What exactly is vegan food? While France moved last week to ban language commonly used to describe plant-based products such as “steak” or “sausage,” India says it is now moving to further clarify the definition of vegan food in order to curb the sales of fake vegan options.
“Vegan food means the food or food ingredient, including additives, flavourings, enzymes and carriers, or processing aids that are not products of animal origin and in which, at no stage of production and processing, ingredients, including additives, flavourings, enzymes and carriers, or processing aids that are of animal origin has been used,” India’s Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSAI) said in its definition.
The FSSAI says labeling items as vegan that do not fall under the description violates the agency’s regulations. It’s also putting similar restrictions on imports.
The agency is also restricting animal testing—an ethical component to veganism, meaning something could not contain animal ingredients but if it was tested on animals, as is the case with many cosmetics, it wouldn’t qualify. Here, though, the agency is extending that to food items.
“The food products to be called vegan, shall not have involved animal testing for any purpose, including safety evaluation, unless provided by any Regulatory Authority,” it said.
More than 80 percent of Indians limit meat intake with 39 percent identifying as vegetarian. The vegan diet is also gaining in popularity. According to Statista, a survey conducted in India last year found more than 47 percent of respondents had consumed plant-based food products due to their concerns regarding animal welfare in food production. A further 44.5 percent did so to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.
That issue came up when U.S.-based vegan meat manufacturer Impossible Foods submitted its novel heme ingredient to voluntary animal testing to earn the FDA’s GRAS status (generally recognized as safe). The company’s testing involved close to 200 rats. The 2017 study earned backlash from animal rights groups including PETA, which has since removed much of its comments from the Internet.
Impossible Foods’ founder Pat Brown claimed it was the necessary evil in being able to save millions, if not billions more animals. The approval has helped the company expand its market presence.
Labeling vegan food in France
But in France, where Impossible is still not yet approved, it may have to rethink the names of some of its products. Last week, the county banned animal nomenclature from being used on vegan food.
“It will not be possible to use sector-specific terminology traditionally associated with meat and fish to designate products that do not belong to the animal world and which, in essence, are not comparable,” the official decree reads.
France is the first E.U. country to ban the use of common terms on vegan foods in a move it says is to protect the country’s animal product producers as well as consumers. It initially pushed the E.U. to take similar bloc-wide measures, but that motion was rejected. Producers selling vegan food in France will have until October to update their packaging.