Background Due to the strong increase in the marketing of vegan and vegetarian animal substitutes in recent years, numerous questions of food law have arisen that concern both the composition of the food itself and aspects of product labelling. The aim of this review article is to comprehensively present these questions and the existing legal regulations and the current state of discussion of controversial issues on the basis of the applicable legal norms, case law and sub-legal requirements. Methods The relevant legal provisions were researched via official European and German databases. The sub-legal requirements were researched via websites of the Federal Ministry of Justice, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Federal Office of Consumer Protection. The case law research was carried out via the legal database Beck-online and via the database of individual federal states. The search was carried out using search terms that are relevant to the legal questions in connection with animal substitute products. Results So far, there is no legal definition for vegan and vegetarian foodstuffs. Therefore, in Germany, the non-legally binding definition of the terms vegan and vegetarian in the guidelines of the German Food Book Commission is used. This has different legal implications. Conclusions When defining the terms vegan and vegetarian, it is legitimate to refer to the guiding principles of the German Food Book Commission in view of the lack of a legal definition. In addition to that, general food law regulations must be taken into account when labelling and marketing such products, in particular misleading regulations and the requirements for protecting the designation of dairy products.