Country of origin requirements (COOL)

Labelling of the origin of a foodstuff is regulated at European level by Regulation No. 1169/2011, which requires this information in certain cases:

  • when its omission could mislead the consumer as to the real origin of the foodstuff,
  • when the origin of the primary ingredient differs from that claimed for the foodstuff,
  • in the presence of specific European regulations (e.g. olive oil, honey, fruit and vegetables, beef, pork, sheep, goat and poultry, etc.)
  • in the presence of specific national regulations.

In France, there are texts requiring the indication of origin, notably for beef, pork, sheep and poultry meat in out-of-home catering establishments, honey and royal jelly, cocoa- or chocolate-based products, wine, beer, perishable food products in case of advertising with a price reduction, etc.

Definitions of vegetarian and vegan

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 justified.  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 certain 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 foodstuffs 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 concerned, suspended the decree.

These provisions are subject to frequent changes, so the information may not be up to date at the time of reading.

Fortification of foods

Fortified foodstuffs are regulated at the EU level by Regulation No. 1925/2006. It authorizes the use of vitamins and minerals specifically listed, as well as of substances, other than vitamins or minerals, which have a nutritional or physiological effect (unless they are on the list of banned or restricted substances), without any specific declaration or authorization procedure.

Furthermore, it should be noted that France published a specific text on 16 October 2006 on the addition of vitamins, minerals and other substances, which requires an authorization for the fortification of foodstuffs (Decree No 2006–1264), although the question of its compatibility with European law and its application in practice needs to be addressed.

Cannabis as an ingredient in food or supplements

In France, hemp and cannabidiol do not fall within the scope of the general ban on narcotics if they meet the following conditions: i) they must come from plant varieties listed in the common catalog of varieties of agricultural plant species or in the official catalog of plant species and varieties cultivated in France, ii) they must have a THC content of less than or equal to 0.3%. If these conditions are not met, the product could be considered as a narcotic drug, giving rise to the risk of criminal prosecution for drug trafficking.

Furthermore, with regard to the use of hemp or cannabidiol in foodstuffs, it is important to remember that this is notably governed by:

  • Regulation No. 178/2002, according to which no foodstuff may be placed on the market if it is detrimental to health or unfit for human consumption.
  • Regulation No. 315/93 laying down Community procedures for contaminants in foodstuffs and Commission Regulation No. 2023/915 on maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs. Furthermore, the European Food Safety Authority has established an Acute Reference Dose (ARfD), corresponding to the estimated quantity that can be ingested by the consumer over a short period of time without appreciable risk to health (1 µg/kg body weight).
  • Regulation No. 2015/2283 on novel foods: The French authorities consider that only hemp seeds and their derivatives (hemp seed oils, hemp seed flours, etc.), as well as leaves intended exclusively for the preparation of aqueous infusions, or aqueous infusions of hemp leaves, can be marketed, as these foods have a history of consumption. All other parts of the plant, as well as cannabidiol and other cannabinoids, are not considered to have a history of consumption and must therefore be authorized before being placed on the market.


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.