Definitions of vegetarian and vegan (Germany)

There are no specific legal regulations for vegan and vegetarian foods either in the European Union or in Germany. However, the so-called guidelines („Leitsätze“) for vegan and vegetarian foods with similarities to foods of animal origin are important in Germany. These guidelines are sub-legal sectoral regulations that are codified in the German Food Codex („Deutsches Lebensmittelbuch“) and which provide an indication of which designations of a food are ac-cepted in Germany. The guidelines apply to vegan and vegetarian foods that are similar to foods of animal origin and whose designation, product name or presentation is based on the customary labelling of foods with animal ingredients. For example, a ‘Schnitzel’ is a cut of meat, i.e. muscle meat. A vegan alternative to this meat product may also use the term ‘Schnit-zel’ in its designation but only under certain conditions. It should also be noted that in Germany, products that are vegan by nature, such as mineral water, may not be adver-tised with a special reference to their vegan nature. Such advertising is considered a violation of the ban on advertis-ing with a self-evident aspect. It is therefore important to make it clear in the advertising that the product in question is vegan by nature and not due to a special quality or a special production method.

This is general information rather than legal advice and is current as of 30 May 2024. We recommend you contact a specialised food lawyer for legal advice for your particular circumstances to support commercial decisions which could impact your product or business.

Markus Grube