Plant-based labelling uncertainty in France
Plant-based products are experiencing a surge in popularity, driven by consumer trends aimed at reducing environmental impact and improving human health (1). Nonetheless, shifting regulations could pose a formidable hurdle for businesses in the French market seeking to easily convey the composition and format of their plant-based products and effectively market them. A current proposal in France, aims to prohibit meat-related terms from being used in plant-based labelling, illustrating the complexity of this challenge.
History of plant-based product naming in France
In 2022, France published a Decree on ‘the use of certain names used to designate foods containing vegetable proteins (2). From the provisions in Article 2, names of species, and groups of animal species’ are forbidden to be used ‘to designate a processed product containing vegetable proteins’. And Article 3 states that a ‘name of a foodstuff of animal origin may only be used’ with certain permitted levels of added vegetable protein (between 0.1% and 6%). This decree was due to come into force in October 2022.
However, the French Conseil d’Etat (Council of State) partially suspended the application of the decree on 27 July 2022. This means that until the Council of State makes a final decision on the Decree, plant-based products can still use ‘meaty terms’ on their products.
While the decision is still pending, the French government has prepared a new, more precise Decree listing forbidden terms in its Annex. Once the new Decree comes into force, using terms like ‘steak’ or ‘fillet’ will be banned on plant-based products. This new draft Decree, which has been notified to the European Commission, proposes to ban names of foods from animal origin, as well as regulate the promotion and marketing of vegetable protein products with the aim of preventing misleading claims.
On one hand, banning these terms could satisfy farmers and the meat industry, who argue that naming plant-based products with meat related terms is misleading. Whereas the plant-based industry may prefer to use meat related terms, as the wording effectively describes the nature of the product, and the belief is that consumers are aware of the differences and are not confused.
If no objections are made, the new Decree will be published and come into force 3 months following the notification date of 23 August 2023 although there will likely be a transition period. When the new Decree is published, businesses will need to swiftly adapt, to still market their products in a way that will appeal to the growing number of plant-based consumers.
How can Leatherhead Food Research help?
Keeping track of changing national legislation such as the impact of this potential French Decree is a key priority for food and beverage companies operating across international markets. Working with Leatherhead’s global team for your regulatory horizon scanning ensures you are aware of potential upcoming changes in the regions you operate and will ensure you can plan with confidence that your products and new developments will meet regulations now and in the future. Please get in touch at [email protected]. Leatherhead’s experienced team of scientists and regulatory experts, including former regulators and industry advocates, can support you every step of the way.