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Victory for plant-based products: Vienna court dismisses lawsuit against startup's plant-based fish labeling

February 14, 2024

Plant-based alternatives to animal products are repeatedly subject to labeling bans in the European Union, but there are still no standardized regulations for fish alternatives. However, the Vienna City Council has taken legal action against the Viennese food-tech startup Revo Foods, which specializes in the development of plant-based meat and fish alternatives using 3D printing technology.

The allegation was that the Revo Salmon - 100% Plant-Based with Pea Protein product could mislead consumers with its name, despite a large description as 'Vegan - Plant-based' or '100% plant-based with pea protein' on the front. There have already been similar cases in the past in other product categories (such as 'oat milk' or 'vegan sausage'), but not yet for fish alternatives at a European level. The case has now been dismissed by a Viennese administrative court, which can be seen as a success for Revo Foods and for vegan alternative products in general. Revo Foods rejects the accusation that the product labeling could mislead consumers:

"Our packaging declares that only 100% plant-based ingredients are used and clearly labels the products as vegan without animal-based ingredients," said Dr Robin Simsa, CEO Revo Foods. "In our view, any accusation of deception is unjustified. Many consumers are specifically looking for these types of products, and it is important to give guidance of the product taste with descriptive names."  

With regard to product labeling, there are increasing attempts at European and national level by meat industry lobby groups to hinder the further growth of more sustainable alternatives under the pretext of consumer protection. Many startups and established companies are therefore calling for the EU-wide regulations to be adapted, so that they not only serve the interests of industrial animal farming and aquaculture, but also allow sustainable, plant-based products to compete in a fair market. Such changes could have far-reaching effects on the plant-based food industry, and promote the development of innovative solutions to combat overfishing or factory farming.

While the product labeling of plant-based foods is strictly regulated, the rules for other product categories appear to be much less regulated. For example, 'hot dogs' do not contain dog meat, and 'hamburgers' do not contain ham. Nevertheless, consumer deception seems to be no concern in these cases. Furthermore, animal products from factory farming often feature illustrations of happy animals on the packaging, for example on green meadows. Doesn't this raise the question of whether consumers are being deliberately deceived?

"It seems that these naming regulations primarily affect plant-based products (such as oat drink). In our view, however, a clear one-sidedness or distortion of competition is recognizable here," added Simsa. "Meat and fish farms are heavily subsidized by the public sector, for example through lower tax rates or by agricultural subsidies. 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.“  

The world's oceans, on the brink of exploitation with 30% of species overfished, confront us with toxins and microplastics in fish products and the threat of destabilization of the marine ecosystem. Product recalls for conventional fish products are on the rise due to increased levels of harmful substances (e.g. mercury content). Revo Food's disruptive approach is to use new technologies to create the next generation of plant-based fish and meat alternatives, which also offer added health value thanks to their high protein and Omega-3 fatty acid content (and of course contain no heavy metals or antibiotics).

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