Meat Analogue Products And The Proposed Amendments To The Processed And Raw Processed Meat Regulations



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The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development ("DALRRD") have invited comments on the Draft Regulations Regarding The Classification, Packaging and Marking...
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The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development ("DALRRD") have invited comments on the Draft Regulations Regarding The Classification, Packaging and Marking of Processed Meat Products and Certain Raw Processed Meat Products Intended for Sale In The Republic of South Africa - No 4728 of 19 April 2024. The deadline for submitting comments is 19 May 2024. A template form for comments is available on the DALRRD website.

In a recent ruling, the Johannesburg High Court delivered a judgment that reverberates across the burgeoning landscape of plant-based meat alternatives in South Africa. The case, which centred around the labelling and naming of meat analogue products, has sparked significant debate and drawn attention to the lack of regulatory framework specifically governing this rapidly expanding industry. For those wondering, it is not governed by the Processed Meat Regulations (R.1283 of 4 October 2019), or the Raw Processed Meat Regulations (R.2410 of 26 August 2022).

The dispute originated from attempts by the South African government to restrict the use of certain product names such as burgers, nuggets, sausages, etc. for plant-based meat alternatives, citing concerns about consumer confusion. This led to a legal battle that culminated in a temporary interdict in 2022 to prevent the seizure of these products from retail shelves.

The recent ruling by the Johannesburg High Court has finally overturned the previous decisions of the South African government, ensuring the availability of meat analogue products to South African consumers. This judgment represents a significant victory for the plant-based sector and underscores the importance of clarity and coherence in regulatory measures affecting alternative food products.

Notably, a similar case was heard before an appeal board constituted under the Agricultural Products Standards Act. In that instance, the appeal board emphasised that the Processed Meat Regulations expressly exclude meat analogues from its ambit and stressed the need for specific regulations tailored to meat-analogue products.

Despite this, the Regulator published amendments to the processed meat regulations (R.1283 and R.2410) only nine days after the High Court ruling, deleting subsection 2(c) which previously excluded meat analogue products from the ambit of the regulations. The question whether meat analogue products can now be brought under the application of the Processed and Raw Processed Meat Regulations arises. These amendments raise concern about potential regulatory certainty and the adequacy of the amendments in addressing the nuances of the plant-based sector in its amended form.

The recent amendments may not fully remedy the situation and could exacerbate regulatory uncertainty.

As the deadline of 19 May 2024 to submit comments on the proposed amendments approaches, the debate over plant-based meat alternatives regulation continues to evolve. Ultimately, achieving a balance between consumer protection, industry growth, and regulatory clarity will be crucial in shaping the future of this dynamic sector in South Africa.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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