5: Health: Vegans demand accurate labelling

Vegans hope their petition will lead to legislation requiring that food labels are clear and concise.

Food products in Aotearoa have specific requirements for labelling in most circumstances, however missing from legislation is the definition of plant-based, vegan and vegetarian. As a result consumers are becoming increasingly confused as what products are “safe” to eat.

This is of particular concern to those with allergies, Jewish and Muslim people, vegans and vegetarians, all of whom could ingest something they would rather not.

There are several products on the market in Aotearoa that carry misleading labels, in particular companies are using buzzwords such as “plant-based”, “less dairy” and “vegan”. These words would make many people think that the product did not contain dairy, eggs, honey, gelatine or other animal products. However this is not always the case and consumers may often buy a product, having seen an eye catching design which made them think there were no animal products in the food item.

When they get it home and read the ingredients label, they see that the product is not vegan or 100% plant-based at all. They have been duped and now must attempt to return the item, which is often impossible if it was a chilled or frozen product.

“We are consistently receiving calls and emails from consumers and members regarding the issue of product labelling,” media spokesperson for the Vegan Society, Claire Insley, says. “We have written to the Food Standards Authority, the Ministry of Primary Industries and the Commerce Commission, to no avail. No one cares.

“It is not just vegans who may need to avoid certain foods; this is also a problem for people who cannot read English very well and buy things based on pictures on the product.”

To address this concern the Vegan Society of Aotearoa and the NZ Vegetarian Society have created a petition to give to the Ministry for Primary Industries, who keep insisting that this issue is not a problem. Despite several attempts over the last two years by the Vegan Society to get legislation in place, the authorities concerned fail to recognise it as a concern. Even the Commerce Commission say they cannot see a problem and that they cannot do anything anyway.

It is hoped that the petition will lead to legislation requiring that food labels are clear and concise, only using the words “vegan” and “vegetarian” where appropriate and banning the use of wording such as “less dairy”. The words “plant-based” should only be used for products that are 100% plant-based, not products that have more plants than you might expect in.

To sign the petition visit https://our.actionstation.org.nz/petitions/ban-misleading-labelling-for-vegetarian-and-vegan-products

More about the Vegan Society Aotearoa New Zealand:

The Vegan Society supports and facilitates a vegan lifestyle and plant-based eating by creating a vibrant, visible and influential community, and by providing resources and information.