Why South Africa’s Food Safety Agency is taking plant-based meat off the shelves

Plant-based meat products could be withdrawn from South African supermarkets very soon.

As reported Times Livethe state’s Food Safety Agency (FSA) will seize products labeled with names related to processed meat, such as meatballs, sausages, biltong, etc., from next Monday (August 22).

The FSA acts on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development. The latter approved a ban on plant-based brands using meat-related terms earlier this year.

However, Fry Family Food (widely known as Fry’s) launched an objection to the ban in July. The brand is the largest vegetable producer in the country.

He contends that, because of the objection, his goods cannot be seized.

The brand argued that the department should “convene a tribunal to assess our objection”.

A formal objection to the ban

The LIVEKINDLY collective owns Fry’s. It released a statement saying: “In response to the direction issued to Fry’s in early July, LIVEKINDLY Collective Africa (on behalf of Fry’s) lodged a formal objection.”

“We followed the procedure set out in the Agricultural Products Standards Act, which required the objection to be filed within 10 days of receiving the instruction.”

He added that under the Act, the department had to convene a tribunal to assess the objection. The Collective continued: “No legal action, including product seizures, can be taken against Fry’s or LIVEKINDLY Collective Africa with respect to the management of (the) FSA until this process has been completed.”

“It is therefore business as usual for all our brands, products and customers until our objection is over. To ensure this is the case, today we will also send a formal reminder to the transferee that any action against our products would be premature and illegal”.

Other plant companies, however, could still see their products seized on Monday.

A letter outlining the FSA’s plan to seize the products, dated August 16, said that under the Agricultural Product Standards Act, the 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 Department of Agriculture, Agrarian Reform and Rural Development” to “accommodate meat analogue products using prescribed product names for processed meat”.

He added that meat analogues are not currently covered by current legislation. They are also “excluded from the scope of the regulations on processed meat”.

Said Garth Tavares, based in South Africa, known as a Cape Town vegan Plant-based news that the decision to seize vegan meat looks like a “witch hunt against the plant and vegan sectors”.

He added: “I have absolute faith in the vegan community and their ability to stand up to the ‘giants’ of meat and dairy. To see how much this will affect an already decimated economy is incredibly short-sighted.”

The rise of plant-based meat

Vegan meat substitutes have experienced an impressive rise in popularity in recent years.

Globally, total consumption increased 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 plant-based brands say 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 products, for example, suggested that veggie sausages and burgers are up to 10 times better for the planet than meat.

Animal agriculture drives deforestation. In addition, according to the United Nations, it is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The campaign against plant-based meat labels

South Africa is not the first place to try to crack down on plant-based meat.

In 2020, the EU ruled that plant-based companies could label their products with terms like ‘hamburger’ or ‘sausage’. That was after some ranchers and meat producers introduced a measure to ban them from doing so.

In November last year, Spain rejected proposals to ban these labels following a campaign by a far-right group.

Like South Africa, France also voted to ban plant-based brands from using the word “meat” earlier this year. However, the ban was temporarily overturned by the country’s highest court.

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