Why are countries banning plant-based foods from using “meat”-like words?

Posted on the 25th July 2022

Recently there has been a resurgence of countries banning vegan and plant-based foods from using words like ‘burger’, ‘milk’ and ‘cheese’.

The South African Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) has imposed a very strict ban, which means plant-based products cannot use words such as ‘nuggets’ and ‘vegetarian sausages’. The Department has even threatened to seize JUST Egg products from supermarkets. An edict sent out by the department in June instructs the Food Safety Agency to remove plant-based products using “names that are traditionally refer to animal-based products” from shelves.

Similarly, France has recently passed a law, which bans the use of ‘meat’ names such as “steak” and “sausage” on plant-based products. The ban comes into force in October. Strangely, the ban does not include the word “burger”, and only includes French produced products, not imports.

Read our comments on the French law, from when it was first proposed in 2018

A similar law focusing on vegan cheese has recently come into force in Turkey. Article 9/3 of the Turkish Food Codex Regulation bans the production of plant-based cheese, and according to the Vegan Association of Turkey, it also prevents the production and sale of any product that is considered to resemble conventional cheese, even if the word ‘cheese’ is not used in its name or marketing. This has resulted in plant-based companies being heavily fined, and the Vegan Association of Turkey taking the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture to court.

Sign the Vegan Association of Turkey’s petition

Banning plant-based products and companies from using these terms has nothing to do with consumer protection, which is often the justification for these bans. Consumers know that when they pick up a product which reads “Vegan Sausages” that those products do not contain meat. This justification doesn’t credit consumers with much intelligence. The fact remains that nobody is confused by such terms – the research is overwhelming in this regard.

So why do they do it?

It is clear that the real reason for this censorship is that the rise in the popularity of veganism and plant-based foods is considered, by some, as a threat to the meat and dairy industries. These industries, which are built on animal exploitation and environmental degradation are starting to worry that the public realise this and will instead opt for more vegan food.

The rise in the popularity of vegan food and plant-based eating will continue because it better for animals and the planet. The world’s leading climate change experts and organisations have long since called for a shift to more plant-based diets; the carbon footprint of a vegan diet can be as much as 60 per cent smaller than a meat-based one. Banning and censoring the labelling of plant-based products and companies will not change this.

 

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