Martek, Manufacturer of Vegan DHA, To Produce Vegan Chondroitin

Maryland-based Martek Biosciences corporation created a microalgae-derived form of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid important for brain, eye, and heart health and often derived from fish oil. Now, the company is formulating a fermentation process using bacteria to create a nonanimal- derived chondroitin. Chondroitin, believed to be important in joint health, is used by many with osteoarthritis or similar conditions. Currently, chondroitin is derived from the cartilage of sharks and sometimes pigs and cows. For its non-animal chondroitin, Martek is working in conjunction with the Japanese company, Seikagaku.

Martek expects its microbially-derived chondroitin to be on the market in two years. For more information, visit their website at

American Airlines Restricts Its Vegetarian Meal Option

We recently received an e-mail from a vegetarian couple who frequently flies business-class on American Airlines. They expressed frustration about the lack of vegetarian meals served on most flights. They said, "It has been close to a decade since we have received a veggie meal option from American. This includes international flights ...." They told us that they usually are served nothing at all.

The Vegetarian Resource Group contacted American for clarification about their vegetarian meal policy. Stephen Jeffery of Customer Relations at American said, "We no longer offer the option of ordering a special meal in the first-class cabin on all domestic nontranscontinental flights (special meals are still available in the first-class and business-class cabins on transcontinental flights) or in the coach cabin on all domestic flights and on flights to/from the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, Latin America, and Canada."

Jeffery explained American's policy in this manner: "This change in service resulted from an exhaustive competitive analysis of this particular complimentary amenity. The cost savings identified by this reduction in service are significant for us and will help us focus on those of our products and services better valued by our customers."

Jeffery noted that special meals, including a vegetarian option, are still available on flights to Europe, Japan, and some Latin American destinations. For more information, he suggested that readers visit:

When The VRG followed up with American Airlines on this subject on behalf of the vegetarian couple who sent the complaint to us, Jeffery stated, "As long as there were sufficient meals aboard, the flight attendant would be more than happy to serve a regular meal in place of a special meal that had been requested but was not delivered."

The VRG recommends that vegetarians request the vegetarian meal option every time they fly. More consumer interest and demand may result in a meal policy modification at American Airlines.

Update on Blind Faith Café in Evanston, IL

We recently spoke with Jonah, the head chef at Blind Faith Café outside of Chicago, about the establishment's menu. He told us that the restaurant offers a fall/winter menu and another for spring/summer with a 60 percent difference between them. Jonah described Blind Faith as "50 percent veganfriendly." He also stated that they have changed their approach significantly in recent years by offering fewer soy-based entrées and more dishes with an international flavor featuring a variety of vegetables as protein sources. One of their newest dishes, Sagamité, comes from the Native American culinary tradition of the Great Lakes region and features hominy corn, wild mushrooms, and wild rice.

Jonah told The VRG that the cheeses used on their Mexican dishes were made with microbial rennet, but the Parmesan and Romano cheeses in the Pasta Rapini contain animal rennet. Jonah stated that the animal rennet provided the "traditional flavor of the Italian culinary tradition" embodied in the Pasta Rapini.

Diners may wish to inquire about the cheeses used in a particular entrée at Blind Faith Café before ordering to ensure that their expectations will be met.