Saturday, February 28, 2015

Where Are the Vegan Labels?

Where are the vegan labels? Oh, here one is, in the corner of the tofu package – a tiny “v.”
My husband was like a little kid, waiting impatiently for the new County Market store to open. He drove out of his way to check on its progress for three months, hoping to find it open. On the day of the grand opening, he and I were part of the crowd entering the store, and we were not disappointed! The vast produce section with its high ceiling and balcony restaurant made us feel like we were in a bustling metropolitan area!

Hubby and I checked out all the sales, and I thought I would look for some vegan food items. Disappointingly, what I did NOT find is what I do not find in all grocery stores: vegan signs! I am not singling out County Market nor am I blaming any other store, because the problem does not start with the grocery stores.  To understand what most vegans encounter when shopping, I will describe the typical store. There will be a couple of “okay” substitute meats, some tofu, and the vegetarian (not vegan) cheese called “Go Veggie!” (It fools many people due to its name and the words “Lactose free” on the front, but it contains Casein, cheese culture, milk and cream.) The truly vegan items either have no labeling, or have that very small “v” somewhere on the package. IF there is a “vegetarian/vegan” frozen food section, it is packed with vegetarian options and from zero to a smidgen of vegan ones.

A few years ago, I took a “Most Wanted Vegan Items” list to all the grocery stores in this area and talked with the produce managers. I mentioned that the list was compiled by 127 vegans and vegetarians who emailed me their desired items. The produce managers were all gracious and said they would do what they could to order the items in, but to this day I do not see the “double-starred” most wanted items from the list in their stores.

Our vegan movement has not gotten off the ground like it should, which makes little sense since it is a scientifically backed diet that can reverse heart disease, and is environmentally and morally sound. But instead of a vegan label, what I see on packaging throughout the store is “Gluten-free.” All over the County Market store I saw tags advertising gluten-free products, because it is popular and is a marketer’s dream. If “Gluten-free” is on signs then it is possible to have “Vegan” signs in stores, too!

Gluten-free signs are wonderful for the 1% of the people who have Celiac disease, and the “Organic” signs are certainly helpful! Vegan signs should be right up there with them.
So why did gluten-free catch on so quickly? Four years ago, “gluten intolerant” was not known to the public; now the aisles are loaded with gluten-free labels. If gluten-free can become popular so quickly, with people seemingly proud to have a digestive issue, then it should be possible to make veganism an “overnight sensation” too, since it actually helps the planet! Unfortunately, the word “vegan” is seen in a negative light, with vegans hesitant to use the term and almost fearful of the reaction. The perception of a vegan has been vilified and must change! Somehow, we must make vegan products “cool” and “needed.”

Vegan foods should have large V’s on the front of packaging for easy identification, or have the entire word “Vegan” spelled out.  Every company should be hankering to brand the package with the word “Vegan.” There are many foods in the stores that could wear the vegan label, such as several Italian and French salad dressings, tortillas, cereals, cake mixes, pudding mixes, candies, crackers, cookies, pie crusts, and breads. The produce section is one huge vegan smorgasbord!

Most people give up starches when they diet, even though the results are not as effective as a low-fat vegan diet (with plenty of starches). The gluten-free dieters have shown that they can give up wheat, barley and rye when they think their systems cannot tolerate gluten, even though studies have not proven “gluten-intolerance” exists (except for those with Celiac disease).
When it comes to foods people cannot tolerate, hopefully, more people will soon decide their conscience can no longer tolerate mass animal torture, and will give up meat and dairy. With more dedicated vegans we can create a demand for well-labeled vegan products, and being vegan will be a symbol of pride!

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