On 11 July 2014, the French government enacted the Decree n°2014-797 on the use of the “fait maison” (home-made) label by restaurants and take-away establishments. The new Decree became applicable on 15 July 2014 but will only be enforced by French authorities as of 1st January 2015.
The aim of the Decree is to better inform consumers and reward restaurants which prepare the menu offerings on-site.
Legislation on the use of the “fait maison” label was first introduced by the Consumer Act n°214-344 of 17 March 2014. Previously, the use of the expression was not specifically regulated but could in certain circumstances fall within the scope of misleading advertising provisions, which led to legal uncertainty for restaurant owners as well as a lack of information for consumers.
The Consumer Act states that, to be labelled as “fait maison”, a dish must be (i) be prepared on-site; and (ii) with raw products. The Decree specifies which dishes and products meet these criterions and how the “fait maison” label can be displayed by restaurants.
As to the conditions of use of the “fait maison” label
(i) Use of raw products
Within the new regulatory framework, a “fait maison” dish must be prepared with raw products. A raw product is defined by the Decree as a “food product that has not been substantially modified, either by heating, marinating, mixing or any combination of these processes”. For example, the use of a ready-made tomato sauce would not be considered “fait maison”. Any substantial modification of the food must be made by the chef himself.
The Decree allows for several exceptions to this general principle.
First, a dish will still be considered as “fait maison”, even if it is made from products received by the restaurant owner already “peeled (except for potatoes), sliced, cut, trimmed, chopped, cleaned/washed, deboned, extracted, milled or grounded; smoked, salted; chilled, frozen, deep-frozen or vacuum packed”.
For example, the use of pre-sliced onions or of frozen chicken will not prevent a restaurant from using the “fait maison” label, as long as the restaurant did not receive these products already pre-cooked or assembled.
Second, restaurants can still label their dishes as “fait maison” even if they use certain non-raw products, such as cured meat, cheese, food oils and fats, bread, flour, cereals, raw sauerkraut, condiments, spices, syrups, or puff pastry. These exceptions have been provided as consumers do not usually expect such products to be home-made by restaurants.
Finally, a dish can be presented as “fait maison”, even if it is not made from raw products prepared on site, provided that the name of the professional who prepared them is indicated. For example, a crepe served with ice cream, purchased from an ice-cream producer, can be labelled as “fait maison”, provided that the name of the ice-cream producer is mentioned on the menu.
(ii) On-site preparation
The Decree also provides a definition of “on-site preparation”. A dish is considered as prepared on-site if it is prepared on the premises of the restaurant where it is offered for sale or consumption.
However, by exception to this principle, caterers and food trucks can still use the “fait maison” label.
As to the presentation of the “fait maison” label
All restaurants, even if they do not offer home-made dishes, will have to display in a prominent place within their establishment the regulatory definition of “fait maison”: “home-made dishes are prepared on-site with raw products”.
Restaurants can use the “fait maison” label, or the logo , in their menus and menu boards next to each home-made dish.
Lastly, restaurants which offer only home-made dishes for sale will be able to display the “fait maison” label or the aforementioned logo in a place where it can be seen by all customers.
Enforcement and penalties
Breach of the new Decree provisions will be considered as a misleading commercial practice, which is a criminal offence pursuant to Article L. 121-1 of the Consumer Code, and punished by a prison sentence up to 2 years and a maximum fine of €300,000 for individuals and €1,500,000 for companies, pursuant to Article L. 121-6 of the French Consumer Code. Alternatively, the fine imposed may also be equivalent to up to 10 % of the annual turnover realized by the offender or to 50% of the advertising expenditure made by the offender. Cumulative criminal sanctions may also apply.
The agents of the French Direction for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Prevention of Fraud (DGCCRF) are entitled to control the application of the Decree provisions by restaurants owners.
However, in order to allow the restaurant owners to implement to this new regulation, the DGCCRF controls will not lead to any prosecution before 1 January 2015.