France to ban use of meat names to describe plant-based food

France to ban use of meat names to describe plant-based food

July 1, 2022

France to ban companies from using ‘steak’ and ‘sausage’ to describe plant-based food… but burger will still be allowed

  • French firms will no longer be able to market plant-based foods with meat names
  • Regulation only applies to French-made products, leaving door open for imports
  • The market for plant-based ‘meat-alternatives’ has surged in the past few years
  • But many meat-free alternatives are highly processed with a litany of additives
  • France is the largest producer of beef in the EU and the 7th largest in the world

France plans to ban the use of meat names like ‘steak’ and ‘sausage’ on foods derived from plant-based sources, according to a decree published on Thursday, in a bid to avoid confusion over the trendy meat alternatives.

The market for plant-based ‘meat-alternatives’ has surged in the past few years, attracting major investment from global agrifood groups hoping to capitalise on a trend towards healthy eating and a diet marketed as more ecologically sustainable.

But many meat-free alternative foods are highly processed and contain a litany of unwanted additives.

France is the largest producer of beef in Europe and the seventh largest in the world, and also exports more cattle than any other European country.  

‘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 read.

The regulation only applies to products made in France, and although the nation is the first EU country to make such a move, its largest farm lobby FNSEA said it did not go far enough as the decree leaves the door open to imports.

The market for plant-based ‘meat-alternatives’ has surged in the past few years, attracting major investment from global agrifood groups

France plans to ban the use of meat names like ‘steak’ and ‘sausage’ on foods derived from plant-based sources (meat-free Quorn ‘steaks’ are pictured)

French meat industry association Interbev welcomed the law which was initially adopted in 2020 after the first pandemic lockdown but comes into effect this October.

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

‘[The decree] is an essential step in favour of ensuring the customer receives transparent information, as well as the preservation of our products and know-how.’

Terms like ‘milk’, ‘butter’ and ‘cheese’ are already banned at the European level on products that are not of animal origin.

The word ‘burger’ used by many brands including U.S. firms Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Burger King to attract consumers, would still be allowed as it does not specifically refer to meat, an Interbev spokesperson said.

Angel investors, venture capitalists, as well as increased investments from agrifood giants such as Cargill, Danone and Nestle, have helped boost the growth rate of the global plant-based meat-like food industry. 

Its growth is forecast at 19 per cent per year during the 2022-2027 period by ResearchAndMarkets.

But many studies suggest eating a meat-free diet can contribute to a variety of health problems, while some plant-based meat alternatives are less neutrient-dense and are highly-processed, containing a variety of artificial ingredients.  

France is the largest producer of beef in Europe and the seventh largest in the world

Dr Anthony Fardet, a senior research scientist in preventive, sustainable and holistic diets and nutrition with the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, said many fake meats and plant milks rank among the worst ultra-processed food (UPF) offenders, often containing heavily altered protein and fibre compounds and many additives as well as stabilisers, sugar, salt, and other flavouring.

The majority of ‘fake meats’ are heavily processed, with many made from soya protein or wheat gluten, which goes through a complex manufacturing process involving heat, acid or solvents, to create a meat-like texture.

All this is before the chemical flavourings and preservatives are added. Amanda’s Quorn nuggets, for instance, list 25 ingredients on the packet.

‘I worry about the rise of ultra ultra-processed foods such as fake meats,’ says Dr Fardet.

‘It is too soon for epidemiological studies to link consumption with chronic disease risk, but I have grave concerns about this ‘edible chemistry’ and the effects of so drastically altering the food matrix. We don’t yet know what regular consumption is doing to the body.’

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