Stricter requirements for the production and labeling of plant-based food


In June and July, as many as three countries in the world introduced labeling or production restrictions for herbal products. Much-criticized national-level decisions have been made in France, Turkey and South Africa. Two other countries, Belgium and the United States, are also considering related tightening. What requirements have already come into force and what does this mean for producers and consumers?

Resisted at European Union level, but implemented at national level

Various proposals to tighten the labeling of herbal products are constantly being heard. Currently, any names related to milk or its products are prohibited in the European Union, if their origin is not of animal origin. In the 2020s, the community tried to introduce similar restrictions for plant-based meat products, which would prevent them from being called meat-based names, but at that time the European Parliament did not approve of the strictures and the possibility of calling plant-based products as such remained. 

However, this does not stop individual European Union countries try to introduce such or similar restrictions at national level. At the beginning of July, it was announced that in France from October of this year it will be forbidden to call plant products "sausages", "burgers", "steaks" and similar meaty names. Meda Šermukšnė, head of the non-governmental organization "Gyvi gali", says that such examples of some countries can encourage other countries to take the following decisions that are not useful for plant-based food consumers and producers: "In 2020, there was a huge resistance to the implementation of the so-called plant-based burger ban (English ,Veggie Burger Ban) on a European scale. Unfortunately, it seems that some individual countries did not listen to the strong arguments against this ban and decided to try take a different path."

True, just three weeks after this ban was announced, it was suspended by the highest court of France. But lately similar strictures were hinted at in the Belgian parliament, although, according to non-governmental organizations investigation, consumers are not misled by such labeling. Even 96 % out of almost 23 thousand respondents knew that plant-based sausage does not contain animal meat.

Similar bans are implemented in other continents

European countries are not the only ones that have taken similar restrictions recently. Just a month ago, the tightening of meat names for plant products was announced in South Africa. There, retail giant Woolworths has also been asked to remove Just Egg, which produces plant-based egg products, from its shelves. 

Also, since 2018, as many as 26 states in the US have introduced one or another tightening of plant products. For example, currently in the state of Kansas, all plant-based meat products must have a label on their packaging stating that the product does not contain animal meat. Also, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food and Drug Administration) is going to publish plant-based food labeling recommendations this summer, which will presumably not be favorable to the producers of this production. 

Turkey's strictures are the strongest

In Turkey, it was already forbidden to call plant-based cheeses cheese, but now the restrictions here have become perhaps the strictest in the world. The Official Turkish Gazette of February 19, 2022 (Chapter Three, Article 9) states that products that imitate cheese cannot be made using vegetable oil or other ingredients. Therefore, the production and sale of such products in Turkey is prohibited from now on.

As a result of these bans, companies have had to close their factories and some of them say that the ban will mean bankruptcy for them. Some manufacturers are already facing fines and are fighting over them in court. It is true that the organization "The Vegan Association of Turkey" sued the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Turkey for the introduction of this ban. Representatives of the non-governmental organization hope that the ban can still be lifted.

What does this mean for producers and consumers?

The most common reason given for such strictures is to reduce consumer confusion. However, as mentioned earlier, research shows that the absolute majority of users are not fooled by this. In addition, it not only complicates various processes for manufacturers, but also prevents the popularization of products that are much more useful to consumers. Plant-based products require fewer resources to produce, are more sustainable and often healthier than their animal-based counterparts. 

M. Šermukšnė, head of the "Gyvi gali" organization, says that the producers of plant products should be encouraged, not the other way around: "The changing climate, deteriorating human health, mass exploitation of animals should encourage us to look for more sustainable solutions and create mechanisms that support the implementers of such solutions . It is disappointing to observe that on the one hand we talk about the importance of environmental protection, but on the other hand we restrict those who contribute to the transformation of one of the most polluting industries into a more sustainable, healthier and safer one for all of us." She also adds that despite certain restrictions and changing requirements, plant-based the popularity and sales of the products are growing rapidly in the world.

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