Definitions of vegetarian and vegan (France)

There is no specific French legislation defining the composition of a vegetarian or vegan food product. There is no definition of “vegan” and “vegetarian” products in French or EU regulation. The use of such claims on food product should not be misleading for consumers and must be substantiated and jus-tified.  In that respect, the definition given by the European Vegetarian Union may be used as a starting point. Particular attention must be paid to the terms used to describe these products, given the protection afforded to cer-tain names. European regulations reserve dairy names for dairy products. There is also a French law protecting the names used to designate foodstuffs of animal origin, which cannot be used to describe, market or promote food-stuffs containing plant proteins. A decree is to set the proportion of plant proteins above which this denomination is not possible, as well as the procedures for applying this article and the penalties incurred in the event of non-compliance. An initial decree dated June 29, 2022 had been adopted by the government. In July 2022, the French Conseil d’État partially suspended this first decree. In July 2023, the Conseil d’Etat referred a number of questions to the European Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling. A new decree of February 26, 2024, repealing the 2022 decree, was then adopted by the government. In April 2024, the Conseil d’Etat, hearing an appeal from six companies con-cerned, suspended the decree. These provisions are subject to frequent changes, so the information may not be up to date at the time of reading.

This is general information rather than legal advice and is current as of 30 May 2024. We recommend you contact a specialised food lawyer for legal advice for your particular circumstances to support commercial decisions which could impact your product or business.

Julie Legay