The French government said Monday it was preparing a new decree against meaty terms like “steak” or “grill” being used to describe plant-based products.
Its latest decree is “an issue of transparency and honesty responding to the legitimate expectations of consumers and producers,” Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau said in a statement.
Farmers and firms in France’s meat supply chain have long militated against terms like “plant-based burger” or “vegan sausage,” claiming that they confuse consumers.
But a 2022 decree protecting such words was suspended by the country’s top administrative court.
While that court, the Council of State, has asked for guidance from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) before its final ruling, Paris’ agriculture ministry says it has already prepared a new language order taking the judges’ complaints into account.
The decree has been submitted to the European Commission for checking against its detailed food labeling rules.
But “the term ‘plant-based steak’ has been in use for more than 40 years,” said Guillaume Hannotin, lawyer for the Proteines France organization representing makers of vegan and vegetarian alternatives.
France’s new decree still contravenes EU regulation on labeling for products that, unlike milk, lack a strict legal definition and can be referred to by terms in popular use, Hannotin argued.
The government’s latest move “torpedoes the proceedings in progress before the ECJ,” which were triggered by a complaint from Proteines France, he added.