French law to expose restaurants' 'homemade' microwave meals
PARIS (Reuters) - Thousands of French restaurants serving up mass-produced "boeuf bourguignon" and potato "gratin" as if lovingly prepared from scratch by their own chefs may soon be exposed by law.
In a country that takes pride in its culinary reputation, parliament voted for a law on Thursday that would force restaurants to identify meals prepared on their premises with a "homemade" label, showing that any other items are likely to have been brought in and simply warmed up.
Any restaurant misusing the label on their menus would be fined.
The draft law aims to expose eateries that buy ready-made meals in bulk and heat them up in the microwave. It also addresses concerns about food standards after a Europe-wide scandal over horsemeat found in ready meals such as beef lasagna.
The bill, that passed easily through the lower house, now goes to the Senate which is likely to debate it in September.
It has strong backing among upper-end restaurants and overwhelming support among the public, surveys show.
Supporters say the law could rescue French cuisine and create jobs by nudging restaurants back towards cooking fresh food on their own premises.
"We're making things more transparent and restoring our trade's respectability," said Didier Chenet, head of restaurant federation Synhorcat.
"Clients will know what to expect. The problem right now is that you push the door of a restaurant and you don't know if there's actually a chef in the kitchen," he told Reuters. Continued...