Richard Rabkin is the Managing Director of VegeCert, a non profit that certifies vegan and vegetarian food products. Sweets from the Earth was one of the first companies to jump on the VegeCert bandwagon demonstrating their commitment to vegan and vegetarian consumers.
How can a vegan or vegetarian be assured that what products s/he buys in the supermarket are suitable for his/her dietary restrictions?
Well, there are a number of problematic ingredients out there such as gelatin, an ingredient used in many candies or yogurts is often made from the remnants of cattle, pigs or horses; tallow, which is often used as a lubricant, is a rendered form of beef or mutton fat; cheeses contain rennet which contains pieces of the stomach lining of certain animals as a coagulant; or even carmine/cochineal which is used as a dye is actually crushed up beetles (yes you read that right).
But simply reading the list of ingredients on food packaging does not always ensure that a particular product is suitable for vegetarian or vegan diets for three main reasons. First, if an ingredient contained in a product is used in a small proportion, governments may not require that they be listed on the package. Thus, a consumer could unknowingly be consuming an animal based ingredient even if she or he read the product’s ingredients carefully. Second, the machinery used in the production of food products must be thoroughly cleaned in a proscribed fashion to ensure that there is no cross contamination from animal based food items produced on the same machinery. Companies often have different products operating on the same machinery so your regular potato chips could have residue from the pork rinds run earlier that day. Finally, certain ingredients that are very commonly used in the food manufacture process such as “glycerine,” a common stabilizer, can be animal based or vegetable based, and a consumer would have almost no way of knowing by reading the product’s label. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Both Sweets from the Earth bakeries are strictly vegan and use only vegan ingredients. We do not allow any non vegan ingredients into either facility at any time.)
With so many details, it might make a vegetarian or vegan swear off store bought food forever. To prevent such a catastrophe, VegeCert was born. VegeCert worked with the Toronto Vegetarian Association to develop standards that would be used in certifying products with either a “Certified Vegan” or “Certified Vegetarian” designation. Sweets From the Earth was one of the first companies to jump on the VegeCert “bandwagon” so to speak, and all of their products are VegeCert: Certified Vegan.
VegeCert is unique in that we make physical inspections of our certified food manufacturing facilities to ensure that they conform to VegeCert’s high standards. So next time you are in the grocery store and see a VegeCert symbol, you can be comforted knowing that what you are eating conforms to your dietary standards.