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French 'restaurants' set for ready meals ban
Chefs in Paris make hachis parmentier from scratch. A new French plan would restrict the label 'restaurant' to establishments using fresh produce to cook in-house. Photo: T. Samson/AFP

French 'restaurants' set for ready meals ban

Published: 30 May 2013 10:48 GMT+02:00
Updated: 30 May 2013 10:48 GMT+02:00

A French syndicate of restaurant-owners and hoteliers are proposing to limit the label of ‘restaurant’ to only those establishments that use fresh produce to make their dishes themselves.

The ‘Syndicat national des hoteliers, restaurauteurs, cafetiers et traiteurs’ (National syndicate of hoteliers, restauraunt-owners, café-owners and traders, or Synhorcat) has support for their proposal from both ends of the political spectrum in France.

Centre-right opposition UMP deputy Daniel Fasquelle, with the backing of 30 of his party colleagues, has tabled a motion in the French National Assembly to bring the ‘fresh and home-made’ restriction into law by June.

Not wanting to be outdone by the opposition Socialist deputy Pascale Got has done the same.

According to Synhorcat, the reform is aimed at improving the information available to French diners, and increasing the level of public confidence in French eating establishments, after a recent poll said one in two French consumers don’t trust restaurants.

“When they walk into a restaurant, customers don’t know whether their meal was just reheated, or lovingly cooked up by a whole kitchen staff,” Synhorcat president Didier Chenet told TF1 television on Wednesday.

“With this [restaurant] label, now they will know,’ he added.

The new restrictions would force all French eating establishments to abandon frozen, pre-cooked and plastic-sealed ‘sous-vide’ ingredients, on pain of losing the right to officially call their establishment a ‘restaurant.’

According to a Synhorcat study published this week, 31 percent of French restaurant-owners admit to using such products and techniques.

Related story: Paris based renowned food writer and blogger David Lebovitz tells The Local what he thinks of French cuisine

As well as boosting consumer confidence and transparency, the architects of the plan foresee a major increase in employment at French restaurants.

“Restaurants that cook on-site, using fresh ingredients, would employ more staff than those who resort to prepared meals,” said Chenet.

“This [plan] could create between 20,000 and 25,000 jobs throughout the whole profession,” he added.

As France’s once world-beating restaurants suffer a decline in clientele, to the benefit of fast-food outlets, this week’s proposal is only the latest in an ongoing movement to give back French cuisine its stellar global reputation.

In April, top chefs including Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon launched a new ‘quality restaurant’ label for establishments that prepare their own food and give diners a proper welcome.

Speaking during the launch of that campaign, world-famous Michelin-starred chef Ducasse declared: "We must not wait for things to get worse. We cannot continue to let media in the English-speaking world say 'France is not what it was' in terms of cuisine."

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

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