Definitions of vegetarian and vegan (Ireland)

There are no specific Irish or EU laws in place which cover the definition of and vegan food. EU Regulation 1169/2011 on food information for consumers requires the European Commission to issue an implementing act on voluntary food information “related to the suitability of a food for vegetarians or vegans” (article 36 (3)(b)). A Citizens Initiative (Nov 2018) called for the EU to draft proposals to define the terms “Vegetarian” & “Vegan” to make such labelling mandatory under the EU’s Food Labelling rules. The European Commission has still failed to draft any legislative labelling proposals on the suitability of food for vegetarians or vegans. In that case, the one qualification would be that if you label food as being suitable for vegans or vegetarians under Article 7 of EU Regulation 169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers, the labelling must not be ‘misleading’. The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASA) is the independent self-regulatory body set up and financed by the advertising industry. The objective is to ensure that all commercial marketing communications are 'legal, decent, honest and truthful'. The ASA has established a self-regulatory Code of Standards for Advertising, Promotional and Direct Marketing (2016) https://adstandards.ie/asa-code/ as a means of fulfilling this objective [section 8 of the Code relates to food and non-alcoholic beverages]. The ASA has a complaints procedure whereby companies and the public can be made against specific advertisements being misleading. An interesting November 2023 ruling related to a poster advertising campaign for Oatly Barista Oat Milk which stated: “It’s like milk but made for humans”. The ASA considered that the use of the phrase “but made for humans” in advertising for a non-dairy milk alternative was misleading to consumers and was in breach of the ASA Code.

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.