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Terms like steak and ham cannot be used for plant protein, says France

France issues new ban on meat names for plant protein to placate farmers

A meat burger used for representational purpose only.
A meat burger used for representational purpose only. (Photo by Deivis Sandoval, Pexels)

France on Tuesday issued a ban on using terms like steak and ham for plant protein products, a second attempt by the government to regulate meat alternatives as it tries to assuage livestock producers who have been at the heart of farmer protests.

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A growing market for plant-based protein products has riled a French livestock sector facing a steady loss of cattle farms and stiff competition from cheaper imported meat.

France became the first country in the European Union curb use of traditional meat names for plant protein in mid-2022, but the measure was blocked by an administrative court as being too vague and not giving companies enough time to adapt.

The government published a new decree on Tuesday, applicable in three months, that bans the use of 21 meat names to describe protein-based products and limits the amount of plant content in products that use certain other terms like bacon and chorizo.

However, some traditional meat terms like burger were not covered by the restrictions.

Meat industry association Interbev welcomed the move, with its president Jean-François Guihard saying in an emailed statement that "it is crucial to maintain a clear distinction between these processed (plant) products and traditional meat products."

In contrast, French company La Vie, which produces pork-style products from plant protein, said in a statement that consumers were not confused by labelling and that the measure, which only applies to food manufactured in France, would favour imports.

The government had also chosen not to wait for a ruling from the European Court of Justice, to which France's top administrative court referred the matter after the previous decree was suspended, La Vie added.

A struggling livestock sector has been a major theme in weeks of demonstrations by farmers in France, with tensions spilling over on Saturday when President Emmanuel Macron opened the annual Paris agricultural fair.

French farmers like their colleagues across the EU have become increasingly irked at falling prices, foreign competition and environmental regulation.

The restrictions on using meat names for plant protein forms part of a French government plan to revive livestock farming, also including a tax break on the value of herds.

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