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There is a lot of talk within the EU about defining what exactly constitutes a Vegetarian or Vegan. Why you may ask ( I know I did) and it comes to labeling of products for selling and how there are many different definitions of a Vegetarian or Vegan. And maybe I am a little to old fashion in this regard as I dumbly thought, a vegetarian is one who doesn't eat meat but will eat dairy, eggs and honey. A vegan is one who avoids all animal products, no honey, eggs, dairy and for sure won't wear leather or fur.

But, so many other types claim to be vegetarian or vegan.

1. Flexitarian - One who is mostly eat vegetarian but once in a while will eat meat

2. Pescatarian - One who eats fish but no other meat

3. Raw Vegan - One who follows a raw diet but none of the food the eat is heated about 49C

4. Veggan (Ovo Vegetarian) - One who follows a vegan lifestyle but still eats eggs

5. Pegan - A combination of Paleo (google it, if you don't know) and Vegan it's mostly vegan with healthy fats and fresh veggies and fruit, no starches or processed sugars but does allow meat on an occasion but more like a side dish...but no dairy or eggs.....(hopefully that is somewhat close)

6. Fructarian - One who eats only fruit

7. Pollotarian - One who eats poultry but not red meat

There are of course many more terms and people generally think there is a certain amount of flexibility in these terms. For instance, let us take cheese. Most cheese isn't but a truthful definition vegetarian, and most vegetarian are called Lacto-ovo vegetarian in that we eat dairy, eggs and honey. I find it increasingly surprising that so many still don't know that some cheese is made with Rennin. Rennin for cows milk cheese is an enzyme that comes from the stomach of calves, when they are being slaughtered for veal production. Now not all cheese has animal rennet, there is a vegetable version of rennin that some cheese manufacturers have adapted but due to country laws and tradition certain cheese are not allowed to adopt the veggie version, parmigiano-reggiano is a protected cheese, in that it must be made in the classical technique using animal rennin. While other cheeses like some cheddar are made with the veggie friendly rennin.

So a Lacto-ovo vegetarian will in most cases unless very careful, consume cheese that has this animal enzyme in it and most won't think about it or won't know. And the same is true for Gelatin. Gelatin is not vegetarian and is made from collagen which is a protein in connective tissue in animals (sorry to all scientists in the abbreviated explanation but I don't feel like explaining it more fully). So when you are eating your gummi bears or eating that bowl of jello you are in fact consuming what most would consider non vegetarian foods.

So how does this impact labeling? Let us look at the chocolate industry. And three labels that are seen on chocolate packages here in Europe.

Rainforest Alliance - is a label that companies can get if their cocoa comes from farms that use sustainable farming techniques and meet certain wage and work conditions however, their focus is mostly on environmental factors.

Fairtrade - is a label that focuses mostly on the workers, ensuring that the working conditions are excellent and wages are adequate. A little focus is on the environment but mostly the workers.

UTZ Certified - is a label that focuses on only sustainable farming and is the largest of any sustainable farming label.

So the problem? UTZ, Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance have dramatically different definitions of what "sustainable" means. Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade have stricter definitions on what is sustainable and as a result cost more to the manufacturer and consumer, whereas the UTZ certification isn't as strict and the cost is far less.

Back to vegetarian labeling. If there is no clear, legal definition of what is vegetarian or vegan is then some certifications may find a lot of room to create their own definition and often times the standard would be less then what most would expect and it will become more of a marketing technique then an actual concern for vegetarian or vegan foods. So one label may think that rennin is vegetarian, because the label will say it is simply an enzyme and not necessarily "meat". And there is no way of stopping this type of practice in most of the world. Luckily, Germany (I live in Germany) has adopted a standard to which it can call vegetarian and vegan, so when you see a label marked vegetarian or vegan you know, whether the product is inexpensive or very expensive that it is in fact held the same standard.

The European Union has made it clear that they feel that this isn't a priority right now and to be honest with so many different and dramatic struggles who can blame them. So it is on us, the vegetarian to not only decide where we fall on the paradigm of what is acceptable and unacceptable in our daily lives and then we must do our own research. Does this company use animal rennin or vegetable, does this desert have contain gelatin or not and most important are we okay with if it does?


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