Consumer Goods Council Of South Africa Successfully Reviews And Sets Aside The Decision To Seize Meat Analogue Products.

10 April 2024

The Johannesburg High Court has reviewed and set aside the decision to seize meat analogue products from retail outlets. 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.

The matter related to the treatment of meat analogue products (being products which approximate the aesthetic qualities of meat, but which are made from non-meat ingredients) by the FSA, the Executive officer for Agricultural Product Standards (“the Executive Officer”) and the Minister of the Department of Land Reform and Rural Development, arising out of the naming conventions adopted in respect of these meat analogue products. In short, the FSA and the Executive Officer sought to prohibit the use of certain generic product names for meat analogue products, which names are congruent with the product names of certain processed meat products (such as ‘nugget’ and ‘sausage’) and seize any meat analogue products that make use of these generic product names.

The CGCSA successfully, with the assistance of its attorney, Lauren Fine of Clyde and Co, reviewed and set aside the Executive Officer’s directive prohibiting meat analogue products from using naming conventions congruent to those used for processed meat products, and authorizing the seizure of any meat analogue products which make use of the congruent naming convention as well as the subsequent decision to seize such products – without a warrant, ostensibly in terms of section 8 of the Agricultural Products Standards Act 119 of 1990. This meant that the meat analogues (Plant based products) remained on the shelves and will now continue to do so.

The CGCSA was of the opinion that the directive issued by the Department to FSA was ultra vires to the provisions of the Act. This was because there was no provision in the regulations which entitled the assignee, or anyone else for that matter, to inspect, classify or otherwise regulate meat analogues since such products t are expressly excluded from existing regulations. It was therefore unclear what legal or otherwise instrument was planned to be used to enforce the seizures. The CGCSA was found to be correct in its interpretation of the law and, through its actions, ensured that South African meat analogues or otherwise known as plant based products consumers were not prejudiced by having diverse product offerings removed from the shelves.

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.

Neo Momodu, CGCSA Executive Head: Legal Regulatory & Stakeholder Engagement says the CGCSA is hopeful that with this decision the Department would consider the development of regulations applicable to meat analogue as this development had already received 85% of sector support. This will further support the growth of a sector that has become an increasingly important source of alternative food for South Africans who have chosen a plant based diet. It is also a growing provider of employment opportunities and contributing to economic growth.