biodynamic
 
What is "biodynamic" and is it vegan?

Why biodynamic farming is not vegan.

posted 18/04/2019

Biodynamic farming is an alternative form of farming practice that was developed by an Austrian Philosopher, Dr Rudolf Steiner, in 1924. Biodynamics takes the ethos of organic farming but adds a number of additional practices that are not generally accepted by the scientific community as having any quantified benefits over traditional organic farming practices. Some of these additional practices include using various animal parts, such as: cow horns taken from lactating female cows and stuffed with manure and buried in the ground to be used later as compost and fertiliser, deer bladders stuffed with yarrow plants, Chamomile buried in cow intestine, oak bark buried in animal skulls, and dandelion stuffed in cow mesentery (part of the cows digestive system). Whilst one could make an argument that these animal parts would be thrown out anyway after an animal is slaughtered, you could, for example, also make that same argument for the use of leather.
 
Biodynamic farming is practiced on approximately 800,000 hectares of agricultural land in Australia. To put this in perspective, there are approximately 394,000,000 hectares of land used for agriculture in Australia. This means that only 0.2% of agricultural land in Australia is devoted to biodynamic farming.
 
In regards to the question of whether biodynamic farming practices can be considered vegan, the answer is no. Biodynamic processes, in principle, clash with the vegan principle of trying to avoid the use of animals for human use as much as possible. Given that biodynamic farming practices are most certainly not required as part of sustainable agriculture, there is absolutely no justification (from a vegan perspective) for the use of the above mentioned animal parts.
 
Previously, the pre-harvest practices were not considered when determining the vegan status of a product, and as we have stated recently, it would be virtually impossible to determine if animal parts such as blood and bone, are used in the pre-harvest practices for all of the products that we have in our app. Whilst one could make an argument that we may be unfairly targeting biodynamics, our view is that if we do have that information, we need to determine the vegan status with the information we have. We cannot say that biodynamics is vegan simply because we have not been able to verify all methods of farming across all farms in the world. We know that biodynamic farming is not vegan, so we will classify those products that use biodynamic practices as not vegan. Overtime, we will of course try and determine the pre-harvest practices for as many products as we can, reassessing the vegan status where needed for those products.
 
There are a number of wine labels that would previously have been considered vegan that we have now had to change the vegan status for. We believe that the wine labels have in good faith labelled their product as vegan as the advice they would have been given was that vegan certification was only determined based on post harvest processes. We have spoken to a few of these wine labels and explained the situation and the change of guidelines as to what what is considered vegan, at least from our perspective for our apps. We hope that those companies that will no longer be considered vegan will do the right thing and stop labelling their products as vegan. We would also like to add that as this is a new guideline, it is important to give companies that would have products no longer be considered vegan time to absorb this information and make their own determination as regards to removing the vegan label from their products.
 
We have also had some lengthy conversations with Vegan Australia over the past few days to try and come to an agreement on the pre-harvest use of animal products and we can confirm that "Vegan Australia Certified will not register any products where there is clear evidence that animals have been used in the pre-harvest period." So as far as biodynamic is concerned, both Fussy Vegan And Vegan Australia will not consider any products that are clearly using biodynamic processes, given the requirement to use animal parts in their pre-harvest practices. In regards to other pre harvest practices other than biodynamics, we are still in discussion with Vegan Australia about what they will consider vegan and what we will consider vegan. It is still all new and we will keep everyone updated once we have had more time to look at other pre-harvest practices.
 
One a final note, when the issue about pre-harvest practices came up last week with Paxton Wines, there were many comments where people stated things like "all plants are grown with blood and bone used as fertiliser, so I guess nothing is vegan then" and similar comments. Whilst we are still too early in our research to give definitive numbers, we can say that in the discussions we have had with various wine labels recently, the use of blood and bone is not that common anymore. Quite a large number of farms are using other sources for compost and fertiliser. Once we have confirmed with larger number of farms what they use for fertiliser and compost, we will do another post on just how common blood and bone actually is.

 
boycotting palm oil
 
What Do You Hope To Achieve By Boycotting Palm Oil?

Our follow up article on palm oil.

posted 08/04/2019

We have written this post as a follow up to our original post back in January about palm oil.
 
What outcome do you expect to achieve by boycotting palm oil? This is a serious question that we ask everyone that keeps posting about how palm oil is evil. We have done extensive research into palm oil and there is most certainly one thing that we know to be fact when it comes to palm oil. If everyone stopped buying palm oil, as some people suggest, the farmland that is used for growing palm oil will NOT be turned back into rainforest. Wouldn't that be nice if it did, but think about it, it is just not going to happen. That is the reality.
 
What would happen if everyone stopped buying palm oil? The most likely scenario would be that the farmers wold simply plant another crop. And other types of crops that are used for plant based oils are all less environmentally friendly as the oil palm tree. Palm oil is so widely used because it has a higher yield per hectare of land than other comparable vegetable oil sources, such as soy, canola, rapeseed and sunflower. In some cases, such as with soy, Palm oil yields 10 times the amount of product for each hectare of land compared to soy. Oil palm trees also require significantly less water than other comparable crops. If farmers stopped planting oil palm trees, and started planting other types of crops, the most likely scenario would be that even more rainforest would be cleared to make up for the lower yield rates of other types of crops.
 
But doesn't land clearing of rainforest areas contribute to the decline of Orang-utans and other vulnerable species? Yes, of course it does. Which is why instead of boycotting palm oil, which as we have stated above will not solve anything, we recommend buying products that use RSPO certified sustainable palm oil. You can read our previous post about RSPO certified palm oil in the link below.
 
Palm oil is vegan, it is not up to individual people to decide if palm oil is vegan or not. You can decide if you want to purchase products that contain palm oil or not, but the fact is, PALM OIL IS VEGAN. It does not contain any animal derived ingredients and does not require the direct use of animals to grow and harvest. Even the Vegan Society, who's founder actually coined the term "vegan", agree that palm oil is vegan. We would politely ask people to stop hijacking Facebook posts where people ask if a product is vegan with comments about how it contains palm oil, so it is not vegan.
 
By boycotting palm oil, you are quite possibly making the situation worse for those very Orang-utans and other vulnerable species that you are trying to save.
 
By ensuring that you only purchase products that use truly sustainable palm oil, you are actually helping those vulnerable species a lot more than those that boycott it.

 
food labelling
 
The Facts on Food Labelling

In this article we explain some misconceptions that people may have on Food Labelling laws in Australia and New Zealand.

posted 17/01/2019

In this article, we thought we would clarify some misunderstandings that people may have in relation to food labelling laws in Australia and New Zealand. Food labelling laws are covered under the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. We have summarised the important points we wanted to clarify first and then we have added what a lot of the terms used in food labelling means at the end.
 
1. As there is no legal definition of the term "vegan" in Australia or New Zealand (at least as it relates to the Food Standards Code), we would recommend still checking and possibly verifying the ingredients in a product even if it says vegan or vegan friendly on the packaging. To be fair, it is rare for us to come across a product that states it is vegan and actually not be, but it does happen from time to time. We recently came across a bottle of wine that clearly stated it was suitable for vegans and vegetarians, but then also clearly listed egg whites as an ingredient (we posted this on Facebook a couple of weeks ago).
 
2. There are many instances where animal derived ingredients can be in a product even though the ingredients list does not state that any animal derived ingredients are present. "Natural Flavours" is a common one where animal derived ingredients could be present without being listed as such. Apple juice is another example of where animal derived ingredients can be used in the processing of the juice, but as the amount of trace material left is negligible, manufacturers do not have to list that cow or pig hooves (gelatine) was used to filter and process the apple juice. There is also a rule about compound ingredients which is discussed below.
 
3. Most manufactures add the "may contain" statement to their products, just to cover themselves from being sued in the rare case that someone buys their product and has some form of allergic reaction to a trace amount of a declared allergen because the product was made in the same facility as non vegan products. Some manufacturers actually put "contains milk or milk derived ingredients" instead of the standard "may contain", which only makes it harder for vegans, but still perfectly legal as those terms are not regulated by the Code.
 
4. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not try to be Sherlock Holmes and try and deduce whether a product is vegan or not by trying to work out what the "natural flavour" or other non descriptive ingredients are in a product. It is impossible to work out without contacting the manufacturer, unless the manufacturer has explicitly listed what the "natural flavour" or other ingredient is derived from. It is also important to note that quite a number of approved additives can be either animal or non animal derived but still be listed as the same additive number, again facilitating the need to contact the manufacturer to clarify.
 
5. Remember that just because a product is listed as "vegetarian" and you do not see dairy or egg listed as an allergen, that does not mean the product is vegan. There are numerous non vegan ingredients that would be classed as vegetarian but not vegan that are not declared allergens. Honey and vitamin D3 are just a couple of examples.
 
We do all of the hard work for you with our Fussy Vegan Scanner app. You can be assured that we diligently verify the ingredients on every single product that we have listed on our Fussy Vegan Scanner app, which as of today (17.01.2019) is just over 60,000 products and growing.
 
For those that are interested, we have included some definitions and quotes from the Code for your reference.
 
Declared Allergens - The following ingredients are considered declared allergens by Food Standards Australia New Zealand: Peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, sesame seeds, fish, shellfish, soy, lupin wheat and other gluten containing cereals (rye, barley, oats, spelt, and hybrid strains of these cereals). In addition to the declared allergens, any food product that contains the ingredient royal jelly (a bee product) is required to have a warning statement. Sulphites must also be declared on the label if added at 10 (or more) milligrams per kilogram of food.
 
Exemptions to declared allergens being required to be labeled - in 2016, a change was made to the Code to remove mandatory allergen labelling requirements for the following declared allergen derived ingredients:
- Glucose syrups made from wheat starch (subject to low limits)
- Fully refined soy oil
- Soy derivatives (tocopherols and phytosterols)
- Distilled alcohol from wheat or whey
 
Sulphites - Sulphites are naturally occurring minerals that are found naturally in some foods and also used in other foods as an additive to prevent microbial spoilage and preserve colour. There is a lot of discussion around whether excessive exposure to sulphites pose a heath risk or not, and we will not be going into detail here, as this is not the focus of this article. The Code requires sulphites to be declared (as per the above definition of declared allergens) so that those that might be sensitive to sulphites are aware that sulphites are present in a product.
 
Gluten Free - The terms gluten free and low gluten are regulated by The Food Standards Code. Manufacturers using this term need to follow the regulations in the Code. The reason these terms are regulated by the Code is because they concern safety issues due to being a declared allergen and for people with Coeliac Disease.
 
Vegan - The term vegan as well as the terms vegetarian, halal and kosher are not regulated by the Food Standards Code. The reason that these terms are not regulated is that there are no public safety concerns around whether a product is vegan, vegetarian, halal or kosher. What this means is that there is no legal definition of the word vegan.
 
May Contain - Some food labels use the terms "may contain" or "may be present" about certain allergens such as "may contain milk", etc. These are voluntary statements made by manufacturers and are not regulated by the Code.
 
Natural and Artificial Flavours - The term natural flavour refers to any ingredient uses as a flavour that is made from either an animal or plant source. The term artificial flavour refers to any ingredient used as a flavour that is synthetically produced in a laboratory. You may see the term "synthetic" used in place of "artificial".
 
Ingredients List - Ingredients must be listed in descending order by ingoing weight. This means that when the food was manufactured, the first ingredient listed contributed the largest amount and the last ingredient listed contributed the least. There are two specific statements in the Code that are important for any vegan to be mindful of as it relates to ingredients in food products. The statements are similar but slightly different as one relates to additives and one relates to ingredients in general, so we have added both here:
 
"Sometimes compound ingredients are used in a food. A compound ingredient is an ingredient made up of two or more ingredients e.g. canned spaghetti in tomato sauce, where the spaghetti is made up of flour, egg and water. All the ingredients which make up a compound ingredient must be declared in the ingredient list, except when the compound ingredient is used in amounts of less than 5% of the final food. An example of a compound ingredient that could be less than 5% of the final food is the tomato sauce (consisting of tomatoes, capsicum, onions, water and herbs) on a frozen pizza. However, if an ingredient that makes up a compound ingredient is a known allergen it must be declared regardless of how much is used."
 
And the second statement relates specifically to additives:
 
"Some foods are not required to be labelled with a statement of ingredients, for example, unpackaged food, food contained in a small package (i.e. a package with a surface area of less than 100 cm2). Food additives in these foods are therefore also not required to be labelled. Sometimes compound ingredients are used in a food. A compound ingredient is an ingredient made up of two or more ingredients, for example, tomato paste containing tomato, olive oil, dried herbs, sugar, salt, and a preservative which is incorporated into a meat casserole. The ingredients (including food additives) of a compound ingredient don’t have to be listed if the compound ingredient makes up less than 5% of the final food. However, if additives in the compound ingredient perform a purpose in the final food, they have to be declared in the statement of ingredients."

 
boycotting palm oil
 
The Facts on Palm Oil

We decided to write this article about palm oil due to the number of enquires we get as to whether we consider palm oil vegan or if we have a palm oil status in our Fussy Vegan Scanner app. The main purpose of our app is to let users know if a product is vegan or not. With the exception of animal testing (which affects the vegan status of a product) we do not get into other ethical concerns.

posted 11/01/2019

It is not that we do not care about other ethical concerns, it is just not the scope of our app. In fact, this article is not normally a topic we would get in depth about, but given the amount of disinformation that some people spread about palm oil on the internet, especially on vegan Facebook group pages, we thought it would be important clarify the reality of palm oil. Let us start with simple answers to palm oil and our Fussy Vegan Scanner app, and then we will get more in-depth about the reality of palm oil below.
 
Is palm oil vegan? Yes as palm oil is a plant derived ingredient and no animal ingredients are used in the processing of palm oil. That is the simple answer. Read the full article below to get a more detailed answer.
 
Does our app have the palm oil status of a product? The simple answer is no. As we said above, you will have to read the entire article for a more detailed explanation. Having said that, we do state whether a product uses sustainable palm oil if that information for the particular product is easily available.
 
Ok, so let us get into the myths and truths about palm oil. Let us start by saying that we do not have any financial or other relationships with any of the companies or organisations discussed in this article.
 
What is palm oil? Simply put, palm oil is a vegetable fat obtained from the fruit of the oil palm tree. There are two main species of oil palm trees. Malaysia and Indonesia account for 85% of the worlds palm oil production. Palm oil is also produced in Africa and South America.
 
Why is palm oil so widely used? Palm oil is so widely used because it has a higher yield per hectare of land than other comparable vegetable oil sources, such as soy, canola, rapeseed and sunflower. In some cases, such as with soy, Palm oil yields 10 times the amount of product for each hectare of land compared to soy.
 
What is palm oil used for? Palm oil is the most used vegetable oil in the world. Palm oil in some form can be found in more than half of the manufactured food and health/beauty products available in the world. Palm oil has a high resistance to oxidation, providing a longer shelf life. Palm oil is neutral in taste, in contrast to alternatives such as coconut oil. It is particularly useful as an affordable ingredient in food products such as spreads, chocolate, ice cream, cookies, cakes, confectionery and margarines.
 
Does palm oil have to be listed as an ingredient in a product? In regards to food products, no. At least not directly. Palm oil is so widely used, that it would be almost (not impossible) to completely avoid it unless you started growing your own food entirely. But if like most people, you eat manufactured or processed foods, you are most likely eating some form of palm oil. Palm oil may be listed as palm oil in an ingredients list, or it could be listed as one of the many approved additives that might have palm oil in them, or it could be listed as vegetable oil. In some cases, it may not be listed at all in any form.
 
The current Food Labelling Standards in Australia and New Zealand state that any ingredient that is not a declared allergen (of which palm oil is not) does not have to be listed as an ingredient in a product if that ingredient is a compound ingredient and makes up less than 5% of the total ingredients of the product (such as pizza sauce on a pizza), with the only exceptions being declared allergens. So even if you were trying to avoid palm oil, unless the product specifically states that it contains no palm oil, then it is virtually impossible to tell if it contains palm oil or not.
 
Why do I hear people talking about avoiding palm oil? Quite frankly, whilst there would be some people that have actually done extensive research into palm oil and its effect on the environment, most people have just heard it somewhere, or have seen an extreme anti-palm oil activists talk about it in facebook comments, often hijacking discussions about whether a product is vegan or not. We will discuss in more detail below about why you should not avoid palm oil.
 
Should I avoid palm oil? That depends on why you want to avoid palm oil. If you want to avoid palm oil for health reasons, then that is a topic outside of the scope of this article. If you are thinking about or do currently avoid palm oil due to the potential destruction of rainforest or loss of animal habitat, then no you should not avoid palm oil. You should however try to use products that contain RSPO certified sustainable palm oil. In fact, a lot of products that label themselves as palm oil free actually contain less environmentally friendly oils such as soy.
 
What is RSPO? The Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil is a non profit group that unites stakeholders from the seven sectors of the palm oil industry: oil palm producers, processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks/investors and environmental and social NGOs, to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil. The purpose of the RSPO is to develop and implement global standards for the sustainable use of palm oil.
 
What is RSPO certified sustainable palm oil? RSPO certified sustainable palm oil is palm oil that has been certified by the non profit group called the Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil. You can read more about RSPO certification on the RSPO website. Most of the major food companies in the world have made commitments to using RSPO certified palm oil.
 
What companies use RSPO certified sustainable palm oil? Below is a list of some of the major food companies that use RSPO certified sustainable palm oil. Together, the below companies account for over 85% of the products found in Australian grocery stores:
 
Campbell’s Soup Company 100% of palm oil used comes from RSPO certified sources.
Conagra Brands 100% of palm oil used is from RSPO certified sources.
Coles Supermarkets* 100% of palm oil used in food and drink products is from RSPO certified sources. Coles is also moving to sustainable palm oil and palm derivatives in their Coles brand homecare, health, beauty and baby products. While these changes are being made, Coles offset the use of palm oil in Coles brand non-food products by purchasing PalmTrace certificates which support sustainable palm oil farmers and processes.
General Mills 100% of palm oil comes from RSPO certified sources.
The Kellogg Company 100% of palm oil comes from RSPO certified sources.
Kraft Heinz 100% of palm oil comes from RSPO certified sources.
Mars Incorporated 100% of palm oil used comes from RSPO certified sources.
Mondelez International 100% of palm oil comes from RSPO certified sources since 2013.
Nestle 58% of total palm oil production purchased in 2017 was responsibly sourced and Nestle is committed to purchasing 100% RSPO certified palm oil by 2020.
PepsiCo In 2017, 32% of palm oil used was from RSPO certified sources. Goal for 2018 is 50% and 100% by 2020.
Proctor & Gamble 100% of palm oil used is from RSPO certified sources.
Unilever 80% of palm oil used in 2018 was from RSPO certified sources, and will be 100% by the end of 2019.
Woolworths* 100% of palm oil used is from RSPO certified sources.
 
*Please note that with Coles and Woolworths, we are talking about the supermarket branded products, not every product sold in the relevant supermarket.
 
As we stated previously, the companies we listed above account for over 85% of the grocery products available in Australian supermarkets. It is clear that the grocery industry as a whole takes sustainable palm oil seriously. That is not to say that there couldn’t be improvements, but it is certainly not the bleak situation that you may have heard about.
 
Does palm oil production contribute to the destruction of rainforest habitat for wildlife, including endangered Orangutans? Yes. But let’s be clear here. All mass production agriculture contributes in some way or another to the destruction of habitat for various wildlife. Millions of animals are also killed each year in the protection of crops as well, even if further habitat is not destroyed. Whilst there is a lot of focus on palm oil, there is not much focus on most other crops that are mass produced for human use. This is the reality of human impact on the planet. Now, let’s keep the focus on palm oil here, as this article could turn into a whole book if we start talking about the affects of mass agriculture on the environment. By purchasing RSPO certified sustainable palm oil, you are at least making a conscious decision to try and minimise the impact of your environmental footprint on the planet.
 
What would happen if everyone stopped buying products made with palm oil? The production of palm oil supports the livelihoods of millions of people in poorer countries around the world, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia. The reality is that these people are going to continue to try and support their families, if not with palm oil then with some other crop. As we stated previously in this article, palm oil production is actually more efficient than other crops, using anywhere from half to up to ten times less land than other crops for a similar production output. Palm oil production also uses far less water than other types of crop production. Are we really naive enough to think that these people are just going to stop growing palm oil and replant the forest? And what just lay down and die? Let’s be realistic about it. Yes, continuing to destroy rainforest for any crop is bad for the environment, but we can minimise the negative effects on the environment by purchasing sustainable palm oil.
 
What do others have to say about palm oil? Below we have listed what some major organisation have to say about palm oil:
 
The Vegan Society The founder of the Vegan Society actually coined the term vegan. The Vegan Society states the following in regards to palm oil:
Is palm oil vegan? In itself, palm oil is a vegetable product which does not need to involve the (ab)use of animals, and therefore is suitable for vegans. The palm oil and palm timber industries are rife with very bad practices. In the EU, palm oil used in food must now be labelled, but ingredients derived from palm oil in food and non-food products still do not have to be labelled. So it is not possible for consumers to 'boycott' palm products. Instead, ending the abuses of the palm tree (oil and timber) industries requires co-ordinated action by non-vegans and vegans, consumers and policymakers and industry etc., together.
 
As even the Vegan Society considers palm oil to be vegan, I think we can at least put to bed the issue of whether palm oil is vegan or not.
 
PETA People For Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) state the following in regards to palm oil:
Orangutans and other animals are negatively affected by the spread of palm oil plantations, and for this reason, some people choose to avoid products containing palm oil. PETA supports the move towards truly sustainable palm oil operations that (among other things) use land that is already cleared, invest in increasing crop yield and refrain from clearing land for new plantations. Although some groups call for a boycott of palm oil products or companies that use palm oil, many environmental and animal-protection groups, including ones that focus on the well-being of primates displaced by palm oil plantations, agree that such a boycott would result in two major problems:
1. It would drive the price of palm oil down to a point where already-high demand is further increased.
2. It would promote the development of other tropical oils that are less efficiently grown than palm oil and would contribute to more deforestation and habitat loss. To those who can avoid all tropical oils, we say, Go for it. Purchasing locally obtained, tropical oil–free foods and household products is a great way to ensure ethical sustainability. We also encourage consumers to contact companies that have been dragging their feet on this important issue. Urge them to commit to using truly sustainable palm oil and let them know you won’t buy their products until they do so.
 
WWF The World Wildlife Fund state the following in regards to palm oil:
Palm oil is an incredibly efficient crop, producing more oil per land area than any other equivalent vegetable oil crop. Globally, palm oil supplies 35% of the world’s vegetable oil demand on just 10% of the land. To get the same amount of alternative oils like soybean or coconut oil you would need anything between 4 and 10 times more land, which would just shift the problem to other parts of the world and threaten other habitats and species. Furthermore, palm oil is an important crop for the GDP of emerging economies and there are millions of smallholder farmers who depend on producing palm oil for their livelihood. Boycotting palm oil is not always the answer, but demanding more action to tackle the issues and go further and faster, is.
 
The Sumatran Orangutan Society state the following in regards to palm oil:
Whilst we appreciate that individuals may wish to distance themselves from the threat the industry poses to orangutans and their habitat, we do not believe that boycotting palm oil is the solution. It is the most productive oil crop in the world, so much more land would need to be sacrificed if companies switched to using an alternative.
For example, it would take up to 10 times as much land to produce the same amount of soybean oil. Also, boycotting palm oil could drive the price down. It would then become more attractive for biofuels and livestock feed, and possibly lead to increased demand, especially in India and China, the biggest importers of palm oil.
In addition, over 4.5 million people in Indonesia currently rely on the palm oil industry as their primary source of income. All agriculture has a footprint, and palm oil is here to stay. What we need to do is ensure that it is cultivated in the least damaging way possible. Oil palms do not need to be grown at the expense of biodiverse forests – we need to demand an end to deforestation for palm oil in order to safeguard orangutans, and the precious rainforests they inhabit.
 
We would like to state again that we do not make any representations of support for the palm oil industry, we just wanted to make clear what the reality is with palm oil. Some people may not agree with what we have written, and that is okay. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But the facts speak for themselves.

 
contacting a manufacturer
 
Contacting a Manufacturer

We think it is important to clarify a few things when it comes to contacting manufacturers to find out of a product is vegan or not. Below we have put together a guide for anyone that wants to contact a manufacturer. Firstly, we would like to say that we already do all this work for you and you can find the vegan status of over 55,000 products on our app, but if you don’t want to spend the $5.99 on our app, or for whatever reason would like to confirm something yourself, then here is how.

posted 07/01/2019

1. When contacting a manufacturer, NEVER use Facebook or other social media to ask these questions of a manufacturer.
We would recommend phoning them directly, or at least emailing, but we prefer phoning and we will explain why below.
 
2. When you phone a manufacturer, you can try and ensure that you are speaking with the correct person to answer your question and not just a receptionist, or similar that does not really know how to look up the correct answers as to whether a product is vegan or not. If the person you are speaking to is just reading information off of the manufacturers website, then you have the WRONG person. If that person will not transfer you to the correct person, hang up and try again later, or the next day. We have spent over 600 hours (and no that is not an exaggeration) on the phone with various manufacturers over the past six months or so as we started to develop our Fussy Vegan Scanner app and we have learnt how to work out if we are speaking with the right person or not. We are comfortable in saying we are experts in contacting manufactures about the vegan status of a product.
 
3. Do NOT ask them if a product is vegan or not. Why? Because there is a 50/50 chance they will say it is not vegan, simply because the product is not certified as vegan. Now, this is important to clarify. Just because a product is not certified as vegan does not mean the product is not vegan. In fact, in Australia, as far as food labelling laws are concerned, there is no legal definition of the word vegan, or kosher or Halal for the matter. The reason being is that those terms have nothing to do with food safety, and are simply terms used for personal beliefs, so they are not considered by food labelling laws to be legally defined. So being certified as vegan just means that the company has paid a vegan group, such as the Vegan Society, PETA, etc to be certified under their programs. It is NOT a legal certification in Australia.
 
We consider a product vegan if there is no animal ingredients used either in the product or in the manufacturing and processing of the product and if the product has not been tested on animals. Again, whilst there is no legal definition in Australia of the word vegan, we think most people would agree that the requirements we listed above would make the product vegan. Most products are manufactured in a facility that also manufactures non vegan products, and this is often a reason for not labelling the product as vegan. The fact is, hygiene standards in modern manufacturing plants are quite high, and the actual risk of an animal ingredient being in your vegan product is so low, we would not even worry about it.
 
4. Ask specific questions about the product. What we mean is instead of just asking if the product is vegan or not, make sure you have read the ingredients label first and find any questionable ingredients. Questionable ingredients are those that could be either animal or non animal derived, such as additives 415 or 471, or natural flavours (there are many other). Once you have the questionable ingredients that you have to enquire about, ask them specifically: Is the 471 used in this product animal derived? Repeat for each questionable ingredient. Once you have established if any of the questionable ingredients are animal derived, then, the next question to ask is: Are any animal derived ingredients used in the processing of this product even if those animal derived ingredients are not present in the final product? This question is important for particular products, like apple juice or wine, where gelatine and other animal ingredients are often used in the filtration process. The last question to ask is: Do you either do any animal testing on your products or do you pay other entities to do animal testing on your products? Now, if you get all of these answers, you can make a determination if the product is vegan or not. Can you now understand the difference between just asking if the product is vegan or not and asking more specific and detailed questions that will better answer the question of whether a product is vegan or not.
 
5. Ask about ONE product at a time and give them the UPC (barcode) number of the product, just to ensure that you both are talking about the same product. Some manufacturers make many similar products that may have different ingredients in them and you could be talking about one product and the person you are speaking to could be referring to a different product.
 
6. Always ask the person you are speaking to if they are 100% sure about their response to you. If not, ask them politely if they can follow up and get back to you to be 100% sure.
 
7. Don’t be surprised or upset if the manufacturer has to get back to you at a later date as they might need to follow up with their quality assurance team (or similar). We would recommend phoning them directly, or at least emailing, but we prefer phoning and we will explain why below.
 
8. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT post on social media about the vegan status of a product unless you have either found the product on a reputable source, such as our Fussy Vegan Scanner app, or you have taken the above steps to find out if the product is truly vegan or not. Whilst well intentioned, you can actually be spreading incorrect information about a product and that is not good for anyone. There is enough fake news out on the internet as it is, we don’t need to add to it with wrong information about whether a product is vegan or not.
 
9. One last point. NEVER rely on either a manufacturer or supermarket website to get the ingredients for a product. Check the actual product label. Why? Because there is a lot more chance of mistakes (and we have found many) about ingredients on both the Coles and Woolworths websites, and even some manufacturers websites. There are a couple of reasons we say this. Firstly, there is normally just some worker doing data entry for each and every product listing that gets put on a supermarket website and it is easy to make mistakes, we find them all the time. When a manufacturer prints product packaging, there would be at least a few people that would have to sign off on the design and accuracy of the packaging, so there is a minimal chance of the ingredients being wrong.
 
Another reason is that the manufacturer might decide to change the ingredients in a product, but because it is an existing product, the supermarkets don’t normally update the ingredients for that product on their website.