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Focus: Vegan Society Certification

Probios has started this year a collaboration with "Certification Europe Italy" to get the prestigious certification "Vegan Society," in different products. Meet Dr. Marco Menonna, which is responsible for the technical management of the certification scheme, for us to explain how was this association that since 1944 has been fighting to make consumers aware of the vegan world.

The Vegan Society is the first association in 1944 that coined the term "vegan", how was this prestigious reality born?

The term "vegan" was actually coined in 1944 with the birth of "Vegan Society" but, in substance, veganism has a history much more dated. Especially in the East, with some Buddhist  processing, and in the West (where it has recently investigated the eating habits of the great philosophers and thinkers of antiquity, the most famous of all is perhaps the diet of Pythagoras), there is no evidence of how it was already been traced the path toward a diet that excludes not only the consumption of animal flesh but also of the derivative products, particularly milk. Hand in hand with urbanization and the emergence of so-called "civil society", many social trends have been gradually institutionalized and recognized groups and associations. It is no coincidence that the first vegetarian society was born in London about the middle of 800. Veganism, as we know now, was born only in 1944, when the proposal to Donald Watson to create a coordination between "non-vegetarian consumers of dairy products" was rejected by the Vegetarian Society, leading Watson to found the "Vegan Society," where the term vegan is nothing more than a contraction of the term vegetarian.

In Italy the certification is managed by Certification Europe Italy: what kind of checks are made ​​on the products and the companies that choose to get certified?

The Vegan Society is a nonprofit organization, and as such, while giving the addresses and despite having a huge theoretical experience, does not have the appropriate skills in order to conduct a proper certification activities. For this it has availed itself of Certification Europe Italy srl is a real certification body, as well as part of an international group with experience and accreditation to operate certifications in many economic sectors. When you are called to certify a company, you simply check that the production is in compliance at the time of the audit, but it is required that it is in all times, especially in those in absence of controls. In practice, if a company claims to use only vegetable aromas for their productions, a careful check control will also purchase invoices relating to these aromas.

And again, a certification audit will also verify that, at the factory of production, there is a  widespread knowledge of vegan choice. Knowing the basic motivations leads to respect the choices and also the commitment on the part of a vegan is not, to do their utmost to meet the standards and eliminate, for example, the risk of contamination.

What is certification? What are the parameters that a product or company must comply with?

The standards I talked about bevor are actually very simple, because simple is the vegan choice who dictated them. The standard requires that, both for the production as for the development of the product, are not used ingredients which have involved or involve the use of products, by-products or derivatives of animals. Furthermore, it is required that, whenever applicable, the use of ingredients has not been involved in direct or indirect in any kind of animal testing.

Why does the certification admits unintentional traces of milk and eggs?

It is a purely technical discourse, and that can not be addressed without reference to food safety issues. The specification of the Vegan Society does not require that there are factories dedicated to the production vegan. This would result in a huge cost of production such as to discourage anyone to continue on the path of conversion of the plant. The high costs would be passed on a smaller number of registered products sold on the market at a higher cost. The brand would thus less spread and make life more difficult for consumers. In cases where the production is not dedicated, however, is required by the Vegan Society, a commitment in the strict control of the so-called "contaminazioneincrociata" (cross contamination), which can guarantee the product from the ethical point of view. However, while doing everything possible to control, reduce and minimize contamination, we can not completely eliminate the risk, which exists even for the so-called environmental contamination. The words "Manufactured in a facility that also uses [...]", or "may contain traces of ..." are phrases that serve to protect and warn those who, for health reasons, can not come into contact with certain ingredients , if not for the amount at the limit of instrumental detection (in some cases we speak of parts per million). In short: the brand Vegan Society, completed by the verification services of Certification Europe Italy ensures that the system of control of the risks of contamination is strictly planned and implemented and that the result is effective. However, we can not guarantee that the absence of traces resulting from unintentional contamination is equal to zero: in that case you need a dedicated factory or a specific analysis system of all production lots, equally onerous.

Some data on the spread of the brand Vegan Society in Europe and the world? And some data on the "vegan people "?

To analyze the statistical point of view the ethical choices and food of the population is not easy: the estimates point to a percentage of the vegan population is around 1% in Italy. There is, however, to consider an additional percentage of people (friends, colleagues, family, etc ...) that standing next to those who claim to become vegans, however, possible users of a vegan product. We also have the whole band of vegetarians, environmentalists, health-conscious consumers and / or ethical aspects that are growing rapidly. It should also be said that a vegan product is, in many cases, also compatible with various requirements related food to religious aspects.

As for the brand, in the absence of a definition on international, European or national level for the definition of vegan products, were born myriad of different brands, which are likely to confuse consumers. Certification Europe Italy has chosen to collaborate with the Vegan Society because ite recognizes the one hand the historical and moral authority and on the other to strengthen the work already done to spread the original brand with the sunflower. The international data on the spread of the brand are impressive and go hand in hand with those on deployment and with the normalization of the vegan choice within our society: the number of records constantly doubles every two years. What is more interesting is how the growth of registered products is moving more and more away from the UK and how the new registration requests derive increasingly from European and non-European products (more than half of the total). Unfortunately there are still no specific data for Italy, but we can say that the interest is very high, both on the part of the producers to the consumers.