France takes stand against fast food

15 Jul 2013
2 min read
French MPs have approved a bill forcing restaurants to label food prepared from scratch as ‘fait maison’ ‘home made’

This bill is an attempt to stop microwaved ready meals undermining France’s culinary reputation.

The ‘fait maison’ label will be compulsory while fraudulent claims of authenticity will be fined.

Trade Minister Sylvia Pinel, author of the bill, was initially against forcing restaurants to comply. However, this was met with opposition from both the ruling Socialist Party and the UMP who felt that unless the label was obligatory it would not carry credibility.

The bill still needs to be approved by the Upper Senate. It could take between eight and ten years before the law is in place.

The bill is intended to preserve the intergrity and reputation of top French restaurants, such as Guy Savoy (above)

France already has a similar quality control in use in the wine industry. News that this could spread into restaurants has been greeted with praise from industry insiders. Alain Fontaine, owner of Le Mesturet restaurant in Paris, said “using pre-prepared food debases the entire industry. Customers should be given the choice between something cooked from scratch and something that has been put together in a factory”.

Top French chefs, such as Alain Ducasse, feel the bill does not go far enough. Ducasse is calling to limit the use of the term ‘restaurant’, granting it as a privilege to institutions championing the ‘fait maison’ cause. This has been met with opposition. London based catering and restaurant consultant David Read believes interpreting limitations such as these would be a ‘minefield’, arguing that “often, a bakery can provide much better bread and pastries than a restaurant can make themselves. It doesn’t make it a bad restaurant.”

It remains to be seen whether the bill will pass the Upper Senate and just how strict the limitations will be. However, after a survey in April 2013 showed that over half the restaurants in France are now fast-food joints, it is clear that something needs to be done to protect France’s gastronomic reputation.