Global restrictions on plant-based food labelling are counter-productive, says NGO
12 July 2022
ProVeg International calls on Governments to consult plant-based sector before imposing draconian labelling rules
Governments need to consult the plant-based sector before passing any further labelling regulations that prevent plant-based foods from using “meaty” names, because these restrictions are counter-productive.
Several countries have applied restrictions to plant-based foods in the past few weeks, including South Africa, France and Turkey. Further restrictions are being considered in Belgium and the United States.
“These regulations are counter-productive and based on misunderstandings,” Jasmijn de Boo, Vice-President of ProVeg International, said.
“Plant-based foods are a vital key to solving the climate crisis as well as ensuring economic growth. Many meat and dairy companies themselves know this, which is why they are investing in both plant-based and animal-based foods, and in some cases switching to plant-based foods entirely,” she said.
The latest restrictions from South Africa and France ban “meaty” names for plant-based foods, whilst a regulation introduced in Turkey bans the sale of foods that seek to imitate cheese.
“Some laggards in the livestock industry are pushing for these regulations, or protesting against measures to curb nitrogen emissions, such as in the Netherlands and Belgium because they are desperately clinging onto the past when both the global population – and meat production’s impact – was much smaller,” de Boo said.
“We can no longer continue down this path as we will destroy vast tracts of our planet in an attempt to provide a diet based on animal agriculture to the 10 billion people who will populate the Earth in 2050,” she added.
Below are a list of restrictions that are being considered or have been introduced, mostly this year:
An inquiry by an Australian Senate committee issued a report in February 2022 which handed down a series of recommendations restricting the use of “meaty” names for plant-based products, reflecting concerns expressed by the meat industry that such labelling is misleading. ProVeg is encouraging Australia to use labelling policy to encourage plant-based food.
Under guidelines due to be published this Summer, names such as “vegetarian mince meat” and “plant-based chicken pieces” would be banned on the Belgian market. ProVeg has already told the Belgian government that the guidelines disrespect consumers because there is no evidence of confusion caused by labelling.
A ruling by the European Court of Justice in 2017 clarified that plant-based dairy products such as “oat milk” and “soya yoghurt” could not use regulated dairy designations. This was based on existing regulations protecting the EU milk and milk products sector, which are covered by EU Regulation 1308/2013 on the common organisation of the agricultural markets (also known as Agricultural Product Standards Regulation (APS Regulation)). A proposed EU amendment to further restrict the use of plant-based dairy was taken off the table in 2021.
Whilst a new restriction on the naming of plant-based products referred to as the “veggie burger ban” was proposed by some MEPs in Europe in 2019, it was defeated in the European Parliament in 2020 after a sustained campaign by ProVeg International and many other groups.
Under a decree published in June 2022, France plans to ban the use of terms such as “steak” and “sausage” for plant-based foods. The law is due to come into force in October 2022 and it will make France the first country in the EU to impose such restrictions.The French rule only applies to products manufactured on French territory but not to imports. French farming associations want the ruling extended to the rest of the EU. In the meantime, the French situation would create unfair trading standards within the Common Market. A legal challenge is likely in September/October.
The South African Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) imposed a ban on “meaty” names for plant-based meat alternatives in June 2022. Words such as “veggie biltong”, “mushroom biltong”, “plant-based meatballs” and “vegan nuggets” are banned because they do not meet the definition of “processed meat” under the country’s Regulation No R1283. ProVeg argues this contradicts the consumer’s understanding of plant-based alternatives, as they mimic the use, taste and structure of their meat analogues. The DALRRD has ordered retail giant Woolworths to remove egg alternative product, JUST Egg, from the shelves.
Legislation already states that plant-based products can not be called “cheese”. However, legislation published in the Official Gazette of Turkey on 19th February 2022, (third section, within Article 9), states that “products that give the impression of cheese cannot be produced using vegetable oil or other food ingredients.” So both the sale and production of vegan cheese is now banned in Turkey. In June 2022, producers of vegan cheese announced they could no longer sell their products and that factories will be inspected. Producers of vegan cheese are expected to go bankrupt in light of this legislative change.
Since 2018, 26 states have introduced bills that would prohibit the labelling of plant-based products as “meat”, many of which faced legal challenges.
- Kansas’ law restricting the labelling of plant-based products was introduced in July 2022. It requires labels of plant-based meat products to use a disclaimer to say they do not contain meat
- Texas’s labelling law restricting plant-based products was approved by state lawmakers in May 2021. This will also apply to cell-cultured meat when it comes to the market over the coming years.
Also in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning this Summer to issue guidance on the labelling of plant-based drinks. It is not expected to be in favour of the plant-based sector.
Below are some of the key reasons for promoting plant-based foods:
- According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, farmed animals are responsible for about 20% of total greenhouse gas emissions and animal agriculture accounts for at least half of all food-related greenhouse gas emissions.
- Research published in Nature Food journal similarly finds that global gas emissions from animal-based foods are twice those of plant-based foods.
- The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has called for a shift to plant-based diets to tackle the climate crisis.
- Worldwide, meat and dairy provides just 18% of calories consumed, but uses 83% of global farmland. Plant-based diets can address this imbalance.
- A study from Bonn University published last month stated that rich countries will need to reduce their meat consumption by up to 75% to meet international climate targets and avoid ecosystem collapse.
- Reducing resource-intensive meat production will help us to feed the 10 billion people expected to be living on our planet in the year 2050.
- Researchers have found that growing food exclusively for direct human consumption, rather than as animal feed and for biofuel production, could potentially increase available food calories by as much as 70%, which could feed an additional 4 billion people.
- Plant-based food production present a lower risk of pandemics, antibiotic resistance and public health issues when compared to the animal agriculture industry.
- Contemporary factory farming causes immense suffering to billions of animals. Every year, 80 billion land animals and 2.3 trillion marine animals are killed or slaughtered for food, while factory farming is responsible for 70% of species extinction.
- Plant-based food provides innovative solutions to the challenges presented by our global food system. Plant-based food is also rapidly improving in taste and choice, allowing for easier transitions from animal-based foods.
Notes to Editors
For media inquiries, contact:
Jasmijn de Boo at [email protected]
About ProVeg International
ProVeg is an international food awareness organisation working to transform the global food system by replacing conventional animal-based products with plant-based and cultured alternatives.
ProVeg works with international decision-making bodies, governments, food producers, investors, the media, and the general public to help the world transition to a society and economy that are less dependent on animal agriculture and more sustainable for humans, animals, and the planet.
ProVeg has permanent-observer status with the UNFCCC, is accredited for UNEA, and has received the United Nations’ Momentum for Change Award.