Labelling challenges for plant-based food

05 February 2024

As reported by Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), vegan and plant-based foods lack of a legal definition. Nevertheless, about a 76,4% of consumers believe food labeled as vegan should be entirely free of animal-derived ingredients. This implies that even seemingly vegan goods, like fruit, may include traces of items produced from animals. The lack of legal definition for vegan or plant-based food also places the responsibility on food business.

With 1 out of 6 people having food allergies, correct food labeling becomes crucial. There is a call for legal definition of vegan food, including thresholds for what constitutes animal-free food. An education campaign to raise awareness of label interpretation is also recommended.

The paper emphasises the rise in popularity of vegan and plant-based diets, with 14% of UK adults following a meat-free diet. However, challenges arise due to the lack of clarity in labeling. CTSI’s research reveals that some consumers find meat and dairy product descriptions helpful when preparing vegan meals.

Furthermore, CTSI’s paper discusses about the issue of “vegan-washing”, where companies make misleading claims about the health or environmental benefits of their products. The lack of legal definitions for vegan and plant-based food contributes to this problem.

The absence of European rules defining these products can result in severe cases of anaphylactic shock and even fatalities among consumers who are allergic to specific substances not mentioned in the label. SAFE calls for clear and harmonised EU definition of vegetarian and vegan products.