France Just Suspended Its Ban On Words Like ‘Steak’ For Plant Foods

France was set to ban "meaty" words on plant-based food labels


3 Minutes Read

Photo shows a young Asian woman shopping amongst refrigerated supermarket shelves France will not ban "meaty" words like steak on plant-based food labels after all - Media Credit: Adobe Stock

France just reversed its ban on using the word “steak” on plant-based food labels.

Read more: Plans To Ban ‘Meaty’ Vegan Labels On Hold In Belgium

The country’s top administrative court has now suspended a decree initially issued by France’s government in February to ban the word steak from plant-based meat labeling. (In French, a meat-free burger patty might be described as a “veggie steak”.)

If successful, the decree would have been active from May 1, 2024, just a few weeks away. In addition to the word steak, it included 20 additional terms typically associated with cuts of meat and animal proteins, such as “spare rib,” “ham,” “escalope,” and the phrase “butcher.”

In 2022, France’s administrative court, the Conseil d’État, suspended a similar decree following public pressure exerted by plant-based companies based in France, and due to concerns it was too vague to be practically enforceable – or even legal.

On Wednesday, the state council said once again that there was “a serious doubt over the legality of such a ban,” and that it would remain suspended until the European Union’s Court of Justice could review the decree and rule one way or the other.

Read more: More Than Half Of Europeans Are Cutting Down Meat, Study Finds

France’s ban on meaty words for plant-based foods ‘complete nonsense’

Photo shows stacks of plant-based meat products in refrigerated supermarket shelves
Adobe Stock Combining traditionally meaty words with descriptors like “plant-based” and “vegan” on food labels likely helps shoppers choose products

Meat and dairy companies have long complained over the plant-based sector’s use of words traditionally associated with animal products, citing potential confusion for consumers. However, there is little evidence to support this, and critics suggest that removing familiar words like steak, sausage, and burger would actively confuse shoppers.

Belgium recently put a similar ban on hold, and in 2021 the European Parliament voted against a proposal to ban meaty terms from plant-based products. More than half of Europeans are now cutting down on meat amid continent-wide and national pushes towards sustainable, healthy, and equitable food systems via plant-based diets.

Nicholas Schweitzer, CEO of French vegan bacon innovator La Vie previously told Plant Based News (PBN) that any national ban on labels using such words – which would by definition only apply to companies producing foods within France – would be “complete nonsense.”

“This law is going completely in the opposite direction of two official priorities of the French government: the fight against global warming and the reindustrialization of France,” said Schweitzer.

Read more: Meat-Eaters Prefer Not To See Animals On Meat Labels, Research Finds

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