Plant-based meat products could very soon be removed from South African supermarkets.
As reported by Live Hoursthe state Food Safety Agency (FSA) will seize products labeled with names related to processed meat, such as meatballs, sausages, biltong, etc., starting next Monday (August 22) .
The FSA acts on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, Agrarian Reform and Rural Development. The latter spent a to forbid on plant-based brands using meat-related terms earlier this year.
However, Fry Family Food (known as Fry’s) launched an objection to the ban in July. The brand is the largest plant-based producer in the country.
It submits that, because of the objection, its proceeds cannot be confiscated.
The brand argued that the department should instead “convene a court to assess our objection.”
A formal objection to the ban
The LIVEKINDLY collective owns Fry’s. He released a statement which reads: “In response to the instruction given to Fry’s in early July, LIVEKINDLY Collective Africa (on behalf of Fry’s) filed a formal objection.”
“We followed the procedure set out in the Agricultural Commodities Standards Act which required that we file the objection within 10 days of receiving the instruction.”
He added that, according to the law, the department had to convene a tribunal to assess the objection. The Collective continued: “No legal action, including product seizures, may be brought against Fry’s or LIVEKINDLY Collective Africa in terms of the direction of (the) FSA until this process is completed.”
“So it’s business as usual for all of our brands, products and customers until our objection is finalized. To ensure this is the case, we will also send a formal reminder to the assignee today that any action against our products would be premature and unlawful.
Other plant companies, however, could still see their products seized on Monday.
A letter outlining the FSA’s plan to confiscate the products, dated August 16, said that under the Farm Products Standards Actthe agency will seize plant-based foods that use “prescribed” names for processed meats.
The Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA) said it was “aware of the directive issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development” to “seize similar products to meat using the product names prescribed for processed meat products”.
She added that meat substitutes are currently not covered by current legislation. They are “also excluded from the scope of the processed meat regulations”.
South Africa-based Garth Tavares, known as Cape Town Vegan, said Plant Based News that the decision to seize vegan meat looks like a “witch hunt against the vegan and vegan sectors”.
He added: “I have absolute faith in the vegan community and its ability to stand up to the meat and dairy ‘giants’. To see how much this will affect an already decimated economy is incredibly myopic.
The rise of plant-based meat
Vegan meat substitutes have skyrocketed in popularity over the past few years.
Globally, total consumption fell from 133 million kilograms in 2013 to 470 million kilograms in 2020.
Many meat producers argue that labeling these products with the terms “meat” is confusing to consumers. But herbal brands claim otherwise.
Fry’s Chief Marketing Officer, Tammy Fry, said earlier this year, “Our product descriptions play an important role in helping our consumers understand how to use our products.”
Plant-based meat is widely recognized by experts as more sustainable than its animal-based counterpart. A recent Oxford University study of 57,000 food items, for example, suggests sausages and veggie burgers are up to 10 times better for the planet than meat.
Animal agriculture drives deforestation. Moreover according to the United Nationsit is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The campaign against plant-based meat labels
South Africa is not the first country to try to crack down on plant-based meat.
In 2020, the The EU has ruled that plant-based companies could label their products with terms like “hamburger” or “sausage”. This was after some animal breeders and meat producers presented a measure to prevent them from doing so.
In November last year, Spain rejected the proposals to ban these labels after a campaign by a far-right group.
Like South Africa, France also voted to ban plant-based brands from using the words “meat” earlier this year. However, the ban was temporarily reversed by the highest court in the country.