Canada Says Vegan Company Must Test on Animals to Sell its Food There

Oh yes, you read the headline correctly. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CIFA) has forced the popular Field Roast Grain Meat Company to cease distribution of its vegan products in Canada. Why? Because they haven’t been tested on animals.

Well, it’s not that simple. It seems that someone complained to CIFA that the company had failed to comply with a Canadian regulation. Field Roast labels its products “vegetarian grain meat” rather than “simulated meat.”

CIFA thinks these products are in fact simulated meats. If they are, they have to be labeled that way. To ensure an accurate label, the products must comply with certain protein standards before they can be sold to the public. In short, they have to approximate the protein in meat.

Really, CIFA? Why does animal meat protein levels have to be the holy grail protein goal for all food types? Why can’t you trust consumers to choose their own protein sources? Do you think vegans and vegetarians can’t read labels?

Vegans are label readers extraordinaire, you know. They, more than almost anyone, take care to understand the ingredients and nutritional value of every food item they buy. Surely vegans can decide for themselves whether the protein content of a Field Roast product is suitable for their diets.

field roast vegetarian "grain meat"

Photo credit: Field Roast Grain Meat Co. Facebook page

“Their ruling is that if you make a simulated meat, which they decided that we do, that then we need to also mimic the nutritional profile of an animal meat product,” David Lee, owner of Field Roast Grain Meat Company, told CBC News.

Seattle-based Field Roast gets its protein content from wheat gluten. That’s the stuff used to make “wheat meat” or “seitan.” When the bran and starch are removed from wheat, what remains is protein. Wheat gluten contains an impressive 75 grams of protein per 100 grams. It’s an excellent non-meat protein source and works especially well in Asian dishes.

Canadian Regulators Stay Awake at Night, Worrying About Your Protein Intake

The problem here is that, unlike tofu or animal meat, CFIA has no established protein value associated with wheat gluten. In order to demonstrate that meat substitutes can attain a suitable Protein Efficiency Ratio, CIFA needs a protein value for its calculations.

A Protein Efficiency Ratio is calculated by multiplying the quantity of protein present by the quality of the protein, according to CIFA. To figure it out, Field Roast would have only one method available to it — it would have to force feed an isolated protein to rats, which would then be weighed and measured as they grew to determine their overall protein intake.

Yes, to sell a vegetable/grain-only product to a nutrition-savvy customer base, vegans would have to torment innocent rats in a laboratory to satisfy Canadian law. Field Roast says that’s just not going to happen. No animal will be harmed in the making of this company’s products.

“We’re driven to make these foods because we feel very strongly about having compassion for animals,” Lee told CBC News. “Fundamentally, we’re against [animal testing].”

As if the testing requirement weren’t bad enough, CIFA wants the company to tinker with its product in other objectionable ways.

label

“They also want us to add chemical supplements and vitamins to our products to fortify them, with the implication that they’re not healthy and they’re not complete, which we find offensive,” Lee told CBC News.

Lee also says that his company isn’t really marketing a “faux meat” product, per se.

“What’s kind of separated us from our competitors is that we don’t make a fake pork or fake turkey or fake chicken,” Lee told CBC News. “We’re making smoked apple sage or Mexican chipotle.”

Is This an Anti-Veg Bias at Work? Some Say Yes

It’s perplexing that a so-called “simulated meat” product has to match up to an animal protein to be considered suitable for consumption in Canada. Moreover, it’s unclear why CIFA continues to rely on a method of determining protein efficiency that dates back to 1981, when other countries like the U.S. transitioned to a less onerous requirement long ago.

Is this an underhanded way of putting veggie meats at a disadvantage? Some believe that’s exactly what’s going on. Take Yan Roberts, who wrote in the Huffington Post:

It is dishonorable shabbiness in the bureaucratic extreme to find a sneaky backdoor way to get a popular, healthy, non-meat product off the shelves (after it was already well established in the marketplace) — while at the same time opening the door for unwanted, dangerous, cheap-meat products to flood the supermarkets. They are horsing around with every Canadian’s right to health.

The bias is overt. Quality grain products are being squeezed while crude meat products are being embraced.

On its blog, Field Roast says:

As a company, we believe there is a fundamental bias that exists in these regulations; one that holds animal proteins as the standard of all meats. Therefore, it is not a simple fix.

All Simulated Meat Products Face This Hurdle, But Why?

If you think this odd, paternalistic restriction on the composition of a “simulated meat” product must be affecting more companies than just Field Roast, you’d be right.

“It adds difficulty as the manufacturer. It kind of limits our options,” Jaime Athos, president and CEO of Tofurky, told Canada.com. “I think in terms of consumer choice, it potentially limits what might be on the market in Canada for people who are looking for products like ours.”

Tofurky sells a differently formulated version of products within Canada in order to comply with CIFA’s labeling requirements.

It’s not that Field Roast or other such products are dangerous or unhealthy. After all, Canada has not issued a recall for the products already on the shelves. Those may be sold until inventory runs out. That means there’s no problem with the food at all, and yet rats must suffer if Field Roast wants to resume sales in Canada.

There’s something silly and wrong with this entire scenario. What gives, CIFA?

Canadian vegans and vegetarians, did you know about this rule? Does it affect your ability to find meat substitute products? Tell us about it in the comments section. If you’d like to urge CIFA to drop this rather ridiculous and unnecessary rule, please sign and share this petition. Care2 will see that it gets to Canada’s Minister of Health, the Honorable Rona Ambrose.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

476 comments

Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a month ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a month ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a month ago

thanks for sharing

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Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a month ago

thanks for sharing

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Kelly Bechtold
Kelly Bechtold6 months ago

Guys. Guys...

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Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for the article.

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Roopak Vaidya
Roopak Vaidya1 years ago

I did not post the previous comment... who did?
How did they do it using my name?
Has this site been hacked into?

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Roopak Vaidya
Roopak Vaidya1 years ago

This is ridiculous, and totally defeats the purpose of veganism...

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joan silaco
joan silaco1 years ago

This is ridiculous, and totally defeats the purpose of veganism...

SEND
joan silaco
joan silaco1 years ago

This is ridiculous, and totally defeats the purpose of veganism...

SEND