Friday, April 12, 2013

Shelf Life [adult]

Veganissimo A to Z: A Comprehensive Guide to Identifying and Avoiding Ingredients of Animal Origin in Everyday Products By Reuben Proctor and Lars Thomsen

A title like that should tell you everything you want to know about the contents of a book, and for the most part this is a dictionary of every chemical or mineral that is added to food, cosmetics, clothing, cleaners, supplements and anything else you are likely to consume or use in the home.  Literally, it lists products from “Ascetic Acid Esters of Mono- and Diglycerides of Fatty Foods” (sounds yummy but they’re used in food glazes) – to “Zinc Stearate” (an anti-caking agent in cosmetics).  But this little volume is packed with a lot more good stuff. First of all, it’s the Canadian edition, so it includes many local websites for consumer information, and links to Canadian legislation that govern the use and labeling of vegan, vegetarian or organic products. Each dictionary entry has a number of icons indicating, at a glance, whether the ingredient comes from animal, vegetable or mineral (or a combination thereof). In the case of “definitely not vegan” entries, there are descriptions of how the ingredient is produced – for instance we all know that silk comes from silk worms, but in case any of us had images of a peaceful garden full of worms busily spinning away, it turns out they are all killed before turning into (apparently less useful) moths. A list of several thousand ingredients may be too much to remember for the average shopper, so the book also includes an enormously helpful section on product labeling – in Canada labeling requirements are, shall we say, a bit nebulous, so the sections on foods, cosmetics and even footwear and textiles can be filed under “good to know”. This is also applies to the section on the various vegan / vegetarian / organic and cruelty-free logos that dot products on store shelves, and tells who uses each logo from which country and why. Anyone following a vegan lifestyle should find Veganissimo essential reading, but it is also a good guide for vegetarians and those choosing to eat more organically. For the rest of us, it doesn’t hurt to get enlightened on some of the products we take for granted, even if it doesn’t lead to a switch in diet or lifestyle. 

This review appears in The Stratford Gazette on April 11, 2013. Written by Robyn Godfrey, Librarian. 

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