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Vegetarians and trans fats

Looking at product labels, it appears that many products aimed at vegetarians contain considerable amounts of Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (HVO) and therefore trans fats. This is because hydrogenated oils are often used to replace the saturated animal fats found in non-vegetarian products to give a good 'mouth feel' and for ease of cooking. This applies to many vegetarian products, but among the worst are Linda McCartney pies, sausages, etc, Elmlea fake cream, dairy-free puddings, ice creams, Christmas puddings ...

Vegetarian Society label

Among the products containing HVO are many that bear the Vegetarian Society seal of approval, the "seedling" label, as seen here. We think that, in order to protect the health of vegetarians, the Society should impose standards to restrict the use of its label to those that either contain no HVO, or that contain trans fats at very low levels. We have now written to the Vegetarian Society as follows (28 October 2004):

Dear Vegetarian Society,

I am writing to you from tfX, the UK campaign against trans fats.

This is because I have noticed that many products bearing the Vegetarian "seedling" label have hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO) as an ingredient. You may not be aware that HVO - specifically the trans fats found in HVO - are exceedingly deleterious to health.

You can find out more about this on the tfX website :: .

I am sure that you would not want vegetarians to be systematically poisoned by the food industry, by being fed large volumes of trans fats, which are considerably worse for health than saturated fats.

Neither would you want manufacturers to switch back to fats of animal origin. However this is not necessary. The food industry in Denmark is now, following stringent regulations on trans fats, able to produce its products with very low levels of trans fat, without resorting to the use of animal fats. Organic food throughout Europe is also, by law, free of HVO, and this has not prevented the organic food industry from producing pies, cakes, biscuits, etc.

So, my suggestion is that the "seedling" Vegetarian Society label should only be allowed, from a fixed future date, on products which meet stringent standards for trans fats. I would suggest that you either forbid the inclusion of hydrogenated oil altogether ( as in organic food), or adopt the Danish standard, which allows no more than 2 percent trans fat in any product, or in any ingredient of any product.

Either measure would be an important step to protecting the health of vegetarians, and give vegetarian consumers an important additional assurance as to the health-promoting qualities of the products which you endorse.


Oliver Tickell, tfX.

We shall publish their response when received.


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