France Bans Use of Meat-Related Words to Describe Vegan Food Products

This story is part of Treehugger's news archive. Learn more about our news archiving process or read our latest news.
CC BY 2.0. vegan baking

No more veggie bacon or vegan cheese. Those nouns are now reserved for foods of animal origin.

The French government has recently banned the use of meat-related names to describe vegetarian and vegan foods. The bill states that food producers will no longer be allowed to call products 'steak,' 'sausage,' or other meat-related terms if they do not contain animal products. The rules apply to dairy, as well, meaning no more vegan cheese or soy milk. Failure to comply will result in up to a €300,000 fine.

The BBC reports that the regulation was "tabled in the form of an amendment to an agriculture bill, proposed by a farmer MP," who argued that these names are confusing for consumers. On Twitter, Jean Baptiste Moreau wrote (translated from French and edited for clarity):

"The adoption of my amendment is to better inform the consumer about their food! It is important to fight against false allegations; our products must be designated correctly. Cheese or steak terms will be reserved for products of animal origin!"

According to the Independent, Moreau based his argument on the fact that the European Court of Justice ruled last year that soya and tofu products could not be marketed as milk or butter within the EU.

Reactions are mixed. Some people say it's absurd to think that customers would be confused by vegan alternatives:

"This is ridiculous. I can tell you now no carnivore has ever bought veggie sausages or Quorn thinking they were buying meat."

On the other hand, mix-ups do happen. I've purchased vegan sour cream by accident without realizing it was made by Tofutti; it turned out to be delicious, but it is disconcerting to have the same name on an entirely different product.

The ruling could be a sign that the French meat industry is feeling threatened by the rise of plant-based alternatives. A similar debate is underway in the United States right now, where the U.S. Cattlemen's Association is pushing for a similar ban from the Department of Agriculture, saying the use of meat-related names on vegan products is misleading.

Wendy Higgins of Humane Society International dislikes the ruling, telling the Independent:

"It’s a shame that instead of embracing vegan and vegetarian food, France has adopted a position of defensive paranoia. But ultimately it won’t stop the rise of compassionate eating because the delicious, nutritious, Earth-friendly and ethical benefits will prevail regardless of what you call the products.”

I've come to think that the name doesn't really matter. Sure, it makes things easier for new vegans figuring out how to cook, but, as Higgins says, it won't stop the growth of plant-based eating. We need to give vegans more credit; they're passionate, determined people, and the absence of veggie meatballs and bacon will not deter them from doing what they believe in so strongly. As for the name, why call something the opposite of what it is, the very thing people are seeking to avoid? There must be other, better words out there.