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France rejects the decree that bans plant-based meat from being called steak

The Council of State said NO to the ban which was supposed to come into force on May 1st

This time we Italians have the advantage. We are not talking about the Tour de France but about the fight against food counterfeiting which also involves taking a stand against synthetic meat. And so, while in Italy not only the law against Frankenstein meat has already been approved but also the one that prohibits meat sounding, that is, it prohibits calling something that comes from cultivated organisms a steak, France hesitates. This is attested by the French Council of State which, once again, suspended a government decree that proposed to ban food producers from using plant-based meat denominations.

The Supreme Administrative Court said it had "serious doubts about the legality" of the ban, set to come into force on May 1. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the ruling "would cause serious and immediate damage to the interests of producers who exclusively sell this type of product". Last February, the ministry also attempted to ban alternative protein producers from using meat-related terms such as steak, ham, scallop and butcher, among others (see EFA News article). The proposal listed over 100 terms that could be used for animal products containing plant proteins, although these products could only include a certain amount of plant proteins. If manufacturers wanted to use the term bacon, for example, their product could only consist of a maximum of 0.5% vegetable protein. Producers would have had to pay fines of 1,500 Euros to 7,500 Euros for failing to comply with the rules.

Now, however, comes the news of the "niet" from the Council of State which, for the second time, is suspending a decree of this kind in France, with the first dismissal taking place in 2022. Following the first suspension, the Council sent a request of annulment of the decree to the Court of Justice of the EU in July 2023. It is still awaiting a response to this request, expected "in the coming months", according to what the magistrates claim.

The reactions to the Conseil d'Etát's decision were immediate. Obviously, the producers of synthetic meat are satisfied. Nicolas Schweitzer, co-founder and CEO of the La Vie group, which produces plant-based bacon and hams, said: "We are obviously very happy that, once again, the Council of State has decided to suspend this silly decree. War is not is over and that the plant-based industry must remain vigilant". Implying, therefore, that French meat lobbyists will continue to push for the implementation of the ban in the future.

Cedric Meston, co-founder of meat alternatives brand HappyVore, also described the decision as a "win" for the category, in a post on LinkedIn. "In fact -he says- the point that worried us most was the creation of unfair competition between companies that produce in France and those that produce abroad". By suspending the decree, the Council of State chooses in particular to go in the direction of the reindustrialization of France, an important axis in the priorities of current politics. We have fought, and will continue to do so if necessary, to safeguard French industry, our jobs and our agriculture".

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EFA News - European Food Agency