Are V8 Vegetable Juice and Campbell's Tomato Soup Vegan?
"V8® Vegetable Juice provides two nutritious servings of vegetables in each 8-ounce glass." Sounds innocent enough, but what about the word "Flavoring" listed in the ingredients?
Blogger Vani Hari, whose internet avatar is Food Babe, wondered whether "Flavoring" might be derived from an animal source. She also questioned why the label said "100% Vegetable Juice" even though "Flavoring" would contradict that claim and make the juice less than "100% Vegetable Juice."
Her readers carried the investigation further by going to Twitter and asking Campbell's, the parent company, if V8 "Flavoring" was animal based. The tweet from Campbell's Cares said, "Yes, they may include meat/seafood/poultry/dairy when the function in the food is flavoring rather than nutrition."
Campbell's tweeted this to another Twitter fan: "We don't offer any vegan products. Sorry to disappoint. --RW/"
Fortunately, Food Babe took a screen shot of the responses because both tweets later mysteriously disappeared from Campbell's Cares Twitter page.
International Business Times picked up the story on August 6, 2014 and announced that the controversy was over. They quoted Campbell's spokeswoman Megan Haney who told them, "V8 100% Vegetable Juice and Campbell Condensed Tomato Soup are products suitable for vegetarians and use flavorings made from plants. The flavoring in V8 100% Vegetable Juice product is a blend of herb and citrus oils and in Tomato Soup it's a blend of herb oils. They do not use any flavors derived from meat/seafood/poultry/dairy.
"The information provided by our consumer care team in this instance was incorrect and we'll be reviewing our responses around this issue. We apologize for any confusion. We currently do not market any of our products as vegan."
Vegetarians in Paradise does not agree that the controversy is over. Our question is: "What's in that 'Flavoring' that would make it vegetarian but not vegan." We decided to contact Campbell's to get a definitive statement.
Instead of going to the Campbell's Cares Twitter page or their online contact, we decided to write to the president of the company and send our letter snail mail. This is the letter we sent:
September 13, 2014
Ms. Denise M. Morrison, President & CEO
Dear Ms. Morrison:
As editors of Vegetarians in Paradise, an online vegan magazine with over 15,000 subscribers from around the world, we receive numerous emails with questions and comments about vegan products.
A few of our readers have been hearing disturbing reports that neither your V8 juice nor your tomato soup are vegetarian or vegan. The chief issue is whether the "flavoring" in each of these products is derived from animal sources.
When queried by one person on this issue, one of your Campbell's Cares representatives responded, "Yes, they may include meat/seafood/poultry/dairy when the function in the food is flavoring rather than nutrition."
To a person on Twitter, the Campbell response was: "Campbell [V8]'s not [vegan]. We don't offer vegan products."
Responding to a query from International Business Times, your spokeswoman Megan Haney said, "V8 100% Vegetable Juice and Campbell Condensed Tomato Soup are products suitable for vegetarians and use flavorings made from plants. The flavoring in V8 100% Vegetable Juice product is a blend of herb and citrus oils and in Tomato Soup it's a blend of herb oils," Haney said via email. "They do not use any flavors derived from meat/seafood/poultry/dairy."
"The information provided by our consumer care team in this instance was incorrect and we'll be reviewing our responses around this issue. We apologize for any confusion," Haney wrote, though she clarified, "We currently do not market any of our products as vegan."
If a product does not contain meat/seafood/poultry/dairy, it would seem to be vegan. What mysterious ingredient would make it vegetarian but not vegan?
We are writing to you in hope that you will clarify the confusion and state whether the V8 and tomato soup are appropriate for both vegetarians and vegans.
When a product is labeled "100% Vegetable Juice," it's unfortunate that your company needs a "flavoring" that belies that concept.
We are writing to you in traditional snail mail in hope that this message will be answered with the authority of your office.
Zel and Reuben Allen
On September 30 we received an email from Campbell's spokeswoman Megan Haney that did very little to clarify whether both V8 and Campbell's Tomato soup are vegan.
Below is a record of Megan Haney's exact wording in response to us as well as our response to Megan.
At this point we were not ready to give up our quest for the truth. So, we fired off another email to Megan.
Instead of another email response from Megan, we received this snail mail response from Susan Baranowsky, Director Consumer Affairs.
Instead of clearing the fog surrounding the company's products, Baranowsky's letter simply added to the confusion.
In the second paragraph she lists all of the Campbell's products that are "suitable for vegetarians." We interpret this statement as confirming there are no animal ingredients in these items. What's in the "Flavoring" that would make the item not vegan?
The third paragraph reveals a gross contradiction. After saying, "We currently don't claim any of our products are vegan because, unlike gluten-free or kosher, no official certification exists."
She then makes the statement: "We can indeed confirm V8 100% Vegetable Juice is both vegetarian and vegan." Isn't that a claim?
Obviously, the Campbell's people have not done their homework and are oblivious to the number of vegan logos appearing on foods on the grocery shelves.
Our readers will notice that all of the Campbell's representatives have sidestepped our question about their tomato soup. Is it vegan or not?
Campbell's, like so many manufacturers of processed foods, is so intent on maintaining the secrecy of their proprietary ingredients that they are not forthcoming in revealing what's inside their products. Instead, they hide all kinds of food enhancers and do not have to tell the public what's in the product.
According to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, natural flavor or flavoring is "the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional."
Maybe, the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations needs to be revised to make food manufacturers disclose all ingredients in a food product.
Since Campbell's is so intent on hiding "Flavoring" information, perhaps consumers need to say, "If you can't tell vegans what's in the product and assure us it's really vegan, maybe we should not buy it, even though it "provides essential vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (plant-nutrients) that your body needs."
The "Flavoring" concern is not just a vegan issue. We live in an era where so many people have allergies and food sensitivities that can be triggered by hidden ingredients in foods. All of us need to know if a food contains any ingredient that may cause us harm. Besides, "100% Vegetable Juice" means 100% vegetable juice with no added ingredients or flavors. Doesn't it?