French restaurants may be forced to label bought-in menu items

The French government wants to require restaurants to inform diners whether their meal has been prepared on the premises, or bought in from a wholesaler - in an effort to preserve the quality of French restaurants.

French restaurants may be forced to label bought-in menu items
The new logo of a "homemade" designation ("fait maison" in French) taped on the window of a restaurant in Paris in 2014, after it was first introduced (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP)

While most restaurants buy fresh ingredients and prepare their dishes from scratch, the guilty secret of the restaurant industry is those who buy in pre-prepared dishes from wholesalers and just heat them up.

Now the French government wants diners to know exactly what they’re getting, through the fait maison (made on the premises) label.

France’s minister for trade and small businesses, Olivia Gregoire, announced in an interview wit  La Tribune Dimanche, that she was in favour of requiring France’s approximately 175,000 restaurants to explicitly indicate whether items on the menu were prepared on the premises (fait maison) or not.

READ MORE: Bio, artisan and red label: What do French food and drink labels really mean?

The ‘fait maison’ label, which was created in 2014, means that the dish was cooked on the spot. It also means that the dish was made with unprocessed ingredients, and that the only processed ingredients are those listed HERE.

Currently, it is voluntary for restaurants to put the label on their dishes, but Gregoire told La Tribune Dimanche that she would like it to become compulsory by 2025.

According to Gregoire’s office, in a separate interview with Le Figaro, making the label a requirement will help to “enhance the status of ‘master restaurateurs’, protect customers, and preserve French gastronomy,” the latter of which gained intangible heritage status with UNESCO in 2010.

READ MORE: 8 tips for finding a good restaurant in France

Gregoire also told La Tribune Dimanche that the French government was planning to require that France’s consumer and fraud protection agency (Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes, or DGCCRF) to increase checks on misleading use of the label or non-compliance.

Speaking with Le Figaro, Grégoire’s office explained that part of the government’s motivation to mandate usage of the label is to correct the “inequity between restaurateurs who play the game by buying and processing fresh produce and those who buy everything from wholesalers.

“This is especially important amid inflation, when fresh and unprocessed products are much more expensive than processed ones”, the minister’s entourage explained to the French daily.

As for restaurant owners, so far there has been support for the minister’s plan.

The union for hospitality industries (union des métiers et des industries de l’hôtellerie, or Umih) told Le Figaro that they support the measure. A spokesperson for the union commented that it is “important to raise the profile of the traditional restaurant industry, which is of high quality and generates jobs.

“[The industry] is a symbol of the French art of living and is the pride of our country”.

As of 2023, 7,000 French restaurants offered ‘entirely home-made dishes’, meaning those that fit the requirements of the ‘fait maison’ label.

Alain Fontaine, the head of the French Association for Master Restaurateurs, told Franceinfo that making the label compulsory would “reassure customers”, particularly with the Olympic Games coming up in 2024.

“It’s important for tourists and average customers to know what they’re going to eat, and whether it’s homemade”, Fontaine told the French daily.

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Socialists target far right in EU vote campaign launch

Europe's Socialists launched their campaign for June's European Parliament elections in Rome on Saturday with a focus on warding off "ghosts from the past" from an ascendant far right.

Socialists target far right in EU vote campaign launch

Left-wing MEPs, national lawmakers, party chiefs, EU commissioners and heads of government gathered at their congress before a European vote seen as the most important in decades.

Ukraine is struggling to fend off Russian troops two years after Vladimir Putin launched his invasion and surging support for “illiberal” right-wing groups is predicted.

“The very soul of Europe is at risk,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told the delegates.

“The ghosts of the past are again at the gates of our institutions: hate, greed, falsehood, climate denialism, authoritarianism,” he added, warning of their “digital weapons” and “powerful allies” inside and outside Europe.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz hit out at “right-wing populists running election campaigns against our united Europe and its core values” who are on the rise in democracies worldwide.

Raphael Glucksmann, the head of the French Socialist list, called the vote “the most important European elections in history” as Putin’s war “hammers” the continent.

The prospect of Donald Trump returning to the White House after the US presidential election in November may mean “we will have to stay alone, alone in front of war”, he warned.

Sanchez met Scholz before the congress to discuss the war in Ukraine, which he said was “entering a delicate phase”.

“We must show our commitment and determination. The security and freedom of Europeans are at stake,” the Spanish premier wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Farmer anger 

The Party of European Socialists is the second-largest force in the European Parliament behind the conservative European People’s Party.

Three months from the elections, the two groups are gearing up for campaigning against a surging far right that could surf on a wave of discontent, notably from the agricultural sector, and make major gains.

French Socialist Party chief Olivier Faure said he feared the far right would harvest votes from angry farmers by claiming environmental and agricultural interests were at odds.

“We must constantly remember that the enemy of agriculture is not ecology, it’s liberalism,” he said, calling on European Socialists to offer hope to counter the far right’s message.

Veteran Dutch politician Frans Timmermans charged that the centre right “believes there is a future for them in aligning themselves with the extreme right”.

The Socialists also designated Luxembourg’s Nicolas Schmit as their candidate for European Commission president against incumbent Ursula von der Leyen, who is expected to run again for the job.