Vegan Salmon Company Sued For ‘Misleading’ Shoppers – Court Dismisses Case

An Austrian court just dismissed a plant-based labeling lawsuit brought against Revo Foods by the Vienna City Council


3 Minutes Read

Photo shows someone holding a package of plant-based 'Revo Salmon' in the supermarket. Revo Foods vegan salmon is the latest product at the center of Europe's plant-based labeling debate - Media Credit: Revo Foods

Austria’s Administrative Court just dismissed a case brought against plant-based seafood startup Revo Foods by the Vienna City Council.

The lawsuit claimed that the company’s “Revo Salmon – 100 percent plant-based with pea protein” might mislead customers into believing it contained traditional, animal-derived fish. Revo Foods denied the allegation, and the court rejected Vienna City Council’s claim.

“Our packaging declares that only 100 percent plant-based ingredients are used and clearly labels the products as vegan,” said Revo Foods CEO Dr Robin Simsa, in a release sent to Plant Based News. “Many consumers are specifically looking for these types of products, and it is important to give guidance of the product taste with descriptive names.”

Labeling restrictions show ‘distortion of competition’

According to Revo Foods, the case is the first of its kind brought against a plant-based seafood company, although complaints have been made about other, similar products such as oat milk and vegan sausages, particularly across mainland Europe.

The French government, for example, has banned 21 words like “steak” and “ham” that are traditionally associated with animal products from vegan foods made and sold in France. Meanwhile, the Polish government published a draft decree in December that could lead to similar restrictions nationwide, preceded by a similar bill by Italy the month before.

 “It seems that these naming regulations primarily affect plant-based products,” added Simsa. “A clear one-sidedness or distortion of competition is recognizable here.”

The debate over plant-based labels

Photo shows a plate of carefully arranged Revo Foods plant-based salmon alongside lemon slices and garnish
Revo Foods Revo Foods clearly labels its plant-based salmon product

Restrictions at a Europe-wide level have generally been unsuccessful so far, including the failed Amendment 171 which sought to ban general descriptive words like “creamy” along with “milk,” “butter,” “cheese,” and “yogurt.” But the overall debate continues, and generally centers around the idea that using these types of phrases on plant-based labels will mislead consumers.

In contrast, analysis actually suggests that removing familiar words from plant-based labels will decrease rather than increase transparency, and surveys report that European citizens overwhelmingly back the continued use of meaty and other comparable phrases on plant-based products.

Revo Foods, along with many other plant-based companies and environmental lobby groups, believe that legislative crackdowns on vegan and meat-free foods are revealing of the way governments prop up animal agriculture – despite its significant environmental impact and the increasing efficacy of alternative proteins.

“Meat and fish farms are heavily subsidized by the public sector through lower tax rates or by agricultural subsidies,” explained Simsa. “However, meat is by far the biggest climate driver in food production. Is this approach in line with the ‘European Green Deal,’ with which Europe wants to promote more environmental protection? We don’t think so.”

Vegan food is a ‘serious contender’ to animal products 

In contrast to France and Poland’s stance on plant-based labels, a Swiss court ruled in January last year that using “meaty” words did not mislead consumers, while Belgium is unlikely to introduce legislation ruling one way or the other in the immediate future.

In Germany, the government recently unveiled a huge $41 million USD (€38 million) investment in the promotion of plant-based foods and alternative proteins, and Denmark has announced a 40-page plan to shift towards plant-based food production.

Revo Foods believes that the court’s dismissal of Vienna City Council’s lawsuit is a “win for plant-based innovations in general.”

“The ongoing lawsuits against plant-based companies show that vegan products are already serious contenders to their animal-based counterparts in the food market,” says Simsa. “We will continue to challenge biased regulations that favor meat.”

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