Plant-based burger and sausage products remain safe for now on supermarket shelves

The Food Safety Agency wanted plant-based products named as burgers and sausages to be removed from shelves in stores. Photo: AP

The Food Safety Agency wanted plant-based products named as burgers and sausages to be removed from shelves in stores. Photo: AP

Published Aug 21, 2022


The plant-based food sector is celebrating a temporary win after urgent legal efforts on behalf of the industry at the Johannesburg High Court on Friday, which proved successful in halting product seizures.

The legal efforts aimed to prevent the Food Safety Agency (FSA) from actioning the seizure of thousands of plant-based meat alternatives from retailers across the country for using product terms such as “burger”, “nugget”, and “sausage”.

The seizures were scheduled to take place from 22 August 2022.

This ruling prohibits the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) and its designated assignee, FSA, from seizing any plant-based meat alternatives they deemed to be in breach of Regulation 1283 of the Agricultural Product Standards Act 199 of 1990, “the APS Act”.

This comes after a letter sent out by the FSA on 16 August indicating that, as of 22 August, the agency “will seize any meat analogue products presented for sale in SA, which are using the product names prescribed for processed meat products in terms ... of the Agricultural Product Standards Act”.

The action on behalf of the plant-based food industry is supported by local food awareness organisation ProVeg South Africa, the local branch of ProVeg International, and several of its stakeholders in the plant-based food sector.

ProVeg says it has also been in discussion with their legal support at Lawtons Attorneys, who have offered assistance to the movement.

“Although we welcome the decision by the court, we would like to reiterate our call for further dialogue as we still believe that this matter should be settled through discussion between the plant-based food industry, DALLRD and the meat industry.” Donovan Will, ProVeg South Africa Country Director, said.

This matter follows a June directive from DALRRD to processors, importers and retailers of plant-based meat alternatives giving them only 30 business days to remove their products from shelves for relabelling or face seizures.

According to the regulation, the FSA is the designated assignee in charge of product seizures in terms of section 8 (“Seizures”) of the APS Act.

ProVeg South Africa and numerous businesses sought multiple industry-wide discussions with DALRRD and the FSA to halt seizures and develop new and appropriate legislation for plant-based meat alternatives.

Unfortunately, industry-wide discussions have not been possible and all diplomatic efforts by the plant-based food industry have not led to amenable results.