A French ban on the sales of fruit and vegetables with identifying stickers threatens exports of U.S. sweet potatoes (approx. $20 million in sales annually) and grapefruits ($8 million annually). The ban on stickers is scheduled to be implemented on January 1, 2022. Most U.S. grapefruits and some sweet potatoes shipped overseas bear stickers for traceability and marketing purposes. French fruit and vegetable producers and importers will also face a ban on plastic packaging.
In February 2020, the French parliament passed the anti-waste law for a circular economy. The aim of the legislators was to change France’s production and consumption model in order to limit waste and preserve natural resources, biodiversity and protect against climate change.
The bill has five main goals:
- eliminate disposable plastic
- provide consumers better information
- reduce waste and increase recycling
- prohibit companies from developing products that have an embedded expiry date, known as planned obsolescence
- improve production methods.
Article 80 prohibits non-compostable stickers on fruits and vegetables sold in France with implementation as soon as January 1, 2022. The ban on plastic packaging for fruit and vegetables was added during the parliamentary discussion of the bill. According to several sources, it was a trade-off for removing a similar ban on plastic packaging for dairy products after large French dairy companies lobbied against such a prohibition.
Because of the Covid-19 worldwide pandemic, the bill and those two articles remained unnoticed by most of the French fruit and vegetable sector until later in 2020.
Ban on non-compostable stickers
The article 77 of the law for a circular economy specifically prohibits non-home-compostable stickers on any fruit and vegetables sold in France beginning on January 1, 2022. Stickers are widely used on fruits and vegetables whether domestically produced or imported. They are primarily used to differentiate the higher quality products, for branding, or to facilitate the purchases with a PLU code.