Calling it fraud to sell products made from beans or rice and flavouring as “vegan hake” or “vegan tuna”, Spanish fishermen, aquaculturists, and canneries have joined hands to petition the national government to ban such products from the market.
The appeal comes from the Spanish Confederation of Fisheries (Cepesca), Spanish Aquaculture Producers’ Association (Apromar) and National Association of Manufacturers of Canned Fish and Seafood (Anfaco-Cecopesca), as well as the National Federation of Brotherhoods of Fishermen (FNCP).
The products consist of vegetable- and seaweed-based ingredients to closely mimic real seafood. Mimicking seafoods is common in the surimi industry, but there the base product is fish such as Alaska pollock that is minced with added flavouring and shaped to imitate seafoods such as crab legs and other foods such as mushrooms; the difference is that the labels are clear and no one is deceived.
However, the complaint against the fish substitutes highlights the misleading labels. The industry says that calling the product “vegan fillets”, for example, is bad enough but practices such as switching “v” for “u” in the Spanish word for hake, merluza, to label the fake product merlvza is clearly misleading the customer: a vegan customer will understand the “code” in the misspelling, but a customer seeking real hake could be duped.
The complaint’s other basis is the potential consumer harm from the product’s missing nutritional content. Real yellowfin tuna’s nutritional benefits cannot be reproduced in a vegetable-based imitation.
Therefore, the industry complains that these products “fail to comply with various European and national regulations regarding unfair commercial practices of companies, unfair competition, labelling, presentation and advertising of food products,” in addition to alleged violations in food safety and nutrition.
BONUS: If one simply must have vegan “tuna”, there are many simple recipes for home-made plant-based “tuna” available online. For example, one supermarket’s suggestion for a tuna sandwich re-imagined for plant-based diets: simply mash a bowl of chickpeas, leaving a few whole; add roasted seaweed and mustard and mix thoroughly; put a spoonful on bread with lettuce and tomato. Voila!