Have you ever been duped by a box of frozen “burgers” that turn out to be veggie? Have you ever gawked at a package of “vegetarian bacon” and wondered aloud in the supermarket what it could possibly be made of? Well, you’re not alone and now it looks like France has had enough too. They’ve passed new legislation that prohibits companies from using meat words to describe products that aren’t of animal origin.
That means veggie “burgers,” meatless “bacon,” vegan “sausage” and cauliflower “steaks” are all off the table. In fact, brand a vegetarian product with a meaty word and you could be facing a hefty €300,000 ($470,000) fine. That’s quite the penalty for a little branding.
A French MP and farmer proposed the new legislation with the explanation that products with packaging that uses words commonly associated with meat is misleading for consumers. He tweeted his delight after the bill passed last week.
✅🥩🧀Adoption de mon amendement pour mieux informer le #consommateur sur son alimentation!Il est important de lutter contre les fausses allégations:nos produits doivent être désignés correctement:les termes de #fromage ou de #steak seront réservés aux produits d’origine animale! pic.twitter.com/E8SQ61cjaT
— Jean Baptiste Moreau (@moreaujb23) April 19, 2018
“It is important to combat false claims,” he wrote, “Our products must be designated correctly: the terms of #cheese or #steak will be reserved for products of animal origin.”
The ban will also cover vegan alternatives to dairy products that were formerly branded with dairy-style names. That means no more almond “milk” or vegan “cheese.” Last year, a ruling by a European Union court found that these non-dairy-dairy-named products were misleading and unacceptable but this puts the precedent into law (and adds a severe monetary deterrent).
Reactions to the new laws have been mixed. Some people are delighted that they will no longer have to puzzle over “steaks” that aren’t steak. There’s something to be said for making food labeling clear and informative.
Goodbye cauliflower steaks….. Go France for leading the way on how it should be 🇷🥩🧀https://t.co/oheMrJYPPY
— Lauren Dean (@FGlaurendean) April 25, 2018
We can only hope that Canada and the US will follow suit! “France to ban terms like ‘bacon’ and ‘steak’ on meat substitutes”. https://t.co/CTioL3zA2p
— Doug Helm (@DhelmBeefGuy) April 24, 2018
YES. Vegetarian food is great but when it masquerades as meat it is not okay and this is a hill I will die on. https://t.co/mRTxzDy5uy
— Alex Boyd (@alex_n_boyd) April 20, 2018
Others – self-proclaimed vegetarians/vegans/animal rights advocates, in particular – were not happy about the change. There were some arguments that the law is a “rejection” of veganism. Then there were the much loftier arguments of “if you’re going to ban this type of branding, shouldn’t you also ban calling meat ‘humane.’” And now we’re having the vegetarian debate again. Cool.
France has banned the use of terms traditionally associated with meat in describing vegetarian and vegan products. Could this ban have less to do with transparency and more to do with rejecting veganism? 🌱https://t.co/OszhbHwtTy
— ACE (@AnimalCharityEv) April 26, 2018
If France are going to ban veggie sausages being called sausages because it’s misleading advertising then can we ban labelling meat as free range and humane 🤷🏻♀
— esme (@esmewinonamae) April 22, 2018
— Animal Aid (@AnimalAid) April 28, 2018
The new French legislation is an interesting case study in the ethics of product labeling, but it also begs the question: were there seriously scores of people purchasing veggie alternatives assuming they were really meat?