The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Gelatin, Carmine, and Rennet Labeling in the U.S.

Posted on June 03, 2015 by The VRG

By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS

An Australian vegetarian planning an upcoming visit to the United States emailed The VRG in April 2015 about whether gelatin, rennet and carmine must be labeled on food packages. Various sources that she had consulted left her with questions so she turned to us for clarification.


A common gelling agent and thickener, gelatin is derived from the bones and skins of cows, pigs, or fish.When used as a food or beverage ingredient gelatin must appear on a food package’s label. Source (bovine, porcine or fish) does not have to be specified.

When used as an incidental additive or as a processing aid in insignificant amounts gelatin is exempt from food labeling requirements. This is the case when gelatin is used as a clarifying agent in wine, beer or juice or used as a carrier in juice or soft drinks (FDA, VRG 1, VRG 2).


A red-to-purple coloring pigment obtained from dried bodies of the female insect Coccus cacti, carmine (or cochineal) must be labeled in a packaged food or beverage product because it is a potential allergen (FDA).


An enzyme used in cheese production, rennet must be declared on a food label. It may appear simply as “enzymes.” Source (animal, plant or microbial) does not have to be stated (FDA).


The information provided above applies only to labeling of pre-packaged food and beverage products. In 2014, the FDA issued labeling requirements pertaining to restaurant foods which will go in effect on December 1, 2015. Nothing is stated about ingredient labeling of foods served at restaurants or at similar establishments (FDA).

According to this FDA document patrons may request information about restaurant food on an individual basis. Whenever there’s doubt about a specific food ingredient, we recommend that you visit the restaurant website or call and ask to speak to a manager.

The contents of this posting, our website and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgement about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

To support The Vegetarian Resource Group research, donate at:

Get Weekend Passes to The Seed Experience 2015 at The VRG’s Online Charity Auction!

Posted on June 02, 2015 by The VRG

You can now get weekend passes to The Seed Experience 2015, an amazing plant-based food and lifestyle expo and conference in Brooklyn, NY on June 20th & 21st, at The VRG’s Online Charity Auction! Hurry, bids start at half price!

The Seed Experience will be held at the Brooklyn Expo Center (72 Noble St. Brooklyn, NY 11222).

Start bidding at:

100% of proceeds will be donated to The Vegetarian Resource Group. Thank you so much for your support.

The Seed Experience is a plant-based food and lifestyle expo and conference. The expo will have over 100 exhibitors. Attendees will snack on delicious plant-based foods from many of NYC’s best local artesian merchants and restaurants, learn from top chefs at cooking demonstrations, discover new eco-friendly and cruelty-free products and services, and check out award-winning films. Plus, get inspired as renowned speakers, animal rights activists, champion athletes, doctors, and chefs share stories about how going plant-based changed their lives. You find everything you need, and more, for living a healthy, compassionate and eco-friendly lifestyle.

For more information, see:

What FDA Learned About Dark Chocolate and Milk Allergies

Posted on June 02, 2015 by The VRG

To inform consumers that dark chocolate products may contain milk even if not intentionally added, many chocolate manufacturers print “advisory” messages on the label. There’s quite a variety of advisory messages, such as:

“may contain milk”
“may contain dairy”
“may contain traces of milk”
“made on equipment shared with milk”
“processed in a plant that processes dairy”
“manufactured in a facility that uses milk”

FDA tested nearly 100 dark chocolate bars, including some vegan selections, for the presence of milk.

For an interesting read see:

Are You Looking for Some Quick and Easy Snack Ideas?

Posted on June 02, 2015 by The VRG

Chef Nancy Berkoff offers some quick and easy snack ideas in the recent issue of Vegetarian Journal. She says, “Treat each snack as a mini-meal. Snack foods should be both fun and healthy. That means that all the snack food you eat should “count.” Ask yourself if the snack foods you select have decent amounts of vitamins, minerals, fiber and fluid, and limited amounts of calories from fat (especially saturated fat), sodium, and artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.”

To see the complete article, go to:
To subscribe to Vegetarian Journal, visit:

Healthy Aging Research Study

Posted on June 01, 2015 by The VRG

The Vegetarian Resource Group recently received information about the following study:

Welcome to the Healthy Aging Research Study

Presented as a cooperative project of Benedictine University & Fairleigh Dickinson University

If you are between the ages of 45 and 80, please click
on the following links to complete the survey:


The goal of our research study is to investigate how an individual’s dietary (vegan, vegetarian, omnivore) and lifestyle choices affect wellness, including hormonal/sexual functioning throughout the middle and later years.

Your responses to this study are entirely anonymous and will only take approximately 25 minutes to complete.

Thank you for volunteering to participate in our study!

National Donut Day is June 5th — Make Vegan Donuts at Home!

Posted on June 01, 2015 by The VRG

Hi, National Donut Day is just around the corner! Making these scrumptious donuts is the perfect way to celebrate this delicious day! Heather Goldberg and Jenny Engel of Spork Foods have created a delicious donut recipe incorporating pistachios and cranberries, so whip up this delicious treat and celebrate this historical holiday!

DID YOU KNOW….National Donut Day is celebrated on the first Friday in June and was created by The Salvation Army in 1938 to honor the women who served donuts to soldiers during WWI.

About the Chefs
L.A.-based sisters and celebrity chefs, Heather Goldberg and Jenny Engel of Spork Foods are vegan chefs that own a Los Angeles-based gourmet cooking school. The culinary duo are also cookbook authors and work with some of Hollywood’s elite including Emily and Zooey Deschanel, Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, Kristin Bauer van Straten, and Alicia Silverstone.

Pistachio Chewy Bite Doughnuts

Pistachio and Cranberry Bite Baked Donuts with Vanilla Icing
Yields 6 large donuts

1 cup organic unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup un-refined evaporated cane sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¾ cup original almond milk, plus ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup neutral tasting oil (safflower)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*3 tablespoons, plus 1 tablespoon Setton Farms Pistachio Kernels, chopped
*1 tablespoon, plus 1 tablespoon, dried cranberries, roughly chopped

*To make the the recipe even faster, substitute 5 Setton Farms Pistachio Chewy Bites, finely chopped

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine flours, baking powder, sugar and sea salt and whisk until uniform.

In a small bowl, add almond milk and apple cider vinegar and set aside to curdle, about 1-2 minutes.

Add almond milk mixture, oil and vanilla extract to dry ingredients. Whisk until uniform. Fold 3 tablespoons pistachios and 1 tablespoon cranberries (or 3 Setton Farms Pistachio Chewy Bites) into batter.

Grease donut pan generously with cooking spray and pour batter into each donut shape. Leave about ¼ inch for batter to rise and clean any excess batter from center of each donut to prevent sticking.

Bake for about 21-24 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool before glazing. Place on a cooling rack over a baking sheet with walls, to collect icing.

Vanilla Icing:
2 teaspoons non-hydrogenated buttery spread
1 ½ cups organic powdered sugar
1 tablespoon soymilk creamer or almond milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash of sea salt

In a small pot, melt buttery spread and add in powdered sugar. Whisk until lumpy. Add soymilk creamer or almond milk, vanilla extract and salt. Whisk until smooth, about 1 minute and remove from heat.

To glaze donuts, drizzle a small amount of glaze over each donut, making sure there is a baking sheet to catch the run-off. Sprinkle right away with remaining pistachios and cranberries, or Setton Farms Pistachio Chewy Bites before glaze hardens. Set aside to cool.

copyright: Spork Foods, 2015

About Pistachio Chewy Bites


With two main ingredients, Pistachio Chewy Bites provide healthy snack lovers the amazing benefits of pistachios and cranberries in a delicious and nutritious bite-size bar. Pistachio Chewy Bites are heart-healthy, 100% all natural, gluten and dairy free, low in sodium, GMO free, vegan and a great on-the-go protein snack. They also have no cholesterol, zero trans-fat and are a good source of dietary fiber. These nutrient-rich snack bars provide a great balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat for sustainable energy. With 7 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and healthy fat, the individually wrapped bars are the perfect one stop shop.

Pricing: 6-Pack $5.99 and 16-Pack $12.50; Website:

The VRG’s Online Charity Auction is Now Live at!

Posted on June 01, 2015 by The VRG


We are thrilled to announce that The Vegetarian Resource Group’s 1st Online Charity Auction has officially gone live at:

The auction will run June 1st through June 15th, 2015, via Ebay Giving Works, where 100% of each item’s final bid price will be donated to The VRG. Funds from this event will be used to help offset the costs of printing and shipping our vegan and vegetarian-based educational materials which we have provided to activists, professionals and organizations around the country, for over 33 years, free of charge!

For a full list of participating sponsors see:

If you have any questions about this event, please contact our Outreach Coordinator, Nina, at

We thank you in advance for your support!

The VRG’s Online Charity Auction Starts Monday, June 1st!

Posted on May 29, 2015 by The VRG

Want to treat a special child in your life? Consider purchasing an item from The VRG’s Online Charity Auction! We will be offering tons of special items for veggie kids including a week of Vegan Camp, Walt Disney World Park Hoppers, sweet treats and more!

The auction will run June 1st through June 15th, 2015, via Ebay Giving Works, where 100% of each item’s final bid price will be donated to The VRG. Funds from this event will be used to help offset the costs of printing and shipping our vegan and vegetarian-based educational materials which we have provided to activists, professionals and organizations around the country, for over 33 years, free of charge!

For a full list of participating sponsors see:

The link to the auction will be posted when the site goes live at 10am on Monday, June 1st. Until then, RSVP to this event because we will be updating this page with sneak peaks of all of the amazing items that will be featured! Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on these incredible vegan goodies!

If you have any questions about this event, please contact our Outreach Coordinator, Nina, at

We thank you in advance for your support!

The Vegetarian Resource Group

How Often Do Americans Eat Vegetarian Meals? And How Many Adults in the U.S. Are Vegetarian?

Posted on May 29, 2015 by The VRG

The Vegetarian Resource Group asks in a 2015 National Survey Conducted by Harris Poll.
By Charles Stahler

Food companies, marketers, researchers, students, and media for years have been asking The Vegetarian Resource Group about the number of vegetarians. To again help answer this question, VRG commissioned Harris Poll to conduct a nationally representative online poll of 2,017 adults aged 18 and over. We asked:

Which of the following, if any, best describes your eating behavior?
(Just select one choice.)

1) I never eat meat, fish, seafood, or poultry.
2) I never eat meat, fish, seafood, poultry, dairy, or eggs.
3) I don’t eat meat, fish, seafood, or poultry at one meal per week.
4) I don’t eat meat, fish, seafood, or poultry one full day per week.
5) I don’t eat meat, fish, seafood, or poultry at many of my meals, but less than half the time.
6) I don’t eat meat, fish, seafood, or poultry at more than half of my meals, but not all the time.
7) None of these.

We considered those that never eat meat, fish, seafood or poultry; plus those that never eat meat, fish, seafood, poultry, dairy, or eggs, as vegetarian. We classified that second category of vegetarians who don’t eat dairy or eggs also as vegan. Because we use the word “never” and don’t just ask if a person considers him/herself vegetarian, our numbers may be lower than others. We did not ask about honey.

Thirty six percent of the country eats at least one vegetarian meal per week. This has strong implications for food companies and restaurants.

There is incentive for producing vegetarian products as there is demand from over one third of the population on at least a weekly basis, plus others who may eat vegetarian meals, but not as consistently.

However, based on our other research outside this poll, it’s not enough just to produce meatless items, but businesses have to cater to various needs, which may include price, health, convenience, source of ingredients, taste, religious requirements, etc. And since there are large segments which did not say they consume vegetarian meals, marketing is more complex because of such different audiences.


This survey was conducted online within the United States between April 29-May 1, 2015 among 2,000+ adults ages 18 and older by Harris Poll on behalf of VRG via Harris’ Quick Query omnibus product. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments.

Therefore, the words “margin of error” are avoided as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in our surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the online panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

About The Harris Poll

Over the last 5 decades, Harris Polls have become media staples. With comprehensive experience and precise technique in public opinion polling, along with a proven track record of uncovering consumers’ motivations and behaviors, The Harris Poll has gained strong brand recognition around the world. The Harris Poll offers a diverse portfolio of proprietary client solutions to transform relevant insights into actionable foresight for a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer packaged goods.

With U.S. adults 18 and over numbering about 240 million, we can estimate the number of vegetarians in the U.S. adult population, based on this poll, to be approximately eight million adults. Vegans included in the vegetarian figure would be around one million people. Two of the highest subcategories for vegetarians were 18-34 year olds at six percent; and those households earning under $50,000 at 7%. Polls can’t really be compared, but in 2009, 3.4% of the adult population in our Harris poll was vegetarian and in this current poll 3.4% of the population is vegetarian. Though anecdotally, some people have told us in presentations they are eating animal products because of promotion of labeling of “humanely” raised animals and/or promotion of high protein diets, we do not know if there would have been more or less growth of the number of vegetarians if those factors did not exist.

The numbers could indicate that lower income people are more likely to be vegetarian, but maybe younger people and students are more likely to be vegetarian, and they just happen to be lower income. We don’t really know if young people are at a higher rate of being vegetarian because of income, or because of beliefs, or a combination of both.

(Don’t Eat Meat, Fish, Seafood, or Poultry)

8% One meal per week
5% One day per week
10% Many of my meals, but less than half the time
10% More than half my meals, but not all the time
3.4% Always (Vegetarian including vegans. Never eat meat, fish, or poultry)
36% Estimated population who eats vegetarian meals

**Close to 15% of vegetarians were vegan; Never eat meat, fish, poultry, dairy, or eggs.

According to our other research, the needs of the individuals interested in vegetarian meals can be different. For example, food companies and restaurants should note that consumers may be looking for vegan, low-sodium, gluten-free, locally grown, organic, gourmet, kosher, or other selections. If developing a vegetarian product or offering vegetarian meals, they will need to do more research on their customers’ food preferences. In addition, when considering products and marketing strategies, businesses should consider the special needs of vegetarians versus those interested in vegetarian meals.

PEOPLE WHO NEVER EAT MEAT, FISH, OR POULTRY (Total Number of vegetarians, including vegans)

3.4% Total

3% male
3.7% female

6% 18-34
3% 35-44
3% 45-54
2% 55-64
2% 65 plus

5% Northeast*
3% Midwest
3% South
3 % West
3% Hispanic
8% Black

7% Below $50,000 household income
2% $50,000 – $75,000 family income
1% $75,000 – $100,000 family income
2% Over $100,000 family income.

(Including vegetarians and vegans)

36% Total

33% male
39% female

47% 18-34
37% 35-44
27% 45-54
26% 55-64
36% 65 plus

39% Northeast
34% Midwest
33% South
40% West
53% A student 18 or over

* The Northeast Includes CT, DE, DC, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, and WV. The Midwest includes IL, IN, LA, KS, MI, MN, MO, NE, ND, OH, SD, and WI. The South includes AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA. The West includes AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, MT, NV, NM, OR, UT, WY, and WA.

Visit The Vegetarian Resource Group’s Booth at The Charles Village Festival in Baltimore City

Posted on May 29, 2015 by The VRG

If you’re in Baltimore this weekend, please drop by The Vegetarian Resource Group’s booth at the Charles Village Festival held near Johns Hopkins University (Homewood Campus) May 30-31, 2015. You can also enjoy some terrific music! For info on the festival go to:

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