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Kiwi vegetarians denied the right to know

30 September, 2003

Kiwi vegetarians denied the right to know

Green MP Sue Kedgley is calling on the Government to offer the growing number of New Zealand vegetarians real freedom of choice on World Vegetarian Day tomorrow (October 1) by requiring the food industry to disclose whether they use animal-based products in their food.

10 per cent of New Zealanders indicated in an ACNeilsen survey this year that they have a "mainly vegetarian" diet. It also stated that two in 10 consumers try to buy organic food whenever they could.

"The growing numbers of New Zealanders who choose to eat vegetarian meals have a right to be certain that the food they are buying does not contain animal products," said Ms Kedgley.

"All we need is a simple label to tell vegetarians at a glance whether or not the product contains ingredients of animal origin.

"Without a standard labelling regime it's very difficult to tell whether food has been cooked in animal fat or contains animal-derived ingredients, such as flavour enhancer sourced from feathers.

"Many vegetarians would be horrified to learn that some food products they assume are vegetarian actually contain animal products. For example, even strict vegetarians who study the label may not realise that additive 920, a common flavour enhancer, is derived from animal hair and chicken feathers, or that McDonalds french fries are cooked in beef fat.

"Just as they have a right to be vegetarian, they have a right to know whether what they eat is genuinely vegetarian."

Ms Kedgley said new labelling requirements would provide manufacturers with an opportunity to expand their business into supplying food completely free of animal products, and give vegetarians the ability to choose products they knew were free of animal-based ingredients.

Ms Kedgley said parents could get behind World Vegetarian Day by offering their children a healthy vegetable and fruit lunch. "As our Children's Food Awards campaign proves, children's food can be healthy and tasty. In two weeks, we'll be announcing what parents have voted are the best foods for our children."

Ms Kedgley suggested that in the meantime vegetarian consumers should look out for products labelled with the "V" trademark, a voluntary regime established by the Vegetarian Society. "Thanks to the voluntary regime, this information is available on a limited scale. Now it's up to the Government to take the next step by offering a comprehensive labelling regime for all consumers."

The British Medical Journal has reported that vegetarians have a 40 per cent less risk of cancer and 30 per cent less risk of heart disease than meat-eaters.

ENDS

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