France Bans the Use of the Terms ‘Sausage’ or ‘Steak’ for Plant-Based Alternatives: A Controversial Decree

French decree banning the terms steak and sausage from plant-based alternatives

Announced by the French government in September 2023, the decree banning the use of meat-based names for plant proteins was published on Tuesday 27 February 2024.

In a decree under debate since 2022, France has taken a bold but controversial step: banning the use of the terms ‘sausage’, ‘bacon’ or ‘steak’ to describe plant-based alternatives. This measure, while intended to clarify food terminology, raises significant concerns about its potential implications, both at national and European level.

The context of the Decree

France’s decision comes against a backdrop of increasing debate over the terminology of plant-based foods. With the growing popularity of vegetarian and vegan diets, many companies have developed meat alternatives that mimic the taste and texture of animal products. However, this has also led to controversy over how these products should be labelled and marketed. This ban only applies to foodstuffs produced in France, leaving products from abroad free to use these banned names when they are marketed in France.

The day after the publication of the decree, HappyVore, the number two french plant-based meat producer, believes that “this measure creates unequal treatment between French and foreign companies, thereby hindering competition and innovation in the market for plant-based alternatives. By targeting only companies producing in France, this decree runs counter to French agriculture, which sells its harvests to French manufacturers. On the contrary, it is European manufacturers who are then favoured on the French market. This puts local players at a disadvantage and hampers their ability to innovate to meet the growing demand for a more plant-based diet“, lament Guillaume Dubois and Cédric Meston, co-founders of Happyvore.

For Nicolas Schweitzer, co-founder and director of the La Vie brand, “this decree is totally out of step with the country’s ambitions in terms of reindustrialisation and climate. Under the guise of transparency for consumers, this decision puts the brakes on the ecological transition and jeopardises a booming local industry. With its agricultural and culinary assets, France has everything it takes to become a key player in plant proteins“.

Key points of the Decree

The French decree, passed by Parliament on 15 September 2023, stipulates that only products of animal origin may be labelled with terms such as “sausage” or “steak”. Plant-based alternatives must use distinct names that do not imply confusion with meat-based products. For example, veggie burgers can be labelled as “veggie patties” only.

List of prohibited terms :

  • Filet
  • Entrecôte
  • Aiguillette
  • Bifteck
  • Steak
  • Escalope
  • Tendron
  • Grillade
  • Travers
  • Jambon
  • Boucher/Bouchère
  • Charcutier/Charcutière
  • Sausisson
  • Saucisse
  • Rillettes
  • Nuggets
  • Lardons
  • Cordeau Bleu
  • Omelette

Challenges to overcome

A major concern is the need for harmonisation of regulations within the EU. Clear and consistent guidelines on plant food terminology are essential to ensure a transparent and fair European market. Without them, companies could face logistical and legal problems when seeking to market their products in several countries. Despite all this, while veggie burgers and wheat nuggets have been on the European market for more than 50 years, it is only in 2024 that they are upsetting the meat industry, and only in France… Some believe that this event will launch a wave of even wackier claims about alternative products, however original or amusing. Get your pencils ready!

Application date of the Decree

The Decree came into force on Tuesday 27 February 2024, meaning that manufacturers and retailers had to adapt their labelling and marketing practices in line with the new requirements for French market.

In conclusion, the French decree banning the use of the terms ‘sausage’ or ‘steak’ for plant-based alternatives is provoking mixed reactions and raising concerns about its implications in France and Europe. As the issue of plant-based food terminology continues to divide, it is imperative that governments and European institutions work together to develop clear and consistent regulations that promote both innovation and transparency in the food market.