

Le Conseil d’Etat overturned the law in response to an urgent request from the company Protéines France, which lobbies for manufacturers in the plant protein sector (including Herta, Happyvore, etc.).

The company filed a suspension petition last Friday against a government decree of June 29. It argued that the law’s planned entry into force on October 1 did not give plant-based manufacturers enough time to get organised and change their packaging and products to comply.

The plaintiffs claimed that the decree would cause confusion among consumers and manufacturers, at the risk of losing market share.

Protéines France said that it was pleased with the suspension of the law but said it remains “cautious” pending a further final decision from le Conseil.

The association's lawyer Guillaume Hannotin told AFP. "Le Conseil d’Etat has accepted our argument that it is impossible for plant-based products to completely ‘leave the lexical field’ that comes close to meat.”

However, competition office La Direction générale de la concurrence, de la consommation et de la répression des fraudes (DGCCRF) contested the ‘urgency’ of the request, saying that

The Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) had contested the urgency of the suspension, arguing the company could have taken action earlier, further ahead of the planned publication of the law on July 29.

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