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Will Swiss restaurants have to label bought-in menu items like France?

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The Local ([email protected])
Will Swiss restaurants have to label bought-in menu items like France?
In this file photo, a couple enjoy a fondue in a former ski gondola at Restaurant Marzilibruecke in Bern. Will Switzerland follow in France's footsteps and move to require restaurants to label dishes that have been bought in? (Photo by STEFAN WERMUTH / AFP) 

France may force restaurants to label menu items which have been prepared on the premises so that diners know exactly what they're getting when they eat out. Is Switzerland likely to follow suit?

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If we go to a decent restaurant, we tend to assume all the dishes have been freshly prepared in the restaurant's kitchen shortly beforehand. But actually, some eateries buy in pre-prepared dishes from wholesalers and just heat them up.

France's minister for trade and small businesses, Olivia Gregoire, recently said she was in favour of requiring France's approximately 175,000 restaurants to explicitly indicate whether items on the menu were prepared on the premises.

Currently, it is voluntary for restaurants to put the label on their dishes, but Gregoire told La Tribune Dimanche that she would like it to become compulsory by 2025.

Opinions are split on this issue in Switzerland.

Hospitality industry association GastroSuisse is in favour of restaurants voluntarily labelling dishes made in house with the 'Fait Maison' label.

Restaurants have been able to use this label since it started being rolled out in 2017 (it's only been available in Zurich since this year though).

READ ALSO: Where are the 'best' restaurants in Switzerland?

But if restaurants choose to use it, they're also required to label any dishes that haven't been made on the premises.

Just under three percent of restaurants voluntarily use the label.

So far, at least 550 restaurants out of Switzerland's approximately 23,200 establishments, or around 2.4 percent, have already been certified or are in the process of acquiring the label.

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Patrik Hasler-Olbrych, head of communications at GastroSuisse, told Swiss news website 20 Minuten that he nonetheless believed the voluntary approach had "proven successful in the first phase". 

GastroSuisse does not currently see legislation similar to what is coming in France as either "necessary or expedient" for Switzerland.

However, Josianne Walpen, of the Swiss Consumer Protection Foundation, says there's a lack of information on how dishes are prepared in restaurants in Switzerland.

"In a well-kept restaurant, you can certainly expect that the kitchen will not heat up a ready-made meal, but will make it themselves," she told the news site.

The difficulty comes when you try to define what counts as pre-prepared.

"If the roast is made in house, but the mashed potatoes have been mixed with [instant mashed potato] powder and flakes, what holds true?" she queried.

READ ALSO: Is it legal for Swiss restaurants to charge for tap water?

"Information for consumers is completely absent" at restaurants in Switzerland, she added, explaining that consumers were in the dark about whether restaurants are freshly cooking or just warming up the dishes they order.

Nonetheless, Walpen does not think that making labelling compulsory is the right thing for Switzerland.

She believes the resources that would be needed to check the information would be better deployed elsewhere.

"France – and to some extent French-speaking Switzerland – has a different food culture to German-speaking Switzerland," she said.

 

 

 

 

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