The Challenge of Following a Diet Plan in Norway

In Norway, there is a high number of people following a vegan, vegetarian and religion-based diet such as halal and kosher, but they usually have a hard time finding suitable food that absolutely fits their dietary and faith requirements.

Even though the food companies are required to use common names for food allergens such as milk, shellfish, eggs, peanuts, fish, wheat, and soy, there is currently no legal definition in Norway as in many other European countries for the different dietary terms on food labels and many of us have no clue about the origin of the additives named with complex names or numbers. Under this circumstance, avoiding 100% of animal products or following your special diet get practically impossible, simply avoiding the major animal products. While few food companies label foods as ?suitable for vegetarians or vegans?, or produce foods with Halal or Kosher certificates voluntarily, in many cases the consumers have to study hard for the food labeling language to be sure what they are eating.

Many consumer groups want to be absolutely sure that they are not consuming any product or by-product out of their diet. However, this is made difficult by the fact that there?s no law at state level about labeling in terms of its suitability for certain diet groups. Additionally, the indifference of food industry leaves it as a volunteer activity with some ambiguity as there is no strict standard about the naming a food vegan or vegetarian unlike organic foods, which is regulated by EU law.

Inconsistent Method of Food Labeling

There is no law that requires producers to mark products as vegetarian/vegan. If a food is labeled vegetarian, it usually means that the food doesn’t contain any meat or animal-derived additives (such as gelatin). As Vegan/Vegetarian product labeling is only a voluntary practice, there may be many foods sold without the ’Suitable for Vegan/Vegetarians’ label.

Be careful about the Additives

Most of the hidden animal products can be in the ingredients of every day foods. The problem is some of them are in much unexpected places or with vague names. There are more than 50 additives that are sometimes of animal origin, depending on how they are made. For example, vitamins and colors may often be on a gelatin base. In addition, those additives using whey as a carrier would not be suitable for vegans. Vitamin D is often derived from sheep?s wool, which is obtained either from live sheep, or as a slaughter by-product. Also some additives like particular E472 may contain animal products.

Do not Underestimate ALCOHOL

Even though many alcoholic drinks are actually non-vegetarian, the ingredients are hardly ever listed because there is no regulations on the labeling of alcoholic drinks at all. A pure form of gelatin derived from fish bladders called Isinglass is used to clarify many wines and beers. Egg Albumen and Chitin are also used for this purpose. Some red-wines from the Mediterranean countries are actually clarified and colored to a deeper shade of red using the blood of mammals.

How Can I Trust What I Eat?

At the moment, ’Suitable for vegetarian or vegan’ labels are not common in Norway. Also, certification of Halal and Kosher Foods are not clearly regulated. If you do not want to eat any products unsuitable to your diet, then you will need to read the ingredient listing for every product or you have to contact the manufacturer to ask for specific details on the ingredients used.

The Language of Labels are Confusing

Another point the consumers complain about is that the names of the ingredients on labels are often confusing and uninformative. To be able to understand what they really mean, it is usually necessary to look out a reference list prepared by different organizations. Besides, the foreigners who do not know Norwegian are also neglected as many of the labels on food are purely in Scandinavian Languages. This fact leads to complaint from the non-native inhabitant of Norway about the lack of explanations in English on foods.

The Universal Labeling Necessary

When considered of both language barrier and the confusing style, application of universal food labeling terms seems to be necessary.

Suitable for Vegetarian: The Vegetarian Society is the only reliable organization issuing this logo even though companies are not restricted to use their logo. They approved over 3000 products on the shelves using its logo all over the world.

Suitable for Vegan: Like the Vegetarian Society, the Vegan Society also runs its own registration program, which provides the vegan logo for food makers’ products that meet the group’s criteria. However, food producers are free to label themselves as “Vegan friendly” without strict control of an independent body.

Kosher Certificate: Kosher certification-conformity to Jewish Dietary Laws- agencies examine the ingredients used to make the food, supervise the process by which the food is prepared, and periodically inspect the processing facilities to make sure that kosher standards are maintained.

Halal Certificate: Halal Certification is recognition that the products are permissible under Islamic law. These products are thus edible, drinkable or usable by Muslims.

Tips to Read the Food Labels

The product should have 0 cholesterol. Cholesterol is only found in animal-based ingredients

Also read any notices that say the food is “… processed on equipment containing …” or “may contain traces of …” to see what else may be in the food you are thinking of buying.

Pay attention to ingredients that don’t list their source. Vitamin D3, for example, is rarely vegan and “natural flavors” may also be a concern.

Currently, there exist many different animal ingredient lists, most of which are outdated and over-inclusive. But, they can be checked from various reference books and vegetarian websites like

A Big Market not to Ignore

The challenge about finding special dietary certificated items in Norway is lack of interest among the Norwegian companies to produce Vegan, Vegetarian, Halal and Kosher foods, while some countries across the world have boosted income from food exports by joining a growing market via introducing standards for different dietary groups. The estimated value of this market is US$900 billion a year. For example, Halal market leads with its value of US$580 billion a year and annual growing rate of 7% and appeals the interest of many global food producers. Sweden Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt’s calling the Swedish producers to invest in this field had been interpreted as a strategic trade movement.

Even Domestic Demand is High Enough

Except for the big global bazaar for the producers, the numbers about the different dietary groups in Norway are quite persuasive to invest in. A poll about vegetarianism in Norway conducted in 1996 found that 20% of the Norwegian population was interested in trying to live on a vegetarian diet. The number is probably higher now. Also, when about 150.000 halal food consumers added, a big consumer group awaits for the producer.

Nortura Discovers the Potential

Norway’s leading player in the meat and egg, Nortura BA is a result of the merger between Norwegian Meat Gilde Prior BA and BA Norway, and is organized as a federation owned by 30 300 farmers.

The company has an annual revenue of about 16 billion dollars, with the industry in 41 municipalities distributed in 17 counties and has about 6 800 employees. The company has discovered the potential of Halal market in Norway with its sub- branch, Alfathi Halal. Alfathi Halal AS produces halal foods ranging from Pizza to Hamburger in Norway.

Quorn “Serves” Its Experience to Norway

Quorn is one of the most popular vegetarian specialty products supplier operating in many countries, and have sales also in Norway.

They sell vegetarian friendly products made with mycoprotein, a versatile, totally vegetable protein (complete vegetarian protein as an alternative to meat). There are more than 100 products by QUORN from mince and pieces to snacks and meals on shelves.

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