France’s Top Administrative Court Suspends Ban on “Steak” Labeling for Plant-Based Products

France’s ongoing debate over the labeling of plant-based meat alternatives has reached a significant juncture, as the country’s highest administrative court suspended a decree aimed at banning terms like “steak” from such products. The initial decree, issued by the government in February, targeted 21 meat-related terms, including “spare rib,” “ham,” “escalope,” and “butcher.”

Scheduled to take effect on May 1, 2024, the decree faced scrutiny over its legality and practical enforceability. The Conseil d’État, France’s administrative court, expressed doubts about the ban’s legality, prompting its suspension pending review by the European Union’s Court of Justice.

Critics argue that such bans could confuse consumers and undermine efforts towards sustainable and healthy food systems. While meat and dairy companies have raised concerns about potential consumer confusion, there’s little evidence to support their claims.

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France’s move to ban meat-related terms from plant-based products mirrors similar efforts in Belgium and a proposal rejected by the European Parliament in 2021. As more Europeans adopt plant-based diets for health and environmental reasons, the debate surrounding labeling regulations intensifies.

Nicholas Schweitzer, CEO of French vegan bacon innovator La Vie, denounced the proposed ban as “complete nonsense,” arguing that it contradicts France’s official priorities of combating global warming and promoting industrial growth.

The suspension of the decree reflects broader tensions between traditional and alternative food industries, underscoring the complexities of regulating plant-based products in a rapidly evolving market. As stakeholders await further legal developments, the future of labeling for plant-based alternatives remains uncertain in France and across the European Union.


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