Ecotricity founder Dale Vince slams ‘mis-leading meat ads for false Vitamin B12 claims’

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Ads for meat from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board which claims that “B12 is not naturally present in a vegan diet” have been slammed by green entrepreneur and vegan activist Dale Vince.

The founder of Ecotricity is leading a campaign to get the ads, that have appeared on several websites inducing the Metro this week, pulled for being misleading. He has asked the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) to investigate the ads suggesting that its headline of “To B12 or Not to B12?” presents a false choice.

The ads ,which are clearly targeted at those considering veganuary, promote the benefits of meat and encourage people to “eat balanced.”

Vince argues that “the statement that follows, “B12 is not naturally present in a vegan diet” is untrue and has the potential to mislead. A vegan diet will contain B12, many processed foods are fortified with it. 

The advertiser may be relying on the use of the term ‘naturally present’ to condition this statement – contrasting naturally occurring with B12 that is added. But this is not made clear. In any event, the claim is false as it is an objective fact that B12 occurs naturally in plants which are commonly found in vegan and omnivorous diets. Seeds of all kinds, tempeh, several types of mushroom are examples. Yeast extract is an example of a food vegans and non vegans eat which is rich in B12.” 

Vince also takes issue with the claim that B12 naturally exists in the vast majority of animal products. 

He argues that most meat produced by the meat industry (some 90%) is produced by intensive agriculture and the animals are raised indoors their entire life. Animals would naturally acquire B12 from grazing as it comes from bacteria in the soil. However, animals raised intensively have to be fed B12 as a dietary supplement because they are deprived of natural sources of B12. 

On its website the AHDB says

“There is a consistent trend that consumers are reducing their red meat and dairy consumption because they believe it is healthier and less harmful to the environment. This is not the case and we want to redress the balance by educating consumers with our new Eat Balanced campaign.

We are aware of negative attention the Eat Balanced campaign has received from the vegan community. It needs to be managed carefully in a way that doesn’t give our detractors more airtime or more opportunity to post and the team is looking at how we do that.”

The NHS website has the following advice for vegans on their B12 consumption, which highlights how vegans can access the vitamin through a plant-based diet.

Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in foods from animal sources, so sources for vegans are limited and a vitamin B12 supplement may be needed.

Vegan sources of vitamin B12 include:

  • yeast extract, such as Marmite, which is fortified with vitamin B12
  • breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin B12
  • soya products fortified with vitamin B12

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