The Zurich Administrative Court has sided with Swiss plant-based protein manufacturer Planted Foods and its use of terminology including “chicken” and “BBQ.”
“The use of animal names on the packaging of plant-based foods made from pea protein is not deceptive in view of the specific product presentation,” the court said in its decision, supporting the Swiss-based Planted Foods, which produces a range of vegan meat products.
‘The public recognizes the products as a vegetable substitute for meat’
Further, the court said a consumer survey clearly indicated that “the public recognizes the products as a vegetable substitute for meat. By stating the name of an animal, the intended use of the food as a meat substitute product can be explained to the public in the interest of providing sufficient information required by food law.”
The decision comes as labeling on plant-based food faces increasing challenges as the industry expands. Neighboring country France enacted a ban on mean names on plant-based foods earlier this year in an attempt to avoid “consumer confusion.” That decision was ultimately overturned by the country’s highest court, but the attempted ban highlighted unfair scrutiny directed at the plant-based category.
Label restriction attempts tick up
Other efforts to restrict labeling have gone into effect, though. In South Africa in June, a government ruling outlawed using “meaty” names on plant-based food including terms like “vegan nuggets” and “plant-based meatballs.” The ruling was also announced as a way to minimize confusion.
“Regulations such as this is exactly what we don’t need when the world’s scientists are telling us we urgently need to reduce our meat consumption to help brake dangerous global warming,” ProVeg South Africa’s country director Donovan Will said in a statement earlier this year. “The regulation disrespects consumers. There is no evidence to show that people are confused by meaty names for plant-based foods. In fact, evidence from Australia, Europe, and the U.S. prove they are not confused. We really urge the government to overturn this regulation.”
Turkey could see even greater restrictions following a June decision by the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry banning the sale and production of vegan cheese. Organizations are hoping to reverse the ban through legal action; The Vegan Association of Turkey filed a lawsuit to defend the rights of plant-based brands and manufacturers in Turkey.
In the U.S. vegan cheesemaker Miyoko Schinner won a court case against the California Department of Food and Agriculture over similar attempts to block words like “cheese”, “milk”, and “butter” from dairy-free products.