Courtesy of Impossible Foods

The country has new rules about how vegetarian food can be labeled. 

Elisabeth Sherman
April 23, 2018

In America, a familiar debate rages on as vegan and vegetarian products begin to filter into the mainstream, from the Impossible burger to every type of plant and nut-based milk you can imagine (even pea milk): What should this new class of food call itself? Can it still be a ‘burger’ if it’s not made with meat? In the states, we still haven’t decided, but France has chosen to take a stand on behalf of meat products: The country recently banned vegetarian food from being labeled with terms usually reserved for meat.

According to a report from the Independent, the French government made the decision citing concerns that products labeled as, for instance, “vegetarian sausages,” might mislead consumers. That means that from now on, you won’t see any “burgers” made with beans or fake meat labeled as such in grocery stores or at restaurants in France.

The same goes for dairy products, like milk and cheese. Unless it’s actually made with milk from a cow (or other farm animals) it can’t be called milk. Non-dairy drinks will have to be called “nut beverages,” or something similar.

While it might seem unlikely that any shopper would mistake a vegetarian sausage for one with actual meat in it, people have sued companies for less (a woman once sued Jelly Belly claiming she didn’t know the candy contained sugar) so perhaps there is some risk of confusion.

The French MP who introduced the law argued that it would merely make language used describe food more precise, which would, in turn, make it easier for consumers to find exactly what they’re looking for. 

However, one advocate from the Humane Society International called France’s newly formed position “defensive paranoia.” As the popularity of meat and dairy alternatives keeps growing, it seems as though the debate about how to market those foods to consumers will continue to be a contentious issue.