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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Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

The French have developed an entire cultural tradition around the idea of an afternoon snack. It's called "Le goûter" and here's what you need to know about it.

Le goûter: The importance of the afternoon snack in France

With all those patisseries and viennoiseries tempting the tastebuds in high street boulangerie after boulangerie, there can be little wonder that France  – which takes food very seriously – has also invented the correct time to eat them.

Let us introduce you to the cultural tradition of le goûter – the noun of the verb “to taste”, and a cultural tradition in France dating back into the 19th century, perhaps even as far back as the Renaissance … allowing for the fact that people have snacked for centuries, whether or not it had a formal name. 

It refers to a very particular snack time, usually at around 4pm daily. This is the good news.

The bad news is that, officially, le goûter is reserved for children. This is why many schools, nurseries and holiday activity centres offer it and offices don’t. The idea is that, because the family evening meal is eaten relatively late, this mid-afternoon snack will keep les enfants from launching fridge raids, or bombarding their parents with shouts of, “j’ai faim!”.

Most adults, with their grown-up iron will-power, are expected to be able to resist temptation in the face of all that pastry, and live on their three set meals per day. Le grignotage – snacking between meals – is frowned on if you’re much older than your washing machine.

But, whisper it quietly, but just about everyone snacks (grignoter), anyway – a baguette that doesn’t have one end nibbled off in the time it takes to travel from boulanger to table isn’t a proper baguette. Besides, why should your children enjoy all the treats? 

We’re not saying ignore the nutritionists, but if you lead an active, reasonably healthy lifestyle, a bite to eat in the middle of the afternoon isn’t going to do any harm. So, if you want to join them, feel free.

What do you give for goûter 

It’s a relatively light snack – we’re not talking afternoon tea here. Think a couple of biscuits, a piece of cake, a pain au chocolat (or chocolatine, for right-thinking people in southwest France), piece of fruit, pain au lait, a croissant, yoghurt, compote, or a slice of bread slathered in Nutella.

Things might get a little more formal if friends and their children are round at the goûter hour – a pre-visit trip to the patisserie may be a good idea if you want to avoid scratching madly through the cupboards and don’t have time to create something tasty and homemade.

Not to be confused with

Une collation – adult snacking becomes socially acceptable when it’s not a snack but part of une collation served, for example, at the end of an event, or at a gathering of some kind. Expect, perhaps, a few small sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a few small pastries, coffee and water.

L’apéro – pre-dinner snacks, often featuring savoury bites such as charcuterie, olives, crisps and a few drinks, including alcoholic ones, as a warm up to the main meal event, or as part of an early evening gathering before people head off to a restaurant or home for their evening meal.

Un en-cas – this is the great adult snacking get-out. Although, in general, snacking for grown-ups is considered bad form, sometimes it has to be done. This is it. Call it un en-cas, pretend you’re too hungry to wait for the next meal, and you’ll probably get away with it.

Le goûter in action

Pour le goûter aujourd’hui, on a eu un gâteau – For snack today, we had some cake.

Veuillez fournir un goûter à votre enfant – Please provide an afternoon snack for your child.

J’ai faim ! Je peux avoir un goûter ? – I’m hungry! Can I have a snack?