Definitions of vegetarian and vegan (Netherlands)

Article 36(3) of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 states that the European Commission will adopt implementing regu-lations on a number of subjects, including information on relating to the suitability of a food for vegetarians or ve-gans. There is no deadline for these implementing regulations and it is not known when they will be published. In mid-2021, a Dutch proposal for definitions for vegetarian and vegan was published via the (so-called) Regulier Overleg Levensmiddelen. The then proposed definitions regarding 'vegetarian' and 'vegan' were: (1) 'Vegan' are foods that contain no products of animal origin and in which at no stage of production or processing has any use been made of, or the food has been supplemented with, ingredients (including additives, carriers fla-vourings and enzymes) or adjuvants or substances which are not food additives but which are used in the same way and with the same purpose as processing aids in processed or unprocessed form, which are of animal origin. (2) 'Vegetarian' are foods that meet the requirements of paragraph 1, with the difference that in their production: 1. milk, 2. colostrum, 3. eggs (No. 5 of Annex I to Regulation (EC) No. 853/2004), 4. honey (Annex I to Directive 2001/110 / EC), 5. beeswax, 6. propolis or 7. wool fat including lanolin derived from the wool of live sheep, or constituents or derivatives thereof may be added or used. (3) A claim that a food is vegan or vegetarian is not precluded by unintentional presence in the food of products that do not meet the requirements of paragraphs 1 or 2, if and to the extent that this is technically unavoidable at all stages of production processing and distribution, despite appropriate precautions having been taken in accordance with good manufacturing practices. (4) Paragraphs 1-3 apply mutatis mutandis where food information is provided which is synonymous with 'vegan' or 'vegetarian' from the consumer's point of view There is still discussion on this proposal, but the proposal can be used as guidance according to the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA). The NVWA has indicated that the definitions of the European Vegetar-ian Union can also be used as guidance. In addition, there has been en still is discussion in the Netherlands about the naming of vegetarian products. The NVWA has taken a policy position on the naming of vegetarian products. This position reads: For vegetarian variants of meat and fish products: - food business operators may use common designations such as 'schnitzel', 'burger' and 'sausage' in the name of the product, provided it is clear that the product is a vegetarian variant. This means that the desig-nations 'veggie schnitzel', 'veggie burger', 'vegetarian smoked sausage' are permitted; - animal species names may be used, as long as it is clear that a vegetarian variant is concerned. This means, for example, that designations such as 'vegetarian chicken pieces', 'vegetarian tuna', ‘vegetarian crab salad’ are permitted, but not exclusively the wording ‘chicken pieces’ and ‘tuna and 'crab salad'; reserved names may only be used for products that meet the legal requirements imposed on the reserved name. For meat/meat products/meat preparations established reserved names (designations) are not permitted in use for meatless products, including in combination with 'vegetarian'. Also the use of mis-spelled animal species names or misspelled reserved designations (e.g. vegetarian 'hacked') is not permit-ted. The possibility of requiring the use of the term 'vegetarian' in vegetarian meat variants is being further explored.

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.

Marijn van Tuijl