Just weeks after France banned the use of the word 'meat' on vegan food products, the country's highest court overturned the decision after pressure from plant-based companies and consumers who fought the new labeling law.

The French court determined that the ban failed to give plant-based companies appropriate time to comply with the new restrictions. Several plant-based organizations lobbied against the decision including ProVeg International and Proteines France – a consortium of businesses aiming to enhance France’s plant-based industry.

This ruling is an interim order, meaning that it is unclear how the courts and governments will adapt or disband the labeling restrictions. PrvoVeg international welcomed the suspension, revealing that the court expressed “serious doubts” about the ban’s legal standing.

“We are delighted to hear that the French Conseil d’Etat has decided to suspend the decree prohibiting names for plant-based products,” ProVeg Vice President Jasmijn de Boo said. “Plant-based foods are part of the solution to tackling the climate crisis and any regulation should actively support their sale and marketing, not hamper it.”

The legislation intended to ban all plant-based companies in France from using meat-related terms such as “bacon” and “steak.” Proprietors of the new restrictions claim that the ban is designed to prevent “consumer confusion,” but those in opposition believe the ban will only hurt France’s growing plant-based industry and consumers.

Protéines Frances lobbied the French high court, claiming that the business impacted by the ban were not given enough notice to rebrand and redirect their advertising platforms. The consortium includes major brands such as Avril, Groupement Les Mousquetaries, and the world’s largest food maker, Nestle.

“Many steps are necessary to change the name of a product, such as the development of new denominations and brand universe, carrying out consumer surveys and the filing of brands for protection, as well as the production of new packaging,” Protéines France released in a statement. “By suspending the decree, the Conseil d’Etat recognizes the impossibility for operators to be able to comply with it on October 1, 2022. As a result, products containing vegetable proteins can continue to be marketed under the current names.”

France’s Ban on “Meat”

Published on June 30, the ban immediately faced harsh criticism from plant-baed brands with home bases in France. The new limitations impacted exclusively French producers, forcing companies to either relocate or compete with international brands free to brand with meat-related terms. French bacon company La Vie released a statement that this ban would force the company out of France.

“You won’t see anything more delusional today,” CEO of La Vie Nicolas Schweitzer posted on social media. “After pushing for the reindustrialization of France, the government has just passed a decree pushing us to relocate.”

South Africa and Turkey Attack Plant-Based Industry

France’s proposed ban closely followed a similar labeling restriction enacted in South Africa. This June, the South African government ruled that food manufacturers could not use “meaty” names for plant-based foods. The ruling explained that companies could no longer use terms such as “vegan nuggets” or “plant-based meatballs” to describe the food products. The South African government claims the new regulation is meant to minimize consumer confusion.

“Regulations such as this is exactly what we don’t need when the world’s scientists are telling us we urgently need to reduce our meat consumption to help brake dangerous global warming,” ProVeg South Africa’s country director Donovan Will said. “The regulation disrespects consumers. There is no evidence to show that people are confused by meaty names for plant-based foods. In fact, evidence from Australia, Europe, and the US prove they are not confused. We really urge the government to overturn this regulation.”

In Turkey, the plant-based industry is facing a more severe ban. The Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry announced a ban on selling and producing all vegan cheese. The new restriction will make Turkey one of the least vegan-friendly countries worldwide. Vegan organizations are attempting to reverse the ban, including The Vegan Association of Turkey (TVD). The TVD filed a lawsuit against the government to defend the rights of plant-based brands and manufacturers in Turkey.

Miyoko’s Victory Against Dairy Industry

Within the United States, California’s Department of Food and Agriculture attempted to enact a similar ban on vegan dairy labels, but vegan pioneer Miyoko Schinner sued the CDFA with the help of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and won. Schinner set a precedent for the U.S., allowing plant-based brands to retain their labeling rights.

Despite Schinner’s victory, the Dairy Pride Act is circulating on a federal level. Backed by the dairy industry, the act would restrict the use of “milk” and dairy-associated terms for the benefit of the dairy industry.

For more plant-based happenings, visit The Beet's News articles. 

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