It’s really been a whirlwind of activity over here while we continue to get to the bottom of what’s really in a bottle of V8. I’d like to give you a quick rundown of what happened since I published my Campbell’s V8 Juice post on Tuesday, so that you have the complete picture and know what to do from here on out to hold Campbell’s accountable for their lack of transparency and the huge mistakes they are making that have confused many of us.
On the morning of August 5th, 2014, I was alerted that a petition was launched on Change.org to remove animal products from V8 juice, as they had publicly admitted to a vegan blogger on Twitter that the natural flavors in their products may contain meat or dairy:
I was alarmed to find out that V8 “100% Vegetable Juice” could contain something other than vegetables. Not sure if it was true, I asked one of my team members to contact Campbell’s to double check and ask them to verify this information. We used the chat function on their website, so that we’d have a written record, but we also called them. As you can see, at around 11:30 a.m. EST, August 5th, Campbell’s confirmed that the information given on Twitter was true:
———: Hi there. I read that you recently Tweeted that the “natural flavors” in V-8 Juice may contain “meat/seafood/poultry/dairy”. Is that true?
**Welcome to Campbell’s Chat! An agent will be with you shortly.
Thank you for holding, you are speaking with Kelly.
Kelly: Thank you for taking the time to contact Campbell today ———. I will be happy to help.
Kelly: That is a great question! Yes this is true.
———: Are there any more ingredients that may contain animal parts?
———: Can you clarify if it is meat or dairy?
Kelly: The term “flavoring” refers to the oils or extracts that are obtained from spices and herbs. Natural flavoring may also include onion or garlic derivatives, as well as flavor derived from fruits, vegetables and their juices, or edible parts of plants. Other sources may include meat, seafood, poultry or dairy products, whose significant function in the food is flavoring rather than nutrition.
Kelly: I cannot clarify, However I can tell you if there was dairy in the Natural Flavoring, It would be listed in parenthesis after Natural Flavoring, because dairy is a top 8 allergen.
Campbell’s went on to say the natural flavors are “proprietary” and may contain meat:
———: Okay, so it would be from either meat, poultry, or seafood?
Kelly: Correct. It can be.
———: Are you saying that you don’t know if it does?
Kelly: I’m not saying that. It can be derived from Meat, Seafood, Poultry or Dairy.
Kelly: It is a proprietary recipe.
———: So, you can’t disclose which it is made from?
Kelly: That is correct. However, as I stated, if there was an allergen, That would have to be listed after the Natural Flavoring.
Campbell’s responds after consumers become outraged…
I also couldn’t find any mention of the fact that V8 “100% Vegetable Juice” may contain animal products on their website or their labels. I know that there are many vegans and vegetarians that have been consuming V8 juice for years without realizing that it could contain meat-derived flavorings, and I had to share this information. Within minutes of publishing my blog post on this issue, many of you were very upset, commented on V8’s Facebook page and signed the petition on Change.org, demanding that Campbell’s remove animal products from V8. As reported in Politico, after I shared the petition, it “zoomed from less than 200 signatures to nearly 6,000 in just a few hours” (and it now has over 11,000 signatures). This surely got Campbell’s attention and they made an attempt to respond, by leaving a short comment on my website:
“Hi there, It’s Anna here from Campbell Soup. We saw this post and wanted to set the record straight. V8 100% Vegetable Juice IS vegetarian and uses natural flavorings derived from plants and vegetables. Also, our Tomato Soup is vegetarian. Our care team got this information wrong on Twitter. We apologize for any confusion”.
This comment brought up more questions than it answered.
Just a few short hours ago they told us that V8 may contain meat, but now it is all plant/vegetable derived? Your customer service got it “wrong on Twitter”, although they confirmed this was “true” this morning via their website and on the phone? Why are your customer service agents giving inaccurate information to your customers? What other product questions are getting answered incorrectly?
If V8 is vegetarian, why isn’t it vegan?
Just because it is vegetarian, does not mean that it doesn’t contain any animal products. Vegan foods shouldn’t contain any meat or animal bi-products, including dairy, eggs, and gelatin – so what does V8 contain that prohibits it from being vegan?
According to Karen C. Duester, MS, RD, the editor of FoodLabels.com: “Neither FDA nor FTC has any labeling regulations for vegetarian or vegan statements, other than being “truthful and not misleading.” A clarifying “contains honey” statement near the “vegan” call-out would help to ensure that the manufacturer is making truthful and not misleading statements while giving consumers the information they need to make informed decisions”.
We are looking for the truth, and it really shouldn’t be that hard.
Even if you are not a vegan, can you really trust a company that gives conflicting information about their ingredients to their customers? For a company that has spent nearly ONE MILLION DOLLARS to fight transparency in food ingredient labeling, you’d think they would have spent that money in a positive way, possibly by creating better products and training their employees so that customers could get accurate and honest information. Mary Tully recently updated her petition, which sums up how Campbell’s actions are untrustworthy:
“How does a food company’s customer care team (they make the food, they don’t just sell it like a supermarket) not know something so basic as whether or not some of its most popular products have animal ingredients?… If their own staff doesn’t know what’s in these products, how do they expect consumers to trust them?… Trust has been lost. Campbell really screwed up. I don’t know why we are expected to trust them now”.
Yesterday, I responded to Campbell’s by email, this is what I wrote:
“I am still confused, just this morning, I received a chat response on your website from “Kelly” indicating that your natural flavorings could have animal products and the statements on Twitter were true. Are you going to issue a formal response to this matter? What EXACTLY are “natural flavorings derived from plants and vegetables”? What process(es) are used to “derive” these flavorings? You say the V8 and Tomato Soup are vegetarian, but you don’t mention if they are vegan, are they? I’d like to share your response with my readers.”
Then, I received this response from Campbell’s:
“To clarify, both V8 100% Vegetable Juice and Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup are suitable for vegetarians. The information provided by our care team wasn’t accurate and we’ve updated the way we respond to these enquiries. 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. Both these blends help give the products their unique tastes. We don’t currently market any of our products as vegan.”
Our Path Forward
I responded back to Campbell’s and asked them to provide a complete list of all of their products that may contain animal products hidden within their flavors. We’ve also asked them to explain why V8 is not vegan. If it’s not, we want to know what animal products or byproducts are in V8 juice that prevent it from being vegan. Again, you’d think that a product that says 100% vegetable juice, should just be made from vegetables, right?
Please let Campbell’s know that this lack of transparency is unacceptable. Hold them accountable and ask them to provide clear labeling for vegetarian and vegan products and to provide the public with a complete list of products that may contain animal-derived ingredients. If you haven’t already, go to Campbell’s Soup Facebook page here or Twitter page here and leave a comment.
Feel Free To Call Campbell’s Customer Service Line: 1-800-257-8443
I will update you all here on the blog on any further developments. Make sure you are subscribed to get our email updates, so you don’t miss it.
P.S. I have an amazing homemade recipe for V8 here, check it out.