/ Food & Drink

What do you think ‘plant-based food’ means?

How would you define ‘plant-based’? Our guest, Claire Milne of the Consumer & Public Interest Network, is requesting your input into the open public consultation.

This is a guest post by Claire Milne. All views expressed are Claire’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?. 

There’s no two ways about it – food labelling can be downright confusing sometimes. 

Some terminology is well-established – vegetarian (no meat or fish) or vegan (no animal products at all) for example.

But there’s a whole load of other verbiage that falls in a grey zone. One person’s interpretation of ‘sustainably sourced’ for example, might be entirely different to another’s.

One term that’s becoming increasingly common in the food world is ‘plant-based’ – aimed, perhaps, at those of us who want to live healthier, more sustainable lifestyles, rather than those who want to define themselves as ‘vegan’.

The recent Which? Conversation on plant-based milk provoked much debate, and showed that a lot of people are interested in incorporating more plant-based foods into their or their family’s diets. 

Well aware of this trend, the food industry is gearing up to meet growing demand, and Upfield (which makes Flora margarine) is sponsoring a new British Standard which aims to define plant-based food; its stated goal being to ‘bring clarity to the market place’. 

Is it ok for plant-based food to contain animal products?

One of the thorny topics up for debate is what, exactly, does plant-based mean? The Consumer & Public Interest Network (CPIN), which is speaking up for consumers in the standard, needs your input.

We would love to know what Conversation readers understand by this term, and what you think it ought to mean in the new standard.

Should a food labelled ‘plant-based’ entirely exclude ingredients derived from animals? Or is it OK if it contains a small percentage of ingredients that would be acceptable to vegetarians, though not vegans, such as eggs, milk or honey (and if so, what percentage would you pick)? 

Should it be different from ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian’, and if so, in what way?

Would it be helpful to have two levels in the standard, ‘100% plant-based’ with no animal-derived ingredients and ‘plant-based’ which might have a small percentage of animal-derived ingredients?

This new British Standard will influence the way in which many food manufacturers label their food in the future, so let us know your thoughts on these questions.

Your thoughts will be fed (pun intended) into the current open public consultation.

This was a guest post by Claire Milne. All views expressed were Claire’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?. 

Daniel says:
16 February 2022

BK Plant Based Whooper is cooked in beef fat! And I’ve just persuaded Tesco to remove meat from their ‘Vegetarian and Plant Based’ section. Clearly, there is much confusion!

“Plant based” does not exclude animal materials unless explicitly stated. If you want to avoid animal materials you need to choose vegan products, Daniel.