The legal texts banning vegetarianism in school canteens in France
This is a quick translation, to clarify for the English-speaking public what has happened in France. A short analysis is added at the end, to point out the precise passages of the law texts that result in vegetarianism being banned.
Overview and sources
Two sets of texts are relevant, one issued by the French government on September 30, 2011 and the other voted by the French parliament in July 2010. These are presented here in reverse chronological order.
1. Two governmental orders taken September 30, 2011 and published in the Journal Officiel de la République française (“Official Journal of the French Republic”) on October 2. They can be found on the website of the Journal Officiel. The relevant pages have been extracted and brought together here.
These governmental orders comprise a décret and an arrêté:
1.a. The Décret no 2011-1227 du 30 septembre 2011 relatif à la qualité nutritionnelle des repas servis dans le cadre de la restauration scolaire (“September 30, 2011 décret concerning the nutritional quality of the meals served in the context of school catering”).
1.b. The Arrêté du 30 septembre 2011 relatif à la qualité nutritionnelle des repas servis dans le cadre de la restauration scolaire (“September 30, 2011 arrêté concerning the nutritional quality of the meals served in the context of school catering”).
In the context of this post, the English terms "decree" or "order" will be used (singular or plural) indiscriminately for either of these texts. The precise French terms will be used when necessary to refer to the one or to the other.
2. The Loi de modernisation de l'agriculture et de la pêche (LMAP) voted in July 2010 by the French parliament. Among many things, this law created the article L230-5 of the Code rural et de la pêche maritime (“Code on rural and sea fishing affairs”). This is the article that is of interest to us. It can be found on the official website legifrance.gouv.fr
The LMAP text itself can be found here (mainly in the sublinks).
It is this law, voted by parliament, that authorises the government to impose rules regarding the nutritional quality of the meals served in schools and in many other catering services. The law itself does not specify the contents of these rules. It is the governmental orders that specify their contents, which ban de facto vegetarianism from schools.
For more background information, other texts are relevant, such as the GEMRCN recommendations, and the public dietary recommendations found on the PNNS website mangerbouger.fr, both of which are clearly hostile to vegetarianism. No translations are given of these here.
The two governmental orders
The September 30, 2011 décret
Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries, Rural and Regional Planning
Decree no. 2011-1227 of September 30 2011 concerning the nutritional quality of the meals served in the context of school catering.
NOR : AGRG1032342D
Involved persons: The managers, whether public or private, of school catering services.
Subject: the nutritional quality of the meals served in the context of school catering.
Date of effect: The decree establishes a graduated entry in force depending on the number of meals served in the catering services that are subject to these new obligations. The dates of effect are:
- the day after publication for the school canteen services that serve more than 80 meals per day as an average over a year;
- September 1, 2012 for the school canteen services that serve less than 80 meals per day as an average over a year.
Usage note: the decree establishes the requirements that the managers of canteen services must respect concerning the nutritional quality of the meals they offer. These requirements concern the diversity and the contents of the meals served, on the size of the portions, the service of water, bread, salt and sauces. The text establishes that these rules shall be further specified in a conjoined order [arrêté] taken by the ministry of defense, the ministries of overseas and local authorities, of health, of food, of consumption and of national education.
[... (obligations for the managers to keep records of the meals served)]
Reference: the Code rural et de la pêche maritime, modified by the present decree, can be found, in its updated form, on the Légifrance site (http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr).
The present decree is taken in application of Article 1 of the law no. 2010-874 of July 27, 2010 for the modernisation of agriculture and fisheries.
The Prime Minister,
Considering [... (reference to a series of precedent texts)]
Article 1: Volume II of the Code rural et de la pêche maritime is modified in the following manner:
1. To the preliminary chapter of Title III are added the following dispositions:
“Nutritional quality in catering
“Art. D. 230-25. In order for the goal of nutritional balance to be met in the meals served by the services of school catering, are required, in conformity to the article L. 230-5 of the Code rural et de la pêche maritime:
“- four or five courses at each lunch or dinner, of which one must be a main course including an accompaniment and a dairy product;
“- minimum requirements concerning the diversity of the courses served;
“- that portions offered be of appropriate sizes;
“- rules concerning the service of water, of bread, of salt and of sauces.
“A conjoined order by the ministry of defense, the ministries of the health, of overseas and local authorities, of food, of consumption and of national education further specifies the nature of the requirements concerning the variety of the courses, the service of water, of bread, of salt and of sauces, and the size of the portions of food.
“Art. D. 230-26. [...]
Article 2: The stipulations of the present decree come into force on September 1, 2012 for the catering services that serve less than 80 meals a day as an annual average.
Article 3: [... (stipulation of who is charged with enforcing the decree)]
September 30, 2011,
François Fillon, Prime Minister,
[... (a series of other ministers)]
The September 30, 2011 arrêté
Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries, Rural and Regional Planning
Order of September 30 2011 concerning the nutritional quality of the meals served in the context of school catering.
NOR : AGRG1032380A
The Minister of defense and veteran affairs, [... (list of ministers)],
Considering [... (list of precedent texts)],
Article 1: The lunches and dinners served in the context of school catering necessarily include a main course, an accompaniment, a dairy product and, at the choice of the student, an entry and/or a dessert.
The diversity of the meals is judged on the basis of the frequency of the courses offered over a series of 20 meals according to the rules established in Appendix I of the present order.
The size of the portions must be adapted to the nature of the course and to the age class.
The managers of the school canteens must require of their suppliers that the food articles be in agreement with the quantitative specifications layed out in Appendix II of the present order.
Article 2: [... (water, salt, bread, ketchup and so on)].
Article 3: [... (dates of effect, as above)].
September 30, 2011,
The Minister of agriculture, [... (list of ministers)]
Regarding the frequencies of servings.
In the present Appendix, the following terms will signify:
- fatty foods: foodstuffs containing over 15% fat;
- sweet foods: foodstuffs containing over 20 g of simple sugars per portion;
- protein dish: main course based on meat, fish, eggs, offal or cheese.
The frequencies in the table below are defined on the basis of 20 successive meals.
To ensure an adequate supply of fibre and vitamins, are to be served:
- at least 10 meals with, as an entry or a dish accompaniment, raw vegetables or fresh fruit;
- at least 8 meals with, as a dessert, raw fruit;
- 10 meals with, as an accompaniment of the protein dish, cooked vegetables other than pulses;
- 10 meals with, as an accompaniment of the protein dish, pulses, starchy foods or cereals.
To ensure an adequate supply of calcium, are to be served:
- at least 8 meals with, as an entry or as a dairy product, cheese containing at least 150 mg of calcium per portion;
- at least 4 meals with, as an entry or as a dairy product, cheese containing between 100 mg and 150 mg per portion;
- at least 6 meals with dairy products or milk-based desserts containing at least 100 mg of calcium and less than 5 g of fat per portion.
To ensure an adequate supply of iron and trace elements, are to be served:
- at least 4 meals with, as a protein dish, unground meats of beef, veal or lamb, or butchery offal;
- at least 4 meals with, as a protein dish, fish or a preparation containing at least 70% of fish and containing at twice as much protein as fat;
- less than 4 meals with, as a protein dish, a preparation based on meat, fish or eggs containing less than 70% of these products.
To limit the supply of fat are not to be served:
- more than 4 entries containing fatty foods;
- more than 3 desserts made of fatty foods;
- more than 4 protein dishes or accompaniments containing fatty foods to be fried or prefried;
- more than 2 protein dishes containing as much or more fat than protein.
To limit the supply of simple sugars are not to be served:
- more than 4 desserts made of sweet foods and containing over 15% of fat.
[... (table specifying the size of the portions to be served)]
The July 2010 law
The July 27, 2010 Loi de modernisation de l'agriculture et de la pêche (“Law for the modernisation of agriculture and fisheries”, LMAP) voted by the French parliament created the article L230-5 of the Code rural et de la pêche maritime. Below is the translation of the first paragraph of this article.
Article L230-5: The managers, whether public or private, of catering services in schools and universities, and those of the catering services of institutions that receive children under six, of health institutions, of social and medical-social institutions and of prisons are required to respect rules, to be determined by decree, concerning the nutritional qualities of the meals they offer, and to favour, as to the choice of the ingredients of these meals, seasonal products.[...]
The September 30 decrees are thus taken in application of the above paragraph. They pertain only to school canteens; additional decrees are thus to be expected, concerning the other forms of catering mentioned in the paragraph.
The texts do not explicitly mention vegetarianism. However, when read with a neutral eye, they are quite straightforward on the issue. The meals are to contain a main dish, the main dish is to be everytime animal protein, and 8 times out of 20 meat or fish. Given that in France it is generally not allowed to bring a lunchbox to school, this means that schoolchildren who cannot, for practical reasons, go home for lunch will have to accept to have animal products on their plates everyday, and on the average twice a week meat and fish.
The structure and wording of the texts are, however, rather complex and somewhat untidy. Some points can appear to allow for loopholes. Below is a list of objections and answers.
"The decree says what must be offered, but does not forbid offering an alternative."
The law (LMAP) says that the canteen managers "are required to respect rules, to be determined by decree, concerning the nutritional qualities of the meals they offer" (emphasis added). The use of the definite article "the" implies that these rules concern all meals offered. In the decree, the definite article is used at each reference to the meals (in French: les repas, or the variant des repas = "of the meals").
"Appendix I says that meat and fish must be served, which means that it must be available, but it does not say it must be served to everyone."
It does, as appears if you follow the wording closely. Appendix I of the arrêté specifies that are to be served 4 times meat and 4 times fish "on the basis of 20 successive meals". This meat and fish is to be served as a "protein dish". A "protein dish" is defined in Appendix I as a "main dish". A main dish is a necessary part of each meal, as explicitly stated by the décret: "In order for the goal of nutritional balance to be met in the meals served by the services of school catering, are required (...) four or five courses at each lunch or dinner, of which one must be a main course (...)" (emphasis added). Hence meat and fish are part and parcel of the meals in which they are served. At least 8 days in every 20 days every student must have meat or fish on his or her plate.
"The concept of a series of 20 successive meals is not well defined."
True, and this might be the only loophole. Since canteens do often offer choices between different dishes, including a choice of main dishes, how a series of "20 consecutive meals" is to be counted is not clear. Since meat and fish are mandatory only 8 times per series of 20 meals, one can imagine a canteen management wishing to cater for the demands of vegetarians working around the law by serving two series of meals, A and B, say, and by arranging in each series the days with meat or fish so that each time either meal A or meal B is without them. Vegetarian students could then choose each day between series A and B to obtain a vegetarian meal. It is clear, however, that this would fly in the face of the stated purpose of the law. Meat and fish are necessary, says Appendix I, in order to "ensure an adequate supply of iron and trace elements". The canteen management would be accused of allowing the student to eat meals that are deficient in these nutrients, and the vegetarian students would be made into semi-outlaws, weaving their way through the loopholes of the law.
"A vegetarian meal can be offered twelve times out of twenty."
True, but a vegetarian is not a vegetarian twelve days out of twenty. A vegetarian is someone who does not eat animals, and often considers eating animals as ethically unacceptable. Would it be seen as acceptable to force, for instance, a Christian to spit on the cross - but "only" 8 days out of 20?
Furthermore, when meat or fish are not served, a main dish "based on" eggs or cheese must be served instead. The expression "based on" (Appendix I) implies more than, for instance, grated cheese sprinkled on spaghetti; the eggs or cheese product must be the main part of the dish. It is hard to imagine an egg or cheese-based main course being served 12 times out of 20, so in practice meat and fish will be served much more than 8 times out of 20.
"The décret says that every meal must have a main dish, but it is nowhere said that a main dish must be a protein dish. Appendix I says that meat and fish must be served (8 times out of 20) as a protein dish, but nothing makes this protein dish mandatory."
It is true that protein dishes are defined (Appendix I) as main dishes, but that nowhere the converse, i.e. that main dishes are necessarily protein dishes, is explicitly stated. However, Appendix I specifies that "on the basis of 20 successive meals (...) are to be served (...) at least 4 meals with, as a protein dish (...)" and the same for fish. So it is clear that meat and fish are to be served at that frequency, regardless of whether main dishes must be protein dishes. Furthermore, Appendix I does indicate that among 20 successive meals there must be 10 times cooked vegetables and 10 times pulses, etc. "as an accompaniment of the protein dish". So there must indeed be a protein dish 10 + 10 times out of 20 - in other words, in each meal.
"The kid isn't forced to eat the meat or fish. He or she can leave it on the plate."
If someone is a vegetarian out of consideration for the animals, having the meat on the plate and having it then thrown out means that his or her vegetarianism will make no difference to the number of animals killed. It largely strips the commitment to vegetarianism of its meaning.
One can leave the meat on the plate, and the green beans soaked in the gravy from the meat on the plate too, and the same for the tuna and lettuce salad... Since the law basically says that vegetarians are not to be catered for, no efforts will be made to serve any courses at all suitable for vegetarians - not to mention vegans. There may be an apple for dessert, and the of course there is always bread and water...
Peer pressure, an empty stomach, and staff pressure will make it basically very difficult for anyone - let alone a child - to refuse to eat the meat and the fish. Of course, it may happen. No laws are perfect. This means that vegetarians can eat at school - as long as they don't eat much.
Animal products generally
Each and every meal, say the décret, the arrêté and its Appendix I, must contain a dairy product. The quantities are specified in Appendix II (not translated here), and they are not small. Additionally, every meal (see discussion above) must contain a main dish based on meat, fish, eggs, offal or cheese. This is a minimum, since the other courses too can contain animal products.
The scope of these texts
The LMAP voted by the French parliament instructs the government to publish such decrees not only for school canteens, but also for:
- all kindergartens and universities;
- all hospitals (public or private);
- all retirement homes (“social and medical-social institutions”);
The September 30 decree and arrêté are thus but the first in a series. When all decrees will have been published, for a large slice of the French population, including the "captive clients" of hospitals, retirement homes and prisons, no choice will be left but to eat animal products at every meal, and to eat meat and fish regularly, by law.
Short link to this entry: http://tinyurl.com/BanOfVegetarianismInFrance.