The European Vegetarian Union (EVU) has raised concerns and expressed exasperation following the recent hearing of the European Parliament Committee on Fisheries (PECH) about the use of fish-related terms for plant-based foods. The EVU, while acknowledging the importance of clear and accurate food labelling, emphasised the need to focus on encouraging environmental sustainability and promoting plant-based alternatives in our diets.
The EVU participated in the hearing to represent the consumer perspective, but highlighted the absence of representation from the plant-based seafood sector, contrasting with a disproportionate presence from the fish industry. In fact, out of the five invited speakers, only the EVU represented the case in favour of current denominations. This raises serious concerns about transparency, fairness, and potential bias in the ongoing debate.
Rafael Pinto, Policy Manager at the EVU, emphasised during the hearing that previous proposals restricting denominations for plant-based meat alternatives had been voted down by the European Parliament. He moreover argued that consumers are intentional in their choices, stating, “Consumers are not confused. Consumers are not choosing these products by accident, but rather, with intention.” He also presented extensive data that consistently demonstrates that consumers are not deceived, and not using ‘traditional’ names may actually lead to greater confusion.
According to the 2023 Smart Protein Project report, an EU-funded study that surveyed over 7,000 consumers across 10 countries, 84% of consumers were familiar with plant-based fish products. During the hearing, the EVU highlighted data from EU-wide and country-specific studies, such as Austria and Spain showing consumers largely understand these products and agree with current denomination use, as long as the plant-based nature of products is made clear.
These discussions parallel previous debates on plant-based meat denominations and suggest a misplaced prioritisation of linguistic concerns over addressing urgent environmental challenges. The EVU continues to call on policymakers to recognise the critical role that plant-based alternatives play in mitigating climate change, reducing resource consumption, and promoting a more sustainable food system.
The EVU urged the European Parliament to reconsider its approach, emphasising the importance of fostering open and inclusive dialogues that reflect the diverse perspectives and contributions of all stakeholders. The EVU emphasised that legislative measures should support innovation in plant-based alternatives rather than hindering progress in the transition towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly food system.
According to recent data, the value of plant-based seafood sales in the EU grew 326% between 2020 and 2022 to €43 million across the EU. In countries such as Spain, the category registered a staggering 10,700% growth in unit sales.
You can watch the presentation here: