Calls for vegan, plant-based labelling standards to be clarified

The New Zealand Vegetarian Society and the Vegan Society of Aotearoa have submitted a petition to the Ministry for Primary Industries calling for clear and uniform labelling of vegetarian and vegan products. 

According to the organisations, there are several items on the market in New Zealand with misleading labelling, with marketers using terms like “plant-based,” “less dairy” and “vegan.” 

This lack of transparency is concerning for allergy sufferers, Jews and Muslims, vegans and vegetarians, as customers can’t grasp what is in their food without carefully reading the ingredient list.

“Clear and honest labelling is not just a matter of consumer rights, but a step towards a more transparent and ethical food industry,” said Ina Babic, spokesperson for the NZ Vegetarian Society (NZVS). 

“The NZVS also offers Vegan Certification and Vegetarian Approval for products, which consumers should look out for. With the current lack of legislation, these trademarks provide much-needed assurance that products meet strict criteria, helping to protect consumers from misleading labels.” 

The petition states that the terms “vegan” and “vegetarian” should be used where appropriate and that phrases like “less dairy” should be avoided. The term “plant-based” should only be used for entirely plant-based items. 

The NZ Vegetarian Society also adds customers tend to make purchases based on eye-catching packaging designs, and this lack of clarity leads consumers to believe that the products are free of allergies and animal substances. 

The petition’s goal in campaigning for enforceable labelling standards is to reduce misunderstanding and ensure transparency, allowing consumers to make more informed decisions, the two organisations shared.

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