'V' is for Vegetarian: FDA-Mandated Vegetarian Food Labeling
33 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2010 Last revised: 12 Aug 2014
Date Written: February 3, 2010
More than eight million adults in the United States are vegetarians and around forty percent of all people in the United States seek vegetarian food options while dining. Vegetarianism comes in a multitude of flavors, but a “pure vegetarian” or a vegan does not consume any products that come from animals, including milk, eggs, and gelatin. People practicing a vegetarian lifestyle may have turned to these dietary restrictions for ethical, religious, environmental, health, or other reasons. Currently, the FDA does not require the labeling of vegetarian foods as such. Because of the FDA’s permissive attitude toward food labeling generalities, such as “natural” or “artificial” flavoring and colorings, many vegetarians find it difficult to identify if their foods are indeed compatible with their lifestyles and ethical choices. Without this information, people interested in making food choices that respect the lives of animals may unintentionally cause harm to the creatures that they seek to protect. While voluntary, community-driven labeling programs exist, they reach only a small fraction of food products.
This article will explore the case for a standardized vegetarian packaged food labeling and certification system designed and implemented by the FDA. Part I presents the current problems with the FDA’s laissez faire approach to vegetarian food certification. Part II of the article addresses the law giving the FDA the authority and duty to ensure that vegetarian consumers are fully informed of food ingredients. Part III then presents three case studies - kosher certification, bioengineered foods, and food allergens - that could assist the FDA in designing a consumer-friendly, animal-conscious approach to vegetarian packaged foods. In Part IV, I outline a proposal to assist the FDA in addressing this critical monitoring and labeling issue.
Keywords: FDA, Animal Law, Food Regulation, Food Law, Animal Rights, Vegetarianism, Food Labels
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