Veggie victory as Joburg High Court sets aside the decision to seize plant-based products

'Burger Ban' beat-down ensures meat alternatives stay on the shelves. Photo AP Steve Helber.

'Burger Ban' beat-down ensures meat alternatives stay on the shelves. Photo AP Steve Helber.

Published Apr 11, 2024


A new ruling by the South Gauteng High Court in Joburg has overturned an interim interdict to forestall and prevent the seizure of plant-based meat alternatives from South African retail shelves.

This ruling ensures that these products are permanently available to South African consumers despite ongoing disputes on labelling practices.

Over the past two years, controversy has been a source of contention for supermarkets as the the South African government sought to ban the use of certain product names for plant-based meat alternatives on the basis that they were too similar to the names of processed meat products, supposedly misleading shoppers.

Previously the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA) was forced to urgently seek an interdict to stop the assignee, the Food Safety Agency (FSA), from seizing meat analogue products from the shelves of retailers around the country, which it successfully did pending the outcome of the review of the decision, which has now been determined.

The matter related to the treatment of meat analogue products by the FSA, the executive officer for Agricultural Product Standards and the Minister of the Department of Land Reform and Rural Development, arose out of the naming conventions.

The FSA and the executive officer sought to prohibit the use of certain generic product names for meat analogue products, which are often similar to and congruent with the product names of certain processed meat products (such as ‘nugget’, ‘burger’, 'patty' and ‘sausage’) and seize any meat analogue products that make use of these titles or classifications.

Welcoming the decision to set aside the department’s directive, CGCSA says it is a collective victory for the meat analogue sector, which is a growing source for alternative plant based food products, as well as a source of employment throughout the value chain.

ProVeg South Africa director, Donovan Will, said:

“ProVeg welcomes this decision by the Johannesburg High Court. We appreciate the efforts by the CGCSA and we hope that this latest development encourages DALRRD to meet with stakeholders in the plant-based space to discuss the issue further.”

Will said a plant-rich diet was good for personal health, the environment and lowering carbon emissions, which was good for global food security.

“ProVeg would love to work with the South African government to better take advantage of plant-based products for the people of our nation.

“Plant-based meat alternatives is still a young industry and it’s understandable that there is nuance and perhaps some confusion about it.

“Regulating a new industry can be complicated and challenging particularly as it slots into the food and agriculture sector, but given the undeniable benefits, ProVeg sees this as an opportunity to leverage our international expertise and work with businesses and the government to ensure the successful and sensible regulation of these products and grow the industry as a bedrock for healthier alternatives and a job provider,” said Will.

This disagreement over food product nomenclature is not unique to South Africa.

The issue is currently being tabled in the global food industry - notably in France, Italy and Spain, as lobbyists for traditional meat and other animal products mount their resistance to the steadily growing market share of the plant-based sector while more consumers adopt plant-rich and flexitarian diets.

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