Vegan Certification for Truth in Labeling Laws:
Protecting Consumer Interests, Building Consumer Confidence, and Earning Consumer Trust Globally
Consumers are becoming more health conscious, compassionate, and environmentally aware. Vegan focused product sales are increasing at unprecedented rates. Products labeled “vegan” are met with great consumer interest, as consumer demand drives sales across international industry sectors, which in turn drives the need for laws regulating vegan claims to ensure the integrity and credibility of those claims.
How important is vegan certification in terms of consumer value?
Most consumers are ingredient conscious and most shoppers are concerned with truth in labeling. Nobody wants to be lied to. It is critical that vegan claims are certified so they can be trusted. The consumer is entitled to honest information. No one wants to be misled. All consumers want peace of mind. You do not have to be a vegan to want to buy a vegan product and know with absolute certainty that the claim is truthful. Brands want to build brand trust, and brand trust comes with consumer confidence. This is achieved through vegan certification.
The Bottom line, consumers want and are entitled to honest information. Consumers are sick of reading tiny small print ingredients. Educated consumers know ingredients lack transparency. Consumers, educated or not, do not deserve to be misled by unaccountable claims marketing vegan but unwilling to verify vegan because they wish to jump on the plant-based marketing bandwagon to increase sales. Vegan certification is not a high cost in the scheme of things and companies should have no problem going through the process of disclosure and transparency to ensure consumer confidence and brand trustworthiness.
What should consumers know about vegan certified products?
Bottom line, consumers want and are entitled to honest information. Consumers are sick of reading tiny small print ingredients. Educated consumers know ingredients lack transparency. Consumers, educated or not, do not deserve to be misled by unaccountable claims marketing vegan but unwilling to verify vegan because they wish to jump on the plant-based marketing bandwagon to increase sales. Vegan certification is not a high cost in the scheme of things and companies should have no problem going through the process of disclosure and transparency to ensure consumer confidence and brand trustworthiness.
When a product is vegan certified, however, the consumer has confidence that the product was fully vetted to the highest of industry standards to ensure vegan verification. This means the manufacturer and the brand owner took the vegan claim as seriously as they would take any other food safety or product safety claim. Consumers should feel at ease knowing the certified vegan product they are considering is vegan as defined by industry best practices. Consumers are ingredient conscious and health-conscious. Access to truth in labeling when it comes to vegan claims should not be a negotiation. When someone buys a certified vegan product they should be absolutely certain that what they’re buying was thoroughly audited, verified, and tested prior to being granted use of the certified vegan trademark. This helps to ensure the final product is free of animal ingredients and was not tested on animals.
The current issue of consumers lacking a tangible, well-defined, uniform, global vegan standard that they can understand and trust is an ever-present problem. While generally speaking, vegan claims mean something to the effect of: no animal products or by-products, no animal-based additives or processing aids, and no animal testing, the truth is, there remains a lot of gray undefined areas. As a legally binding vegan standard evolves, highly complex legal questions will have to be answered and considered.
The answer to these questions, and how these questions will be handled should be well-defined and accountable. That’s why an accredited vegan standard is key. It ensures checks and balances are put into place according to industry best practices, which helps prevent fraud and raises the standard for consumer transparency. Notably, once the vegan standard is accredited then that standard owner is also audited to ensure certifications are being carried out in accordance with the accredited scheme requirements.
In order to successfully implement such a global, omnipresent, vegan standard, however, certain international legalities need to be defined, and redefined, in order to legally keep these vegan definitions and claims honest, relevant, and accountable. The leading vegan standard must not only guide our evolution, but the standard must also evolve as we evolve. The prevailing vegan label shall also be compatible with the competing, varying, and evolving national and international definitions for vegan with the guided mission of defining a singular global vegan standard.
In order to define vegan laws and advocate for their protection, we must look to existing legal guidelines as a global framework, which determines where or how vegan fits into the existing modern paradigm of law. At present, current global laws do not require disclosure of or protect vegan claims, and even fail to recognize a vegan interest. For now, that means vegan claims can only be trusted if certified vegan by a known and internationally accredited vegan organization with global trademark protection. When a product proves its vegan claim to an accredited third-party certification body and discloses the needed information, the consumer can rest assured that industry best practices are met to ensure vegan quality assurance. The consumer can also find peace in knowing the certifying body is also audited by members of the world accreditation forum to ensure accountability to the vegan standard that is used in granting certification to vegan products. This protects the consumer interest.
Label Laws and Legal Standards
The word “vegan” is not legally defined in any one governmental jurisdiction in the world. Without certification, and a widely accepted standardized global definition, vegan claims lack credibility, accountability, and legitimacy. By instituting a definition through certification where vegan claims adhere to a legally binding standard, we instill consumer confidence and keep industries honest.
This is necessary as the law does not recognize a unified, globally binding, legal vegan standard. That means, anyone can claim vegan without any accountability, unless certified by an accredited scheme that holds claims accountable to a defined vegan standard of requirements. Although, it is worth noting that progress is being made to achieve a legally binding standard, as government entities consider legal accountability for the vegan interested consumer. To date there is not a single government entity requiring such protection. That is why, clearly defined regulations and global standards are needed to ensure truth in labeling laws and implementation of best industry practices. A uniform approach to set industry certification standards will also act as the foundation used for the development and implementation of laws surrounding vegan claims. Laws as developed must consider compliance with leading industry standards and require full disclosures of trade secrets that may yield animal products and by products, including use of animal-derived GMO. A product cannot be certified and verified vegan without detailed ingredient and supplier research, consideration of animal testing, on-site audits of the manufacturing facilities to assess risk for cross-contamination, and detailed preventative action plans, among other components of the production and manufacturing process. All of this and more demands consideration when marketing a globally trusted legal vegan symbol and defining different jurisdictional laws.
To put it plainly, existing labeling laws are undefined and legally insufficient, which leads to false advertising and misleading labels on a global level. While vegan claims are often misleading and even fraudulent, certified vegan claims should instill consumer confidence. Through the vegan certification process, due diligence is carried out to ensure that all vegan label claims carrying a certification trademark are fully vetted to be worthy of the internationally accredited badge of approval.
A product certified vegan raises the legal bar by protecting the vegan interest, where the law currently fails to even recognize a vegan interest.
A valid and trusted vegan claim is a certified claim that comes from a company that has not only been transparent in giving the certification entity their ingredients, processes, and trade secrets, but forthcoming. A trusted vegan claim is a claim certified vegan by a trusted vegan symbol with international accreditation and global trademark protection. Only in this case would a consumer know that this product proved its vegan claim to an accredited third-party certification body and disclosed the needed information, ensuring the heightened level of scrutiny was applied under international accreditation standards, which current global laws do not presently require disclosure of or protect.
Determining the Legal Standard and the Need for Certification
To date, the word “vegan” is not recognized under the law and vegan claims are unregulated-unless certified. That means products can legally continue to market themselves as vegan without clear liability. For example, not looking into the source ingredients to ensure the integrity of a vegan claim, products using sugar with bone char or natural coloring made of insect juice can continue to market plant-based because the law says these source ingredients are more incidental and considered insignificant.
Until clear guidance exists, businesses are left to decide for themselves when to apply descriptive labels such as “suitable for vegans” or “vegan friendly” meaning the use of such terms is likely to be inconsistent at best and misleading at worse. The reality is, the law protects trade secrets to the detriment of consumer transparency when it comes to vegan labeling. While truth in Labelling Laws and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1966 (1) are laws put into place to minimize consumer confusion by requiring truthful and complete disclosures on packaging, these laws in place do not protect vegans because the word, “vegan” is not a recognized term under the law.
Current vegan claims lack credibility because no one is holding these claims accountable, and everyone defines vegan differently. Self Proclaimed vegan labels are often misguided, incorrect, and even fraudulent. The reality is, anyone can label a product vegan, and everyone can have their own definition of what vegan means. The same product that was marketed as vegan may then apply for an official vegan certification seal only to find out, after diligent ingredient research, that their product is not vegan at all. While current laws advocate for truth, transparency, and fair labeling, these laws fall short of their mission by failing to require the same truth and transparency in vegan claims. Vegan, in and of itself, needs to be carved out in the law with a clearly defined legal standard, which laws should expand to protect.
Internationally recognized vegan certification gives the consumer peace of mind. Educated consumers know that ingredients listed on packaging lack transparency, and most consumers would prefer not to have to read small print lists of ingredients. A proper vegan certification logo gives the consumer the confidence needed to purchase and consume the product without concern. When a consumer sees a known global vegan trademark that consumer can rest assured the research was done for them, and they do not need to read and study the small print list of ingredients. Consumers can trust the vegan symbol. This process is akin to needing FDA approval for food and drug safety or gluten-free or Kosher certification. Vegan certification is necessary to ensure vegan quality control.
Case Example: The Mislabeled Michael Kors Handbag
In 2014, the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles heard Case No. BC545518, during which plaintiff Jennifer Goodwin, a vegan customer of Michael Kors, claimed that the company’s products were labeled vegan but contained animal products such as leather and fur.(2) In this class action lawsuit, as detailed by Top Class Actions, a class action news agency and an affiliate of the American Bar Association, Goodwin recounted purchasing a handbag online with a product description that alleged the purse was made with only synthetic materials.(3) However, upon receiving the product, she discovered a tag that read “Your handbag is made of uniquely designed fabric and trimmed with fine natural leathers.”(4) Upon calling Michael Kors and speaking with a representative, Goodwin was informed that the product was mislabeled by the third-party vendor she purchased it from because “all Michael Kors bags include leather.”(5)This case is a testament to the casual care taken around vegan labeling laws. Though the product was listed online as vegan, in reality, its packaging and manufacturers indicated otherwise. The third-party seller was easily able to incorrectly label the product as vegan because there was no oversight and limited knowledge of what vegan meant or what standards should have been applied in order to be considered vegan.
The Ever-Evolving International Legal Landscape for Vegan Claims
The European Union has been struggling for years to finalize and implement its own legally binding definition to guide vegan labeling. Notably, in 2011, the European Parliament and Council set out in Regulation No. 1169/2011, Article 3 (6), general objectives regarding food information to consumers. This was done in order to fully protect the consumers health interests by providing a basis for informed choices regarding the safe use of food, and in particular with attention to the health, economic, environmental, social, and ethical considerations. (7) This is further guided under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (8), which is considered in tandem with the already settled case law by the European Court of Human Rights on the topic of ethical veganism. While Europe has been planning to roll out a Europe-wide vegan definition for years, this is still something that is still in the planning stages.
In the United Kingdom, there is also not a legal definition for vegan, despite there being numerous rules which govern product labelling for allergies. In 2006, guidance released by the Food Standards Agency in the UK, stated that manufacturers, retailers, and caterers should be able to demonstrate that foods indicated as vegan have not been contaminated with non-vegan foods during storage, preparation, cooking, or display. (9) Also instructive is the United Kingdom‘s Equality Act 2010, Part 2, Section 10. (10) While there is an acknowledgment of a vegan demand in the UK, any vegan indication without certification cannot be considered dependable or reliable if it is not audited, researched, and tested. There are many components to supplier assembly lines, shared manufacturing facilities, and ingredients of ingredients to consider when making a valid and credible vegan claim. Although there is no requirement in the UK for food to be labelled vegan, any information provided indicating vegan must not be misleading, ambiguous, or confusing to consumers.(11) Consumer regulation requires that food and non-food products are accurately described and fit for purpose — an almost impossible task when it comes to vegan claims when such claims are not audited according to a set out standard and properly vetted.(12)
In addition to risking consumer confidence in a brand, improper labeling has a number of risks in the United Kingdom. For example, one could face: a claim under the Consumer Rights Act or the Sale of Goods Act for misdescription; an investigation by Trading Standards in relation to any descriptions applied to product packaging; an investigation by the Food Standards Agency or the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in respect of food products; an investigation by the Advertising Standards Agency in relation to any promotional material used to promote the product(13); a financial penalty or payment of damages or compensation for misleading and fraudulent claims; or an expensive product recall or the redesign of marketing materials and packaging may be required in the above situations.(14)
The current system of labeling laws in the United States are equally deficient as the European Union and the United Kingdom. When it comes to vegan labeling, the United States also does not require rigorous disclosures from product manufacturers about the ingredients and techniques used in the creation of their final product for market. For example, the law implies that manufacturers are allowed to protect trade secrets by: not requiring the labeling of the amount or concentration of ingredients; not requiring the disclosure of the manufacturing process; and by allowing ingredients that make up less than 1% of the product by weight may be listed in any order.(15)
Likewise, other ingredients called “incidental additives,” do not have to be listed on labels. These include substances transferred to food or products via packaging and “ingredients of other ingredients” that are present at “insignificant levels” and have no “technical or functional effect.”(16) Meaning, if the product is made at a shared facility, for example, and there’s an incident of cross-contamination where an animal by-product ends up in the final consumable product, the law says that’s an “incidental” ingredient and therefore, “insignificant.” That means a product with an animal protein or ingredient of animal origin may still be labeled vegan, and that is significant, not insignificant, to a vegan. Equivalently, it is significant for someone with a peanut allergy, gluten allergy, or dairy intolerance to know if a product was exposed to peanuts or dairy in the manufacturing process. Vegan claims should be taken as serious.
Consumers want truth in labeling whether they are vegan or not.
Moreover, the FDA allows food manufacturers to round to zero any ingredient that accounts for less than 0.5 grams per serving.(17) Although a product may claim “sugar-free” or “gluten-free” or “alcohol-fee,” it can in actuality, legally, have up to 0.5 grams per serving, which adds up to significant levels, and worthy of ingredient disclosure. The law, as it is presently, would say that if it is less than 0.5 grams per serving of some animal by-product or animal-gmo, it does not legally need to be disclosed by the manufacturer, and the product can still advertise vegan. Legally, those insignificant ingredients do not matter for 6 disclosures to be complete, truthful, and accurate under the law. For the consumer, this poses a real conundrum. Consumers want truth in labeling whether they are vegan or not.
Current labeling laws are even worse for alcoholic beverages, which are regulated by the Tobacco and Trade Bureau (TTB) in the US. Despite consumer demands for honest information, the TTB does not have mandatory labeling requirements for ingredients, process, or nutritional information. Basically, the consumer does not know what is in their drink, or how it was made, and a lot more goes into beer, wine and liquor than one would think. According to the TTB, there are 62 ingredients that can be added to wine without disclosure, ranging from animal-based fining agents to color additives (like MegaPurple, a grape concentrate added to “color correct” wine), to stabilizers, and de-acidification processes.(18) Many are surprised to learn that their alcoholic beverage may have been made with isinglass (fish bladder), gelatin (cows elbows, knees, horse hooves), eggs, natural charcoal (bone char), and the skeletons of fish, to name a few. In terms of alcohol and the TTB, there is zero required ingredient and process disclosures, and therefore zero transparency.
As the consumer learns that existing laws protect trade secrets to the detriment of the vegan consumer, and that Truth in Labeling Laws and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1966 (19) do not extend protection or even consider vegan claims, the consumer will lose confidence in brands lacking credible vegan claims. While misleading claims found to be intentionally deceitful may be actionable under the law, the truth is, the extent of intentional misrepresentation is a gray area so long as the entire definition for vegan remains loose.
The global vegan dilemma requires a global solution, and that solution is vegan certification by an internationally accredited certification body that is operating in accordance with international standards just like kosher, halal, gluten-free, and other food safety certification programs that are accredited.
Evolving Vegan Definitions and Gray Areas
While there is general consensus on what vegan is, there is no general consensus on how vegan is defined — that is still up for interpretation. To bring clarity and definition to the problem, the consumer should seek out certified vegan products.
Case Example: Burger King’s Impossible Burger
On November 18, 2019 a man filed a class-action lawsuit against Burger King in the Southern District of Florida, saying that the fast-food chain falsely advertised their “Impossible Burger” product as vegan. (20) He claimed that although they advertised the product as “meat-free”, it was contaminated with meat because it was cooked next to meat products on the same grill. One of the customers in the lawsuit also claimed that the product was misrepresented as vegan because the brand, Impossible Meat, was advertised as vegan. The lawsuit also claimed that the Impossible Burger’s advertising tagline, “100% WHOPPER, 0% BEEF” is misleading to vegan consumers. (21)
This issue ultimately stems from the lack of a universal definition of the word vegan. Due to the lack of definition, companies are allowed to misrepresent their products without consequence. The case has yet to be determined, but the past reveals a disturbing precedent in the United States. In 2003, a California judge dismissed a lawsuit by vegans against the manufacturer of a tuberculosis test that was said to be vegan but actually contained non-vegan products. According to the court, the plaintiff lost because the “reasonably prudent seller possesses no duty to warn of the possibility of rare, idiosyncratic, hypersensitive, or unusual reactions to an otherwise safe and useful product.”(22) Ultimately, both of these cases (although the latter decision is dated) prove the disregard for veganism as a right and it stems from the lack of definitional incorporation of our rights into law.
The Need to Define Vegan
“Vegan” as a word on packaging does not mean anything unless it is certified vegan by a global trademark that has an international standard that is globally recognized, defined, audited, and ideally internationally accredited. While many certified vegan labels exist with the intent to bring integrity and credibility to vegan claims, the truth is there are varying vegan standards and inconsistent application of these standards with no legal accountability. Lack of accountability removes confidence, creates consumer confusion, and raises questions for the educated consumer.
What exactly does this or that vegan trademark mean? Just like consumers do not wish to read tiny ingredients, they do not wish to study and decipher competing and distinguished vegan claims. As it is, the consumer lacks access to truthful information regarding trade secrets, suppliers and processes, and therefore, consumers lack a tangible vegan standard that they can relate to, understand and trust. However, this is evolving, and should soon be resolved as laws evolve and standards conform to a singular, binding global standard.
While generally speaking, vegan claims mean: no animal products or by-products, no animal-based additives or processing aids, and no animal testing, there is still confusion. While all definitions strive to be practical in approach, there is much debate on how far back one should travel to determine vegan origin. For example, do we consider soil practices to legally affect vegan status? If yes, does that mean we can no longer order a salad at a vegan restaurant because we do not know how those vegetables were grown? Do we consider bee farming to pollinate avocados, almonds and other crops not vegan? Do we consider all animal labor used in farming not vegan? If an ox is used to transport sugar cane marketed organic and fair traded; is that really fair trade? Do we consider animal testing of source ingredients not vegan, when some jurisdictions legally mandate that those source ingredients must be tested to be marketable? What about animal-derived GMOs? Is an orange grown from a tree with a pork gene to avoid greening mean that orange is not vegan? Where do we draw the line? Which compromises should one make? How do we clearly define vegan? How far back do we travel to ensure no animal was ever part of the process? Are these smaller often defined “insignificant” or “incidental” animal byproducts, not found in the final product, something to steer clear of, or overlook as we define vegan globally and adhere to a practical approach that can actually be implemented?
What about other claims a consumer may see on packaging, such as: “Vegan Friendly”, “Suitable for Vegans”, “No Animal Ingredients”, “Vegan Approved”, “Plant-based”, “Cruelty-Free” and the like? While these claims are important for marketing and sales, these claims are not all equal and mean different things. For example, plant-based does not mean vegan. It means it is mostly plant-based. Vegan friendly is a wishy washy way of saying we think we are vegan. Something that is vegan is plant-based, but something plant-based is not necessarily vegan. ‘Plant-Based’ means that something is primarily plant-based but can contain traces of animal by-products in the final product from ingredients used or from the manufacturing process. A vegan should not be looking for a plant-based label. An ethical vegan should only want a vegan certification. For example, a product made with sugar that uses bone char to refine the sugar can be plant-based. That product, however, is not vegan. Plant-based is a popular term for the flexitarian but is not an acceptable term for a vegan.
Likewise, cruelty-free does not mean it is vegan, as that phrase usually addresses animal testing rather than ingredients and processes used. If something is certified vegan, it is usually cruelty-free in that there is no animal exploitation used to achieve the final product. Cruelty-free by itself, however, usually addresses animal testing but it does not address vegan. Cruelty-free is not a phrase recognized under the law but it is a phrase commonly associated with a leaping bunny that stands for no animal testing. An ethical vegan should want to see a certified vegan trademark in addition to a cruelty-free claim to ensure all their bases are covered. Cruelty-free is certainly not a claim to be used in place of vegan. They are not the same claim, they have different scheme requirements and assigned definitions, and they should not be used interchangeably.
NO ANIMAL INGREDIENTS
used in the processing, clarification, filtration, de-acidification, or manufacturing process.
NO ANIMAL TESTING
on BeVeg certified product.
BeVeg is cruelty-free.
NO CROSS CONTAMINATION
of incidental animal products or byproducts in the final product.
of all “insignificant” and “natural” ingredients, which the law does not require.
For example, cruelty-free can mean many things. There is no legal definition or standard of accountability. It can mean anything from: the ingredients have been tested on animals but the final product has not; or the brand relied on tests from a third party; or it could mean none of its products and product ingredients have ever been tested on animals by the brand, by anyone on its behalf, including its suppliers, third party contractors, or anyone on their behalf. Like “vegan” the phrase “cruelty-free” lacks integrity and credibility unless verified and certified by a credible internationally recognized organization that has a clear, set out, publicly available vegan scheme.
These highly complex legal questions will have to be answered as a legally binding vegan standard evolves. These gray areas must be weighted realistically with practicability. For example, vegan farming practices, though available, are more expensive than conventional agricultural farming and fertilization processes. Likewise, the fertilization and pollination of many of our plant-based foods use farmed bees to meet demand and/or involve animals either directly or indirectly for the crop fertilization.
In order to affect change in the world, we need to meet the world where the world is now, and that means a practical solution to living with the smallest footprint possible on this planet, and patience with the evolution of that process.
Although animal activists prefer to outlaw all of these practices, we all arbitrarily draw the line where we are comfortable. While all of us self-proclaimed vegans prefer zero animal involvement and exploitation, from a point of practicality, this becomes difficult causing the self-defined definition of vegan to vary just like the non-certified and certified vegan product labels can mean many different things. Depending on the vegan definition, some vegans may not consider that vegan claimed product vegan at all.
The market will dictate how practices will change over time. However, in order to be an effective and productive proponent of the vegan movement, we must be practical, rather than radical in our approach, despite the current gray areas and fluid vegan definition we are striving to legitimize, legalize, and solidify. Some vegans may judge this decision, but judgment is counter-productive. It is important that vegans assimilate fully into society. If we live in isolation, we will not create the necessary demand to affect change to ultimately end all animal use, direct and indirect. After all, it all comes down to demand. Is there a demand for animal-based products or a demand for plant-based products and packages? In order to affect change in the world, we need to meet the world where the world is now, and that means a practical solution to living with the smallest footprint possible on this planet, and patience with the evolution of that process.
Vegan Soil and Farming Practices
While at this time, it is not realistic to expect vegan soil to be used across the board, it is a topic that is being considered more and more in response to vegan demands for conscious farming practices. Now more than ever, farmers are considering practical ways to grow crops in large amounts without introducing animal products into the soil. Although extending certification into soil practices is noble, it is not practical at this time, as that would leave little food and nutritional products left for vegans to consume. This however does not diminish the importance of vegan soil farming practices and the need to advocate for the future of farming. It only means that at this moment in time, slaughterhouses, live animal wet markets, factory farms, and an industry that has normalized the murderous violence of three billion land and marine animals every 24 hours to feed almost 8 billion people on this planet is a higher priority. Once we stop the normalized violence, animal holocaust, environmental devastation and deforestation, then we can address vegan farming practices and its relationship to the always evolving legal definition the world will define, implement, and understand. We must start somewhere, and then grow from there. As the consciousness of the world evolves, so too can legally accountable vegan definitions.
In order to be a productive proponent of the vegan, plant-based, movement, we must be practical, rather than radical in our approach.
In order to be a productive proponent of the vegan, plant-based, movement, we must be practical, rather than radical in our approach. We must exist in our present world, and not compartmentalize our ethical decisions into our own isolated world. However, this is a topic to keep in mind as we continue to lobby for change to end all animal suffering and define a political plant-based landscape. When the time is right, there should be another vegan certification mark that just addresses ethical vegan soil and farming laws once drafted are constantly expanding and contracting to accommodate the evolution of society. What is most important now is that we get basic legal formalities in place to protect vegans until a single definition of vegan emerges that is clearly defined, and practical in approach, that can be realistically implemented.
Laws once drafted are constantly expanding and contracting to accommodate the evolution of society. What is most important now is that we get basic legal formalities in place to protect vegans until a single definition of vegan emerges that is clearly defined, and practical in approach, that can be realistically implemented.
No Animal Testing Labeling Implications
In this day and age, whether one is an animal rights activist or not, most prefer to refrain from animal testing when possible, as it is widely known as cruel and even unnecessary in many circumstances. With advancements in science and medicine there are alternatives to animal testing, which is not even a proven measure of how the product will be received by humans.
While many vegan certification marks demand no animal testing, this requirement is not consistently implemented. For example, some jurisdictions have required animal testing on certain products before those products are legally allowed to be for sale on the open market. In those jurisdictions, a vegan certification standard requiring no animal testing is harder to achieve, and will be something to address when defining a global definition for vegan products, and managing consumer expectations of official vegan product labeling.
Thankfully, this gray area and the tricky implementation of the concept of “no animal testing” will soon be obsolete, as alternative solutions to animal testing are emerging, like “Human on a Chip” technology. Test results are more accurate when human cells are grown and linked together on a chip to be tested in order to simulate what a human response to something would be, rather than an animal response. This is beneficial to animals and humans alike: animals will no longer endure pain and death as we test drugs and products to ensure human safety, and humans will have products tested on a human anatomy, not an animal anatomy, which more accurately reflects results and side effects. Animals are obviously composed of different cellular makeup than humans, and it is only a matter of time before animal testing is not only obsolete, but banned. Moreover, and often ignored, these tests are much cheaper than animal testing.
Nonetheless, as Human on a Chip technology advances, the ability to implement a globally accepted vegan definition will become easier, as no vegan, no matter what jurisdiction they live in, and despite whatever local laws they are forced to adhere to, wants to consume a product that has been tested on animals. Consumers do not want their products tested on animals. According to Naturewatch Foundation, 80% of respondents oppose the use of animals in medical research.
Animal Tested Products Grandfathered In
Many products have been on the market for a long period of time, and while those products do not do any animal testing now, there was a time where they did do such testing. In such a case, many animal rights associations will consider these products that used to test on animals, grandfathered in as vegan, since re-use does not create new animal suffering.
However, something else to consider as vegan is defined and represented by a vegan certified trademark as a single global standard: will the requirement simply be no animal testing on the final product — ever? Will there be a set look back period and is there forgiveness after a certain set amount of years? Will research into animal testing extend into the investigation of source ingredient product practices? We must be aware that though there may not be any animal testing on the actual product certified, that it is totally possible animal testing is happening or has happened on a source ingredient, additive, processing aid, flavoring substance and the like, and that such testing was legally mandated by governing authorities.
The parameters of animal testing, past, present, and future that need to be considered as a vegan standard is defined, at least until Human on a Chip technology makes the conversation obsolete.
Vegan Certification Standards
The battle to bring truth and transparency to the vegan labeling process is one that is long overdue. In order to raise the standard for consumer transparency, all vegan claims should be certified by an internationally accredited vegan trademark symbol that carries international recognition and meaning in the global marketplace. If the vegan standard is accredited then that standard owner is also audited to ensure certifications are being carried out in accordance with the accreditation scheme. The checks and balances put in place for internationally accredited standards helps prevent fraud and raises the standard for consumer transparency. In order to successfully implement such a vegan standard, however, certain international legalities need to be defined, and redefined, in order to legally keep these vegan definitions and claims honest, relevant and accountable. That means the world’s leading vegan standard must not only guide our evolution, but the standard must also evolve as we evolve.
The global vegan standard must be clearly defined, consistently applied and internationally accredited. The core definitions and tests needed to ensure vegan quality control must be put into place to prevent consumer confusion and brand distrust. These high standards and use of industry best practices are represented by a global trademark that stands for the set out internationally recognized standard of accreditation.
QUOTE: “Accreditation is consistent across the globe. Tested products and services can be accepted everywhere with equal confidence. Accreditation provides a way to assess and control risks in business operations along with products and services placed on the market. In this way, regulators, purchasers, and employees can have confidence that accreditation makes your world a safer place.” (NAC).
A Globally Standardized, Legally Binding, and Accredited Vegan Standard
International compatibility is of great importance for the worldwide vegan movement to be cohesive and credible. We are one planet, and as the information age brings our world closer together, it is paramount that we have a global vegan standard that is summed up and represented by a trusted vegan certification trademark with global reach. Only then can we truly standardize vegan claims worldwide.
In general, a certified vegan product means the product considered is not of animal origin and, at no stage of production and processing have animals been exploited. That means animals are not used, or supplemented with, ingredients, processing aids and other substances, whether in processed or unprocessed form, which are or could be of animal origin.(23) Ingredients include: additives, flavorings, enzymes, colorings, and processing agents. Processing agents include albumen or gelatin, which are often used to filter wine and beer, among other ingredients and aids depending on the product and industry being evaluated and considered vegan.(24) The certification process reveals the truth about ingredients and processes that we would otherwise never know, due to trade secret protection and lack of legal protection for the vegan interested consumer. Nonetheless, the certification process helps us become more educated and more capable of defining a uniform vegan standard as we learn through research and practical application what is and is not vegan as each supply chain is investigated.
An ideal vegan certification label is one that is internationally accredited with global trademark protection, and its own set out vegan standard. This global standard should be identified with a global vegan label and shall also be compatible with the competing, varying, and evolving national and international definitions for vegan. Only then should a claim be widely accepted as credible by the majority of potential consumers and trusted. As this uniform standard is applied and represented through the internationally accredited certification mark, consumers anywhere in the world will know with certainty that that vegan claim represented as certified carries legal clout. Likewise, manufacturers will be able to easily scale their products through global distribution knowing the vegan certification mark acquired in one jurisdiction will carry over to new international distribution markets.
The BeVeg Vegan Trademark & Certification Process
The BeVeg vegan trademark is the first ISO/IEC 17065:2012 accredited mark for a vegan specific certification standard. BeVeg is accredited as a global conformity assessment program, which certification bodies around the world are encouraged to conform to and follow. It is critical to have a single, uniform global vegan standard to hold vegan claims accountable, and the requirements of that standard should be easily identifiable by the set out vegan trademark.
BeVeg International is paving the path forward for a one world vegan standard. This is being done with the National Accreditation Center (NAC) under APAC, and ILAC, as members of the world accreditation forum. BeVeg has built a Conformity Assessment Program, also accredited under ISO 17067, meaning it is available for use with training to other third party global certification bodies around the world to establish conformity, integrity and credibility. To date, the BeVeg vegan trademark, which is representative of the lawyer drafted accredited vegan standard, is represented on six continents.
The BeVeg vegan trademark is represented on six continents and is a lawyer drafted vegan scheme. Lawyers by nature are regulators and a law firm drafted vegan scheme with international accreditation and a law-firm-issued-vegan-symbol brings credibility, reliability, and integrity to a marketplace that is, otherwise, totally deficient for the interested vegan.
In an effort to standardize vegan claims, BeVeg International, in partnership with the National Accreditation Center (NAC) under APAC and ILAC, as a member of the world accreditation forum has built a Conformity Assessment Program giving use of the proprietary BeVeg scheme to other third party global certification bodies to use under ISO 17067. While other vegan trademarks can and should gain international accreditation, the BeVeg standard is a set out vegan standard that is available for uniform application through NAC.
What does the vegan BeVeg certification process entail?
The vegan certification process consists of disclosing all ingredients and suppliers, inquiring about the process to packaging, and the facilities used to make the products, including any third-party outsourcing. After the paperwork process is complete, there are a series of affidavits and legal documents to be signed to ensure all things disclosed are true and correct, and not fraudulently disclosed. The paperwork disclosure process keeps companies legally accountable to their work and responsible for fraudulent disclosure or intentional failure to disclose. If the paperwork process checks out, BeVeg sends an auditor to the manufacturing pr production site to continue the process according to a specified audit checklist. BeVeg auditors are trained to follow the checklist to ensure vegan quality control. BeVeg also conducts onsite lab testing of product and may ask the applicant to send a sample to a verified ISO 17025 lab.
Audits and lab testing are important to assess risk for cross-contamination and then confirm no cross-contamination. BeVeg considers packaging, storage, wash rooms, pre-packaging procedures and much more as we verify compliance with our vegan standard. Based on audit findings, a report is written outlining any non-conformities and risk factors, which then determines how often an audit is necessary. If the facility is a dedicated vegan facility, an audit once a year is usually enough. If the facility is determined to be of high risk to vegan integrity, there will be additional audits or lab tests required (planned and/or surveillance). All of these decisions are custom-tailored for the client based on audit findings by the BeVeg certifications committee. After all tests and inspections are passed, the applicant is granted certification and licensed use of the global trademark renewed annually to ensure ongoing vegan quality control and surveillance.
During the course of certification, any supplier changes to a certified vegan brand must be immediately disclosed, audited, and approved for the vegan certification to remain in effect. If supplier changes or surveillance testing compromises the vegan product integrity, then that batch may be recalled and the product or facility may be subject to additional checks throughout the year. Checks may be additional lab testing, added on-site audits, and/or surveillance testing (which is random market testing of the certified vegan products in stores and/or at the manufacturing plants). This protocol and annual renewals are in place to safeguard the consumer and protect the integrity of certified vegan claims for the interested consumer.
The Bottom Line
Without certification by an accredited certification body, vegan claims are empty, as they are asserted without a standard or definition to refer to. That means all vegan claims on packaging without credible independent verification lack meaning and international integrity, as anyone can claim vegan. Bottom line, vegan claims without certification cannot be trusted, as they are labeling vegan for the marketing edge in terms of sales, and allowed to do so without consequence. This can be totally misleading to the vegan consumer, and in many cases even deceitful. Products marketing and labeling vegan should be legally required to prove their vegan claim or barred from making the claim altogether.
The only way for a customer to trust a vegan claim is if the brand they are buying is certified vegan by an accredited vegan trademark standard. If the standard is accredited it means that not only are the products audited for compliance but so is the standard owner.
Ideally, the internationally accredited and globally recognized vegan label is affixed to the product’s packaging in a way that is marketable and obvious to the interested consumer. This mark is licensed for use annually based on application and audit findings, as that is the only way to maintain vegan quality control and safeguard the consumer against the production unit cutting corners and undisclosed supplier changes. In addition to supplier trade secret information and the paperwork disclosure process, there must be audits, surveillance, and scientific tests.
In conclusion: Vegan certification should be legally required if you wish to make and market a vegan claim to the consumer.
ISO 17065 ACCREDITATION
First vegan certification standard in the world to attain global accreditation as recognized by iso ISO/IEC 17065:2012 (ISO 17065). ISO 17065 is the international quality standard for organizations certifying products, processes and services. To date, no other vegan certifying body has yet to reach the same level of vegan quality assurance and accreditation by international standards.
The BeVeg Vegan Certified logo global BeVeg vegan trademark program is officially the vegan trademark of choice. BeVeg vegan trademark symbols are the only law firm issued vegan symbols in the world, the only law firm drafted vegan standard, and the first and only accredited vegan standard to be recognized in accordance with industry best practices as acknowledged by the world accreditation community and defined by ISO.
GLOBAL LEADER IN VEGAN CERTIFICATION
BeVeg is the world’s leading vegan certification company. The BeVeg vegan standard is the benchmark for vegan assurance, giving you the confidence you need to access new markets and establish new business that meets vegan consumer expectations.
BeVeg is ISO accredited and recognized by the world accreditation community for its vegan standard. ISO is the International Organization for Standardization that develops and publishes international standards. BeVeg is accredited under ISO 17065 as a published vegan standard.
As the world’s leading vegan verification and vegan certification firm, we ensure the quality and quantity of commodities conform to the internationally recognized vegan standard in scope. We research, inspect, verify, and analyze. This is done through ingredient research, supply chain investigation, surveillance sampling, on-site inspections, lab testing, and follow up as dictated by findings to ensure conformity to the BeVeg vegan conformity assessment program anywhere in the world.
Protecting the consumer. This is a primary goal of BeVeg International (BeVeg), the leader in vegan certification. The BeVeg vegan certification trademark stands for the independent verification of quality and integrity, and products and services that carry the vegan mark represent unmatched reliability for meeting the strictest of vegan standards.
A Single Global Vegan Standard that Standardizes Vegan Claims Worldwide. A One World Standard for Vegan Claims that is Reliable, Accountable, Credible and Binding as Recognized by World Accreditation Forums.
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