Concise Labelling Required

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 confused as to which 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” in different ways. These words on packaging would lead consumers to believe that the product did not contain dairy, eggs, honey, gelatine or other animal products.

However this is not always the case and consumers may well buy a product – having seen an eye catching design which implicates there are no animal products in the food item – only to read the ingredients label and find the product is not vegan or 100% plant-based at all.

“We are constantly receiving calls and emails from consumers and our Society members regarding the issue of product labelling. 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.”  Media Spokesperson for the Vegan Society, Claire Insley, pointed out.

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 have repeatedly insisted 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.

To sign the petition visit

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