29 Jun 2013

French 'home made' law to combat microwave meals

5:59 am on 29 June 2013

French MPs have voted to make restaurants identify meals prepared on their premises as home-made.

The draft law is aimed at halting the spread of ready-made meals that are not prepared from scratch with fresh ingredients in the restaurant, but are bought ready-made in bulk and heated up in a microwave.

It also addresses concerns about food standards after a Europe-wide scandal over horsemeat found in ready meals such as beef lasagne.

Fines have been proposed if meals heated up in microwave ovens are labelled home-made.

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.

A survey by restaurant federation Synhorcat found that 31% of French restaurants admitted to using at least some ready-made dishes.

Among those, two-thirds said that if a label forced them to confess the practice to clients they would cook fresh produce on their premises instead.

The switch could create around 25,000 jobs in the kitchens of France's 120,000 restaurants but would result in a 7% price hike, Synhorcat said.