Definitions of vegetarian and vegan (Australia)

There are no prescribed definitions of “vegetarian” and “vegan”, but there is an overarching obligation to ensure that all representations are not false or misleading. This obligation exists under the Australian Consumer Law, as well as State and Territory Food Acts and industry advertising codes. The term “vegetarian” is typically used where a product does not contain by-products of animal slaughter (e.g. meat, seafood). Such a product may contain other animal products which are not by- products of animal slaughter (e.g. milk, eggs, cheese). The term “vegan” may imply the complete absence of animal by-products and allergens, and therefore it is industry best practice to only make a vegan claim where there are no such ingredients in the recipe. Risks may arise where there is potential for cross-contamination with animal allergens. While some third-party vegan certification bodies take the view that a product can still be eligible for vegan certification even if it may contain animal allergens as a result of cross-contamination, this approach can vary. The use of third-party vegan certification can reduce risk when making vegan claims, but the obligation to ensure a representation is not false or misleading rests with the food supplier.

This is general information rather than legal advice and is current as of 30 May 2024. We recommend you contact a specialised food lawyer for legal advice for your particular circumstances to support commercial decisions which could impact your product or business.

Joe Lederman