How France’s new food industry laws will affect you

The French government has announced a new raft of food industry laws that look set to change the daily habits of French consumers and which ministers hopes will improve the lives of the country's farmers. This is how it will affect you.

How France’s new food industry laws will affect you
Photo: AFP
Some of the changes included in the “loi alimentaton” (food industry bill) can definitely be considered a good thing for health conscious consumers while others could be bad news for price conscious shoppers.
France's Agriculture Minister Stéphane Travert said the new bill, which must pass parliament, will “strike a balance between commercial relations in the agricultural and food sector and a healthy and sustainable food industry.”
Here are some of the main changes that are set to directly affect French consumer.
Organic products in schools
By 2022, meals provided by catering companies in public places such as schools, universities and canteens will have to have been made with at least 50 percent organic products or ones that take into account the preservation of the environment.
This has long been the intention of successive governments in France but according to Europe1 radio little progress has been made. 
Obligations for private catering companies to fight against food waste will also be extended.
No more “steak” vegetarian products
Manufacturers of soybean steaks or tofu steaks will be given a deadline to repackage their products because their names are deemed erroneous by the government which wants to ban misleading commercial practices.
Under the measure proposed by a farmer MP, food producers will no longer have the right to use “steak”, “fillet”, “bacon”, “sausage” or any other meaty term to describe products that are not partly or wholly composed of meat.
France to ban 'misleading' veggie steaks and sausages
Photo: paulbrighton/Depositphotos
Label French Honey
Apparently only a quarter of the honey consumed in France is produced on French territory and the government wants for the country of origin of each honey to be clearly shown on the label. 
Their hope is that it encourages French honey lovers to buy 'Made in France' honey which would benefit local producers.
Stop the price wars
In an effort to stop a price war that is “destroying value and impoverishing producers,” the government has announced that it will be reshaping the way discounts on food products are organized (Hopefully better than the recent Nutella ones that ended in riots and fisticuffs).
In other words there will no more mass-discount promotions.
For instance, there will be no more “buy one get one free” type offers, and no more half price or even 70% off promotions either.
“Today, it is the distributors who pull in most of the value of products and who gain from the margins,” said the Minister of Agriculture Stéphane Travert, suggesting that the promotions penalize the producers.
In addition, the government will introduce a higher resale threshold for wholesale distribution at a loss of 10 percent, meaning supermarkets will be obliged to sell a food product for the minimum of the price they bought it, plus 10 percent.
Opponents fear this will mean a price increase for consumers, but this idea was dismissed by Stéphane Travert, Minister of Agriculture, who says that the consumer is “ready to pay a few cents extra if he/she knows that the product bought will pay farmers better.”

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Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

One thing everyone can agree on is that France has a lot of cheese - but exactly how many French fromages exist?

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

Question: I often see a quote from Charles de Gaulle talking about ‘246 different types of cheese’, but other articles say there are 600 or even 1,000 different types of cheese and some people say there are just eight types – how many different cheeses are there in France?

A great question on a subject dear to French hearts – cheese.

But it’s one that doesn’t have a simple answer.

Charles de Gaulle did indeed famously say “How can anyone govern a country with 246 different types of cheese”, but even in 1962 when he uttered the exasperated phrase, it was probably an under-estimate.

READ ALSO 7 tips for buying cheese in France

The issue is how you define ‘different’ types of cheese, and unsurprisingly France has a complicated system for designating cheeses.

Let’s start with the eight – there are indeed eight cheese ‘families’ and all of France’s many cheeses can be categorised as one of;

  • Fresh cheese, such as cottage cheese or the soft white fromage blanc
  • Soft ripened cheese, such as Camembert or Brie
  • Soft ripened cheese with a washed rind, such as l’Epoisses or Pont l’Eveque
  • Unpasturised hard cheese such as Reblochon or saint Nectaire
  • Pasturised hard cheese such as Emmental or Comté
  • Blue cheese such as Roquefort 
  • Goat’s cheese
  • Melted or mixed cheese such as Cancaillot

But there are lots of different types of, for example, goat’s cheese.

And here’s where it gets complicated, for two reasons.

The first is that new varieties of cheese are constantly being invented by enterprising cheesemakers (including some which come about by accident, such as le confiné which was created in 2020).

The second is about labelling, geography and protected status.

France operates a system known as Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC or its European equivalent AOP) to designate food products that can only be made in a certain area.

As cheese is an artisan product, quite a lot of different cheese are covered by this – for example a blue sheep’s milk cheese is only Roquefort if it’s been aged in the caves in the village of Roquefort.

There are 63 listed AOC cheeses in France, but many more varieties that don’t have this protected status.

These include generic cheese types such as BabyBel and other cheeses that are foreign in origin but made in France (such as Emmental).

But sometimes there are both AOC and non-AOC versions of a single cheese – a good example of this is Camembert.

AOC Camembert must be made in Normandy by farmers who have to abide by strict rules covering location, milk type and even what their cows eat.

Factory-produced Camembert, however, doesn’t stick to these rules and therefore doesn’t have the AOC label. Is it therefore the same cheese? They’re both called Camembert but the artisan producers of Normandy will tell you – at some length if you let them – that their product is a totally different thing to the mass-produced offering.

There are also examples of local cheeses that are made to essentially the same recipe but have different names depending on where they are produced – sometimes even being on opposite sides of the same Alpine valley is enough to make it two nominally different cheeses.

All of which is to say that guessing is difficult!

Most estimates range from between 600 to 1,600, with cheese experts generally saying there are about 1,000 different varieties. 

So bonne dégustation!