Meat- and Fish Alternatives

Spanish Seafood Producers & Consumer Unions Claim Plant-Based Seafood Labelling is Deceptive

A group of over 20 Spanish seafood companies and consumer unions has accused plant-based seafood producers of misleading consumers through their labelling.

The organisations — which include Apromar, Cepesca, Interfish, Conexmar, ConsumES, and more —- have announced their intention to join SAFE Food Advocacy Europe to urge European authorities to place stricter regulations on plant-based products. They say these foods should not be able to imitate fish or shellfish.

While the companies claim their objections are mostly centred around the “deception” of consumers, there are clearly other factors at play. Conexmar says the marketing of plant-based seafood “may lead to unfair competition”, while Miguel López Crespo, the vice president of ConsumES, admits that “we are also concerned about the damage that this type of product can cause to our seafood and aquaculture products”.

Consequently, this appears to be a clear case of seafood producers feeling threatened by the increasing adoption of seafood alternatives, and attempting to damage their plant-based competitors as a result. The organisations are objecting not only to the use of words such as “fish” on plant-based product packaging, but also to the use of phrases or images that evoke the ocean, claiming that this is “confusing” for consumers (despite the fact that some plant-based seafood products do contain ocean-derived ingredients such as algae).

Plant-based hake fillet
© Heura

European labelling restrictions

This brings to mind the rejected European Amendment 171, which was backed by dairy industry lobbyists. The amendment would have banned milk alternative producers from using any image that evokes dairy, such as a picture of their own product being poured onto cereal. It would also have prevented plant-based companies from using similar packaging formats to dairy products. These unnecessary restrictions were rejected, but this seemingly has not dissuaded animal product producers from further attempts to restrict plant-based labelling.

In Europe, this is now most prevalent in individual countries, with France attempting to pass a decree banning the use of meat-like terms such as “steak” and “ham” for plant-based products. This decree was suspended in April, with a judge concluding there was serious doubt over whether it was even legal. It was also described as a “serious and immediate attack to the interests of [plant-based meat] manufacturers”.

Italy has passed a similar ban, but reported in February that it may reconsider if the restrictions hurt Italian businesses. Belgium also dropped plans to introduce guidelines for the labelling of meat alternatives in January.

“These regulations are counter-productive and based on misunderstandings,” previously stated Jasmijn de Boo, Global CEO of ProVeg International. “Plant-based foods are a vital key to solving the climate crisis as well as ensuring economic growth. Many meat and dairy companies themselves know this, which is why they are investing in both plant-based and animal-based foods, and in some cases switching to plant-based foods entirely.”

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