Plant-based seafoods such as vegan shrimp, crab cakes or Toona are a growing rage but unclear labeling is confusing customers.

A new study done by FoodMinds showed that about 40 percent of consumers believed plant-based imitations contain actual seafood. Up to 60 percent thought the products had similar nutritional content as real fish.

Yet fake seafood producers are pushing back against labels that tell exactly what’s in their products.

“What we have to do is we have to ensure that the labels themselves are educating people about something as simple as what’s in the package. And a lot of these plant-based alternatives have suggested that they have the first amendment right to call their product, whatever they want. And that’s simply not the case.”   

Gavin Gibbons is Vice President for Communications at the National Fisheries Institute, the nation’s largest seafood trade group.

There’s nothing wrong with the vegan seafood products and they can make an important contribution to a growing world, Gibbons says. But the makers don’t even want the term “imitation” seafood included on their packaging.

“Consumers have a right to know what’s in the package and what what’s more, a package has something called a Statement of Identity on it and that is a specific thing. It is supposed to tell consumers what is in the package. And a lot of these highly processed, plant-based alternatives have labels that tell you what is not in the package. For instance, it says vegan shrimp. Well, it’s a vegan product that does not contain shrimp. And that is not how a Statement of Identity works. A Statement of Identity has to tell you what is in the product. And those labels currently do not do that.”   

“Labels that promote “vegan shrimp” but contain no shrimp or creatively spelled fake products that contain no seafood are confusing consumers. These products should be labeled with what is in the package not with what marketers hope consumers believe is in there. Labels should be clear and accurate,” NFI president John Connelly wrote in and OpEd.

Gibbons says along with the dairy, beef and poultry industry, NFI is working to get a federal labeling fix and there is support on Capitol Hill.

“There is room for these products in the grocery store and on menus. This is not a fight that we are picking, it is simply a truth in labeling issue that needs to be addressed before consumers are even more confused than they are now.”    

Meanwhile, without any evidence, fake seafood makers insist consumers know what they’re getting.

Ironically, their promotions brutally bash the seafood industry as being unsustainable and cruel and urges customers to “leave fish off their plates for good.”