The cross with vegetarian meat substitutes in germany

The cross with vegetarian meat substitute products in germany

Image: cuidandotudiabetes. License: CC0

Are product names such as milk or schnitzel generic or do vegetarian substitutes need new names??

The dispute between the supporters of the largely industrialized meat industry and the advocates of a vegetarian diet is once again making waves in court. There is currently a major case pending before the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The starting point of the current legal dispute is the competition law warning and the lawsuit of the Berlin Association of Social Competition e.V., which has taken up the pursuit of competition law offences on its banner. Competition law and the warning letters that are often used in this context are a German peculiarity and do not exist in this form in other EU member states. Competitive associations can take action against alleged grievances in the interest of individual members. It is irrelevant how many members the association has in the specific industry and what their market significance is.

The members of the competition associations have the advantage that they do not have to take action by name against a suspected violation of competition law, but can send the association forward. The activities of the competition associations are not infrequently compared to the work of lobbying associations, which are supposed to cultivate the political landscape for their members.

In the current case, the manufacturer Tofutown in Wiesbaum in the Eifel region, whose products bear names such as Green Schnitzel, Veggie Cheese or Tofu Butter, was sued. This does not suit representatives of industrial animal and meat production. For example, the German Farmers’ Association complains that food processors are labeling a non-dairy food product as a "Kase" although the legal protection of milk and dairy products is clear. Only what was milked from so-called udder secretion, i.e. produced from animal milk, was allowed to bear the name milk, cheese or butter.

Also with other vegetarian products the controversy rages. Labels like "Salami", "Sausage", "Schnitzel" or "Meatball" should only be used for products that contain meat, whereas meatballs are often amed to be vegetarian (half bread, half loaf).

Are milk, yogurt, butter, cottage cheese or cheese always of animal origin?

Vegetable milk alternatives mostly drove the name additive "-drink". Plant-based cheese alternatives often have names that are reminiscent of cheese, such as "Cheezly" or "Cheddar Style" or "Tofu Chase". The company Provamel calls its quark alternative blumelessly as "Soy alternative to quark". Whether these designations, which more or less directly use the impression of a dairy product, are legal is so far a legal gray area.

And the German linguistic usage of product names is not so clear-cut after all. Peanut butter is now mostly marketed in Germany under the name Peanut Butter, but it is allowed to be called this way. Soy milk, on the other hand, is not allowed and is sold as a soy drink. The same applies to corresponding products made from oats or rice. With soy yogurt, the name yogurt is usually only found in the list of ingredients. However, it stands on the refrigerated shelf right next to the animal yogurt products in comparable packaging.

The fact that soy curd is produced from soy milk is no secret – and soy curd may apparently also be sold under this name in Germany. Coconut milk may also be sold, which certainly does not come from udder secretions. Latex milk may also be sold in Germany. The latex milk owes the survival of its name in Germany primarily to the fact that it could not be found in German grocery stores. Latex milk is usually sold through hardware stores and other craft stores, and was mostly known as the basis for the production of Halloween masks.

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