Definitions of vegetarian and vegan (United Kingdom)

There is currently no UK legal definition of 'vegan'. However, the purposes of ensuring that the term does not mis-lead under GB FIC, the Food Safety Act 1990 and consumer protection legislation, it is generally understood as meaning that a food does not contain any ingredients derived from animals (including eggs, honey, milk etc.) and has not been manufactured with the use of any animals by-products (including equipment). The UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) recently carried out a survey about the use of the term 'vegan' being used as a proxy for allergen labelling (i.e. consumers relying on the term 'vegan' to avoid animal-derived ingredient they were or might be sensitive or allergic to, such as eggs and milk). Their findings concluded that there was widespread con-fusion around what the term 'vegan' and other terms such as 'plant-based' meant to those consumers with food hy-persensitivities, resulting in the FSA publishing a warning against consumers relying on 'vegan' to mean free from animal-derived allergens, because of the risk of cross-contamination. In relation to plant based alternatives to meat or dairy, the UK continues to be relatively permissive. However recently there was talk within the enforcement community of becoming more restrictive, however this is yet to come to frui-tion.

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.

Dominic Watkins

United Kingdom