Nutrition fact labels, allergen warnings, certification programs, and legislation about labelling.
Vegetarians and vegans often need to check the ingredients and nutritional values of foods to make sure none of the contents are unsuitable, or for the purposes of monitoring intake of particular nutrients.
Many foods carry labels that help consumers understand the nature of the food, but some labels may be difficult to interpret or not have a clear meaning.
The most detailed labels are of course present on packaged and processed foods. These types of labels are commonplace, often required by law, and can be expected on nearly all packaged foods. Labels on packaged food may include:
- Ingredients list
- Nutrition facts label
- Allergen warnings ("may contain ...")
- Country of origin
Common allergens include milk and eggs, and these may be highlighted in ingredients lists, which is helpful to vegans as well as allergy sufferers.
In addition, some packaged foods will bear additional labels that either provide additional information or help the consumer to make faster decisions about information on the basic labels.
- In India, the vegetarian mark (green dot) is applied to foods that are lacto-vegetarian.
- The Certified Vegan logo is certified by the Vegan Action Foundation in Richmond, Virginia.
- The Vegan Trademark is administered by The Vegan Society UK.
- Packaged foods may claim to be a source of specific nutrients. These claims are usually controlled by legislation and will vary between different jurisdictions.
- The Non-GMO Project label looks confusingly similar to some vegan labels.
- Fairtrade certification may be present on imported goods.
Restaurant Menus and Food Retail
Some restaurants and retail food services provide menus that identify vegetarian or vegan options, but this is still relatively rare. There is no standardized labelling system for restaurant menus.
Even whole foods often come with a small amount of labelling.
- Produce may be labelled as organic (usually with stickers or wrappers).
- Produce is often labelled with a PLU, a standardized code to identify different foods and varieties.
- Produce may be labelled with country of origin, or the seller may post signs or billboards, especially when foods are of local origin.