Ban on meat-like names for plant based meats

The South African government is cracking down on the way producers of plant-based meat alternatives market their products. In essence, they can’t call them “meat” or use terms associated with meat.

Bizcommunity reported that the ruling comes in a directive from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD). For products it terms “meat analogues” it bans terms such as “mushroom biltong”, “plant-based meatballs”, “vegan nuggets” or “chorizo and red pepper vegetarian sausages”.

The department sent a communique to “all processors, importers and retailers of meat analogues”. It instructed that they “must not use the product names prescribed and reserved for processed meat products”.

Predictably, the instruction has been both praised and criticised. The Bizcommunity report called it “heavy-handed” and quoted food awareness organisation ProVeg South Africa saying it was an “extreme interpretation” of existing regulations.

On the other hand, farming portal reported that the directive would prevent plant-based alternatives being marketed as meat, dairy or egg. It would protect the integrity of livestock products and stop the public being misled by “anti-livestock activists and companies”.

In a lengthy report on the dispute, the Daily Maverick said the clampdown could be economically crippling for producers of vegan and vegetarian products, because they will be required to re-label goods – many of which have a short and sensitive shelf life – at significant cost, or face the destruction of the goods and other sanctions.

This looks like the start of a long battle. Modern science is enabling the production of a variety of alternatives, from lab-grown beef and chicken to plant-based hamburger patties. How they are named and promoted is going to provoke some meaty discussions.