Ben & Jerry's - the veggie-friendly ice cream that isn't

16 December 2009

Yesterday we told you about how plenty of the country's favourite frozen desserts are unsuitable for vegetarians, because the production process involves rennet, a substance extracted from the stomach linings of calves. Mmm, enzymes.

Unilever manufacture plenty of the best selling ice cream brands in the UK and Ireland, and we published their official lists of products both suitable and unsuitable for vegetarians - the lists are only available if you request them direct from the company. Here's part of that list (see the large version here):

Bitterwallet - Unilever products unsuitable for vegetarians

Over a dozen Ben & Jerry's products are listed as unsuitable (and you still thought it was made by a couple of hippies and happy cows) - the EVA referred to is the European Vegetarian Union, an organisation that amongst other achievements has seen the yellow "V" symbol become commonplace on foods labels across Europe.

So on the one hand, Unilever are stating that these particular products - around a third of the Ben & Jerry's range - are unsuitable for vegetarians "due to the presence of (other) non-vegetarian ingredients". On the other hand, is this statement on the Ben & Jerry's website that Bitterwallet reader Smakry spotted in their FAQ section: fr

Bitterwallet - Ben & Jerry's ice cream is all veggie-friendly - except the third that isn't

No caveats, no small print to suggest when they say "all Ben & Jerry's flavours are veggie-friendly" what they really mean is only two thirds are. So if Unilever have placed these products on an official document and deemed then unsuitable for vegetarians, why are they promoting them as suitable?


  • And?
    Next news story for you, Mars changed from using animal, to non animal. and back to animal in their chocolate! How about read the ingredients, and if you don't know what's in it, don't buy it.
  • Brian H.
    Brian here. Holy fuck. Im not a veggie.
  • The B.
    Bloody hell, who even knew they still made Sparkles? Ooh, I haven't had a lemon Sparkle in a good 20 years.
  • MattWPBS
    "How about read the ingredients, and if you don’t know what’s in it, don’t buy it." How about, if the company tells you it's veggie, and it turns out it isn't, then they've got some explaining to do?
  • Frogman
    BTW, Mars NEVER used animal fat...they announced their intention to use rennet from calves but then changed their mind because of the response. 'And?' you really need to think before you post...
  • in_the_club
    fuck sakes! Unilever are lying! We need clear packaging!
  • mackenzie
    As a vegetarian it pisses me off no end when companies state clearly that their products are veggie and yet it is clear they aren't. I am very careful what I eat and nearly always read the ingredients but we should not have to check the ingredients if the products have a V sign on them.
  • Chris
    Yes, because eating the ice cream is going to do the veggie harm... They won't taste the difference, plus, if they think it's veggie friendly, then no harm done. If they were really against animal products, they wouldn't have ice cream in the first place since it's DAIRY! You know, from cows? (Or goats/cats/dogs/women/otters etc)
  • Jack
    I think really this go's beyond if something is vegi or not, it is about clear lableing and trying to work out what the is really in you food these days. what about if your relidgeon forbids eating an type of food EG halal? what about if you dont want to consume GM crops? or what about if the food could give you an aliergic reaction? if you dont know what is being put into food when these food scares crop up how can you tell which food is safe?
  • Gunn
    That needs sorting out, it does matter to some people and once they know they will be put off.
  • Shooter M.
    The crucial question here is taste, because, let's face it, who listens to those interminably boring vegetarians anyway? I, for one, prefer Haagen Dazs. And pepperoni. But not together.
  • Paul S.
    Jack and others - to point out, I don't do the big shop until Saturday so I can't say how Unilever are labeling these products - if anybody else wants to compare those on the list to those in the shops and see if they're labelled vegetarian or not, that'd be great. What is clear is that the Ben & Jerry's website claiming all their products are "veggie-friendly" contradicts Unilever which states a third of them aren't.
  • bwah h.
    But their ice cream tastes soooooooooooooooo gooooooooooooooooodddddddddddddddd. Fuck the vegies. Eat grass and die.
  • MyOtherUserNameIsAFerarri
    If an animal takes a shit (on the ground), and this shit goes on to fertalize an apple tree, is it Veggie friendly to eat an apple from this tree? i know its ripping the piss slightly but where do you draw the line?
  • MattWPBS
    Not entirely sure why people seem to have difficulty understanding what a vegetarian is. Vegetarians - won't eat anything that is made using an animal. Vegans - won't eat anything that is made using stuff from an animal (milk, eggs, etc). People who eat fish, chicken or whatever aren't vegetarian, no matter what they might say. As to why people are veggie or vegan, who cares? It's an individual choice that that person's made *, but if a company chooses to state that it's goods are vegetarian, they should be held to it. Don't think anyone has a problem with animal waste being used as fertilizer though... Seriously odd hypothesis. * personally - I know I personally couldn't bring myself to slaughter an animal, so I think it'd be hypocritical for me to eat them when someone else has done it. It's about actually thinking about where your food comes from. I know full well I can gather eggs, milk a cow, etc, so I don't feel the need to go vegan.
  • NellieIrrelevant
    The real point is, surely, wtf does 'veggie-friendly' mean in the first place? And the answer is, it means sweet FA. Clearly B&J's marketing people think, 'Well, they're veggie friendly insofar as if a vegetarian eats some, it won't kill them, will it? I mean vegetarians are weirdoes anyhow.'
  • MattWPBS
    Right, just spoken to Ben & Jerry's customer care on the phone. This is due to the EVU including criteria beyond "does not include animal products" in their definition. They won't allow genetically modified stuff, or certain criteria around eggs. Seriously annoying that they aren't just sticking to the core of it, but adding these additional bits on top.
  • MattWPBS
    And there aren't any animal parts in Ben and Jerry's - that's the important part. It's a labelling/categorisation issue.
  • Q
    ben and jerrys are also classified as kosher, so i highly doubt there'd be any animal products in them
  • Paul S.
    Unilever are using the EVU's definition of vegetarian whenever they can so they can add the symbol to the relevant products to drive sales. They're then ignoring the same EVU definition so they can describe the whole range as suitable. Having two definitions of the same word is mildly confusing at best. To clarify, we didn't say there was animal in these products - we quoted Unilever themselves as describing the products as "not suitable for a vegetarian diet due to the presence of other non-vegetarian ingredients".
  • Matt
    Yeah, nothing against your story Paul - you've quoted Unilever spot on there. What the problem is is the EVU's definition. Ask anyone if vegetarianism excludes GMO, or has anything to do with chicken welfare, and you're highly unlikely to get a "yes". Vegetarian defines a diet, simple as that. The EVU are bringing ethical/lifestyle parts into it.
  • Matt
    Actually, saying that - did you contact either Ben & Jerrys or Unilever about this before publishing?
  • Smakry
    Ah hah. And was it not me that brought this to your attention in the last post? Thanks for the credit! Hmppft =P
  • -]
    Also how about, Rennet is never included in the ingredients lists. As Jack says, this isn't about being vegetarian - this is about a company lying in it's promotional material, FFS, why do these anti-consumer types post to a pro-consumer blog? Twats MattWPBS: Vegans – won’t PURCHASE/USE as far as is possible anything that is made using stuff from an animal (milk, eggs, etc). Vegetarians – Dietary Vegan (they won't eat anything made from animal products) Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian - Like a vegetarian, but will also consume dairy/egg. From what unilever are saying b&j clearly isn't even lacto-ovo vege. Also, vegetarianism has nothing to do with chicken welfare? are you on drugs?
  • MattWPBS
    No, animal welfare has to do with animal welfare. Look for free range stuff and the like for that. It's something where a LOT of people will be in both groups, but they are NOT the same thing. Vegetarians are not 'dietary vegans', the common definition is people who won't eat animal slaughter products. This entire thing about 'lacto-ovo-vegetarians' is arse about tit, people who won't eat eggs or dairy products are a step further, not the default. Apparently EVU have different labels for each of those different categories though. The entire EVU thing about bringing GMO and Free Range into vegetarian labelling is the main problem. Free Range should be one label, Vegetarian should be another, GMO should be another. Getting one should not be dependent on the others. Agreed?
  • Ben B.
    [...] ice cream is “veggie friendly” or not. The furore stems from Bitterwallet receiving a document from Unilever stating a third of Ben & Jerry’s products are “unsuitable for a vegetarian diet due [...]
  • -]
    What has free range got to do with animal welfare? Chicks are still slaughtered for eggs, calves are still slaughtered for dairy. The real definition of Vegetarian is dietary vegan - you can say otherwise until you are blue in the face but it doesn't change the fact. I like how vegans, vegetarians the world over and the EVU are wrong (according to you) and you are right though - Well Done!!! And no, not agreed - the vast majority of people choose vegetarian/vegan for ethical reasons (but you are welcome to trot out those few only interested in it for health or economic reasons, as your type often do) and as such they want their products labelled to reflect this. Neither the UK vegan & vegetarian societies also won't allow GMOs in foods they label vegan - the same is true in most countries, which is why the EVU have taken the stance they have. Can I ask if you are veg*n? If not, what is it to do with you how those groups want their food labelling? Just because the FSA drafts on veg*n labelling err on the side of the manufacturer doesn't mean that advocate groups have to, afterall they are for the benefit of the customer not a business.
  • -]
    make that: "Neither the UK vegan or vegetarian societies will allow GMOs in foods they label veg*n".
  • vegan r.
    Keep up the great work!.
  • pineapple m.
    yummy...... thanks for the points , i'd love to abide by your blog as usually as i can.possess a wonderful day~~
  • Bryce K.
    Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts.Any way Ill be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.
  • Watch O.
    I just visited your website through Facebook... would you be interested in becoming weblog partners?
  • Judi Is this recent from them? Or are some icecreams still not vegetarian?
  • Theola O.
    Thank you , I enjoy reading about other vegansas it gives me the strength to continue. I have about a thousand vegetarian feeds in my google reader, but I'm sure another can't hurt!! I did manage to find a good lentil recipe here, but I'll be sure to try yours too. Thanks!

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