The widespread use of "fake cheese" has outraged France's gourmands after a television documentary secretly filmed artificial substitutes being produced by the country's food manufacturers.
Restaurateurs and food critics in the nation celebrated for its fine cheeses called for new food labelling rules to be introduced after France 2 television revealed the proliferation of vegetable fat-based substitutes.
"Consumers are being misled," Xavier Denamur, a restaurant owner, told The Daily Telegraph.
"This is an area where we French should be setting an example, but instead we're victims of the global craze for junk food."
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Undercover reporters filmed the practice at French wholesale manufacturers of ready meals such as pizzas, lasagne and burgers.
Cheese substitute products are produced without fresh milk and often contain processed palm oil. Substitutes are easier to store and handle than real cheese, and are significantly cheaper.
Anne Inquimbert, editor of the online food magazine Ideemiam, said: "The manufacturers of artificial cheese put profit first so it's up to us, the consumers, to mobilise to save our great cheeses."
Beatrice Reynal, a nutritionist, said substitutes did not offer the same health benefits as cheese. "They contain fat, saturated fat, but without the benefits of calcium," she told France 2.
Manufacturers of substitute cheese products were unavailable for comment.