FSA Press Release (2006/0642), 6 April 2006
To see the Guidance Document, go to: http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/vegitermsgn.pdf
The Food Standards Agency has published new guidance for manufacturers, caterers and enforcement authorities to improve food labelling for vegans and vegetarians.
The guidance, drawn up after consultation with a range of stakeholders including The Vegetarian Society and The Vegan Society, will provide criteria for the use of the terms 'vegetarian' and 'vegan' on food labels for the first time.
There are approximately 3.5 million vegetarians and 0.25 million vegans in the UK . The guidance should make it easier for these consumers to identify the products that are suitable for them.
It aims to improve consistency in the use of the terms on food labels by manufacturers and caterers and help enforcement agencies to identify misleading labelling.
The guidance should also help to prevent some common mistakes by companies such as labelling drink or food that has been derived from animal products or fish as suitable for 'vegans' and 'vegetarians'.
Dr Richard Harding, Head of the FSA's Consumer Choice, Food Standards and Special Projects Division said: 'There has been a lot of confusion over the use of the terms "vegetarian" and "vegan" on food labels both in the retail and catering sectors. The root cause of the problem seems to be the lack of agreed criteria. The guidance aims to improve consistency by providing criteria for the use of these terms in food labelling.'
Tina Fox, Chief Executive of The Vegetarian Society said: 'We all want to know what we are eating and misleading labelling makes it particularly difficult for Britain's three million plus vegetarians and vegans to make informed choices. In the continuing absence of a definition of these terms in law, The Vegetarian Society sincerely hopes that the FSA's guidance is widely taken up by manufacturers, caterers, retailers and local enforcement authorities.'
George Rodger, Chair of The Vegan Society said: 'As more and more foods have become available in packaged form, vegans have had to become accustomed to reading long lists of ingredients to see whether or not a product is suitable for them.
'The new food-labelling guidance from the Food Standards Agency will make things so much easier. If a product is labelled ‘suitable for vegans' in accordance with this guidance, they need look no further.'
The criteria for the use of the terms 'vegetarian' and 'vegan' in food labelling are set out in the guidance as:
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.
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).