The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development has banned the use of meat-related words in plant-based or vegan product names.
Products which carry names such as vegan veggie biltong, plant-based meatballs, vegan nuggets, and plant-based bratwurst are among those to get the chop as they do not meet the definition of processed meat.
The department informed processors, retailers and importers of meat-alternative products of the decision and of product names affected on 22 June.
According to the department, words like ‘nuggets’, ‘ribs and ‘biltong’ are reserved for processed meat products only and cannot be used for plant-based products of a similar nature. It has instructed the SA Food Safety Agency that any plant-based products using names that traditionally refer to animal-based products must be taken off the shelves.
The new policy comes after years of lobbying by the South African Meat Processors Association (SAMPA) which argued that using meaty names for meat alternative products was misleading to the consumer.
SAMPA CEO Peter Gordon told FoodNavigator.com that the association’s position had been consistent and clear regarding plant-based product names and descriptions should not “ride on the back of existing animal protein products or be misleading to the consumer.”
Donovan Will, country director at ProVeg South Africa, criticised the new regulations, saying they were “exactly what we don’t need when the world’s scientists are telling us we urgently need to reduce our meat consumption to help brake dangerous global warming”.
“The regulation also disrespects consumers. There is no evidence to show that people are confused by meaty names for plant-based foods. In fact, evidence from Australia, Europe and the US prove they are not confused,” he said.
ProVeg is an international food-awareness organisation working to transform the global food system by replacing conventional animal-based products with plant-based and cultured alternatives.
ProVeg works with international decision-making bodies, governments, food producers, investors, the media and the general public to help the world transition to a society and economy that are less dependent on animal agriculture and more sustainable for humans, animals, and the planet.
The body said governments needed to consult the plant-based sector before passing any further labelling regulations that prevent plant-based foods from using “meaty” names, because these restrictions were counter-productive.
Several countries have applied restrictions to plant-based foods in the past few weeks, including South Africa, France and Turkey. Further restrictions are being considered in Belgium and the United States.
“These regulations are counter-productive and based on misunderstandings,” said Jasmijn de Boo, vice president of ProVeg International.
“Plant-based foods are a vital key to solving the climate crisis as well as ensuring economic growth,” she said.
“Many meat and dairy companies themselves know this, which is why they are investing in both plant-based and animal-based foods, and in some cases switching to plant-based foods entirely.”
The names of meat alternative products cited in the document, addressed to processors, importers and retailers of meat analogues include:
• Vegan/veggie biltong
• Mushroom biltong
• Plant-based meatballs
• Vegan nuggets
• Vegan BBQ ribs
• Plant-based bratwurst
• Chorizo and red pepper vegetarian sausages
• Plant-based chicken-style strips