Consumer support section:
Are you an aggrieved vegetarian?
Despite some significant improvements in the understanding of the needs of vegetarians, sadly some retailers, caterers, restaurants and manufacturers are still prone to making mistakes when supplying goods or services to those following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Food Standards Agency (FSA) Guidelines
The introduction, in April 2006, by the Foods Standards Agency of their “Guidance on the use of the terms “vegetarian” and “vegan” in Food Labelling” (see Food Labelling) after a lengthy period of negotiations and consultation has proved to be very helpful for both enforcers and producers in the absence of a legal definition of the terms in UK or EU law. These guidelines continue to prove a very useful document to bring to the attention of any company that a vegetarian may find themselves in dispute with.
Making a complaint
Should you come across a product/menu item which is incorrectly labelled then we would always suggest contacting the company/establishment directly to let them know. In our experience, we find they are more receptive to potential customers than to organisations. It’s really important for vegetarians to make their views heard. It's also worth mentioning that the FSA have guidelines and to ask why they are not following these.
In most cases, if you are not satisfied with the response of the supplying company, then the trading standards department of the Council local to the outlet is your first port of call. More detailed information is available through your local trading standards service website. To find your local service visit 'Consumer Information' c/o Trading Standards Institute.
The response of the Trading Standards department will vary enormously depending on how they view the severity of the problem. Should they take up your complaint, it may be passed on to a different local authority if the issue is not considered to be with the particular outlet where you encountered the problem. If the issue involves cross contamination or sloppy kitchen practices, it may be passed on to their colleagues responsible for environmental health enforcement.
We can help
The Vegetarian Society is always pleased to assist any vegetarians/vegans who have experienced difficulties. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you feel we can be of assistance. We are also interested to hear what feedback you receive from companies/establishments.
If your complaint concerns advertising or broadcast media, please contact our Press Office – email@example.com – who will be able to advise you on the best way forward.