Food producers in France will be forced to think of new ways to describe some of their vegetarian and vegan foods when they are banned from using terms such as “vegetarian sausages”, "vegetarian mince" and “vegan bacon”.

French MPs have voted to outlaw use of such vocabulary, claiming they mislead shoppers.

Firms will no longer be able to use "burger", "steak", "sausage" or “fillet” to describe foods that have no meat in them, such as "ham" slices or "chicken" pies that are made of soya or wheat.

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The ban on such vocabulary will also apply to dairy alternatives.

The measure was put forward by MP Jean-Baptiste Moreau, who based his argument on a judgment last year by the European Court of Justice that soya and tofu products could not be marketed as “milk” or “butter”.

Mr Moreau, a farmer and member of President Macron’s En Marche! party tweeted: “It is important to fight against false claims: our products must be designated correctly: the terms #cheese or #steak will be reserved for products of animal origin!”

Refusals to comply with the ban will lead to fines of up to €300,000 (£264,000).

In Britain, reaction was divided. Some consumers wondered whether the French meat industry was feeling threatened by the rise in popularity of vegan food; others doubted that consumers would ever be confused.

One said: "This is ridiculous. I can tell you now no carnivore has ever bought veggie sausages or Quorn thinking they were buying meat."

Wendy Higgins, of Humane Society International, said: "It’s a shame that instead of embracing vegan and vegetarian food, France has adopted a position of defensive paranoia. But ultimately it won’t stop the rise of compassionate eating because the delicious, nutritious, Earth-friendly and ethical benefits will prevail regardless of what you call the products.”

The French have long been highly protective of their language, with the Academie Francaise acting as the ultimate authority.

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