It has been just under a month since the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development released a directive warning that certain meat analogue products are in contravention of local regulations relating to the packaging and labelling of processed meat products in SA (Regulation 1283 of 2019) in that they bear product names reserved exclusively for “processed meat”, as defined in the Regulations. Some examples indicated in the directive include mushroom biltong, vegan BBQ ribs and plant-based meatballs.
While there are those who welcomed the Department’s decision, including some religious groups which find the use of words such as beef or pork on their plant-based products offensive, the vegan and vegetarian community is, for the large part, quite upset by the move. Some have indicated that they are engaging the Department to come up with a solution to suit all parties while others have threatened legal action.
Nevertheless, the directive currently stands and plant-based product manufacturers risk their stock being seized by the Department if product names go unchanged.
The Department’s directive is consistent with moves globally on the issue although, in the EU, parliament ultimately decided to allow the practice to continue. Looking at global trends, this could be only the first step in the Department’s crack-down on the industry. Referencing the EU again, for instance, the use of dairy terms such as “cheese”, “milk” and “butter” is prohibited in relation to plant-based products. The Department might take the same view locally, in enforcing local dairy regulations, egg regulations and a number of other similarly worded regulations. Attention is also being given to the further regulation of alcoholic beverages, with a recent review of the applicable regulations already having been published.
Plant-based product producers are advised to get ahead of the curve by considering their current packaging in light of local regulations and developing a strategy to deal with any contemplated action by the Department. The Adams & Adams Regulatory team is, of course, available to assist with any advice you may need in this regard.