Tuesday, 15 March 2016
No parmesan please, we're vegetarian
While Adele caused a storm last week with a rude gesture, the "V" sign offends me on an almost daily basis.
Until I belatedly discovered the apparently well-known fact that parmesan is made using calf rennet and is unsuitable for vegetarians, I merrily ate platefuls of pesto-drenched pasta with the hard cheese shaved liberally across it, safe in the knowledge that no restaurant would say something was suitable for vegetarians when it wasn't. How wrong I was.
A trawl of veggie web forums reveals heated debates on the subject going back years (Word of Mouth readers brought the subject up again recently in the comments on this post). The message clearly wasn't getting through, though, because in 2010 the Vegetarian Society launched its Say Cheese campaign to help make restaurateurs aware of their error when shaving heaps of the hard stuff over food which they then credit as suitable for vegetarians: diners were encouraged by the charity to leave cards in offending restaurants explaining the mistake.
The next few years could spell more for restaurateurs than disappointed diners, as the terms "vegetarian" and "vegan" will soon have legal status. UK Food Standards Agency labelling guidelines were adopted in principle by the European Union in 2010, and following a five year period for compliance civil suits may be brought against anyone misusing the terms from 2015. Just as a maker of parmesan can bring action against anyone outside the region using the p-word, so could offended diners against clueless chefs. Restaurants, manufacturers and publishers will really have to know their cheeses
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