France reveals new recipe to tackle the nation’s love of junk food

France will be home to 30 million obese and overweight people by 2030, according to a new report which is why French lawmakers have come up with a new plan to tackle the nation's secret love: junk food.

France reveals new recipe to tackle the nation's love of junk food
Photo: Deposit photos

France is a country known for its fine dining, fresh produce and the slim waistlines of the locals, but the reality is quite different.

Half of French adults are overweight and one in six is obese and it's mostly to do with the fact the nation has been having a not-so-secret love affair with junk food for years.

The eating habits of the French are changing and not for the better. More burgers are now eaten in France than baguettes and only Americans eat more pizza and McDonald's Big Macs on average.

READ ALSO: The phenomenal figures that reveal France's appetite for fast food

But now the love affair is well and truly out in the open and French lawmakers have come up with a plan to the tackle expanding waistlines, which a new report says will lead to 30 million obese and overweight people by 2030 if nothing is done.

In short, they want new laws to limit the amount of salt, sugar, fat and additives added to processed foods, as well as educating children to eat a healthier diet.

Scroll down to learn vocab


Why in the land of haute cuisine, do the French have such an appetite for pizza?

Food producers who don't comply will be subject to fines.

“By 2030 it's estimated there will be at least 30 million obese and overweight people in France. This is a public health problem,” said MP Michele Crouzet who was one of the lawmakers behind the report.

“It's not too late to stop us reaching that point and to save a healthy and sustainable diet.”

One major problem is salt.

The French consume on average 10 to 12 grams of salt a day, well above the 5g daily limit recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Given the French love for bread – 30 percent of the advised daily intake of salt comes from bread in France – MP Crouzet wants to put a legal limit on the amount of salt bread contains with the cap set at 18 grams per kilo of flour. 

MPs also want to limit the number of additives used in ready meals to just 48, compared to the 338 which are currently authorized.

School canteens are also being targeted by MPs, who want to improve education around healthy eating from a young age.

They want to incorporate school lunches into the educational program aimed at promoting a “healthy and sustainable nutrition and fight against food waste”.

Parents will be involved in setting school dinner menus.

Cooks who provide catering to retirement homes and hospitals will have to undergo training in the hope of improving the quality of food they serve up.

MPs recognise the fact that it's the worse off in France who are more susceptible to obesity and would like to see vouchers handed out to poorer families to allow them to buy more fruit and veg.

And they want the system of colour-coded nutritional food labels on processed foods that were rolled out in spring 2017 to become compulsory.

Under the system foods and drinks are ranked on a scale of A to E, with the colours ranging from dark green to red. 
If a product is labelled with a Green A then you can rest assured you've chosen the healthy alternative. 

But food manufacturers are not forced to include the labelling on packaging and many don't. As well as the Nutri-score logos MPs want to force producers to label the origin of the products as well as the number of additives they contain.

Five French words to learn

la malbouffe – junk food/unhealthy eating

reduire – to reduce/cut down on

les additifs – food additives

transformé – processed

les plats preparés – ready meals

Member comments

  1. Why have French supermarkets stopped selling white bread flour?
    All you can buy now is ready to use mix with not enough yeast to make it rise properly and far too much salt in it, making it inedible as far as I’m concerned.
    I am forced to ask British friends to bring me proper white bread flour back from the UK.
    I don’t want to do that. I want to support local businesses.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


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!