Consumer support section:
Both came about in response to the number of complaints we still receive about mis-labelling food as vegetarian. We've created some FREE wallet sized cards that you can hand out to offending establishments, at events or even to friends and family. You can order these, and many other free materials, by filling in the order form.
Food labelling - vegetarian & vegan
In 2006 the Food Standards Agency (FSA) published guidance designed to improve food labelling for vegans and vegetarians. It was produced after consultation with stakeholders including the Vegetarian Society and the Vegan Society and provides "official" criteria for the use of the terms vegetarian and vegan on food labels for the first time.
Guidance on the use of the terms 'vegetarian' and 'vegan' in food labelling can be viewed online.
Vegetarian: The term ‘vegetarian’ should not be applied to foods that are, or are made from or with the aid of products derived from animals that have died, have been slaughtered, or animals that die as a result of being eaten. Animals means farmed, wild or domestic animals, including for example, livestock poultry, game, fish, shellfish, crustacea, amphibians, tunicates, echinoderms, molluscs and insects.
Vegan: The term ‘vegan’ should not be applied to foods that are, or are made from or with the aid of animals or animal products (including products from living animals).
Cross contamination - Manufacturers, retailers and caterers should be able to demonstrate that foods presented as ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan’ have not been contaminated with non-vegetarian or non-vegan foods during storage, preparation, cooking or display.
The terms ‘vegetarian’ and ‘vegan’ in food labelling are used voluntarily by industry. Where these terms are absent, consumers have to rely on the list of ingredients. This can cause confusion and worry for a lot of individuals who might be unsure of what to look out for. Unfortunately when a product does say “suitable for vegetarians” it is only an interpretation of what that company thinks is vegetarian.
At the Vegetarian Society we encounter many misinterpretations of the meaning of vegetarian. We would always advise vegetarians to look for our Vegetarian Society “approved” trademark on products; it ensures a product is truly vegetarian. For more information about our trademark and products/dishes we approve, have a look at www.vegsocapproved.com
Should you come across a product/menu item which is incorrectly labelled then we suggest contacting the company/establishment directly, preferably in writing. Please visit our Are you an aggrieved vegetarian? webpage for further details.
Food Labelling update 2010
The FSA guidelines, which gave UK vegetarians the grounds to take a complaint against a food manufacturer to Trading Standards, has now been adopted in principle by the European Parliament giving the use of the term vegetarian/vegan legal status. The EU vote means, as it covers the UK too, that within the next three to five years, (during which time manufacturers who choose to use the labelling have a time allowance for compliance) a UK vegetarian could bring a civil suit against a manufacturer who is found to misuse the term ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan’. However this means that for the next three to five years the labelling could still legally be abused so, to be completely safe, choose Vegetarian Society Approved products.