France forces labels on restaurants to save homemade cuisine

Tue Jul 15, 2014 3:01pm EDT
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PARIS (Reuters) - French restaurants microwaving ready-made boeuf bourguignon and veal blanquette will now be exposed by law, in a move the government hopes will preserve the nation's culinary reputation.

A government decree issued on Tuesday requires restaurants to identify meals prepared on their premises with a "homemade" logo, showing that any other items are likely to have been brought in and simply warmed up.

Any restaurant misusing the logo - a pan with a roof-shaped lid - could be fined for the breach starting next year. The legislation applies to all eateries and fast foods but also to caterers and outdoor food stalls.

When the law was drafted a year ago, a survey by restaurant federation Synhorcat had found that 31 percent of French eateries admitted to using at least some ready-made dishes.

The government hopes the measure, the first of its kind in Europe, will encourage restaurants to prepare their dishes from scratch and spruce up the standing of French gastronomy.

But some critics argue that the new rules are so confusing they will not meet their key objective: to give customers clear information about the food they eat and how it was prepared.

They also say that health inspectors, already overstretched from having to verify hygiene in restaurant kitchens, will struggle to enforce the new rules without new staff.

Under the law, to earn a "homemade" label, dishes must be made on the premises using "raw products" that have not been heated or substantially altered before landing in a kitchen.

But there are many caveats, and homemade doesn't necessarily mean fresh or lovingly chopped up in-house.   Continued...

A French chef prepares a dish at a teaching restaurant near Lyon. REUTERS/Robert Pratta