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Green light to petition for vegetarian and vegan food labelling

Brussels - The European Commission gave the go-ahead to a petition calling for clearer labelling of vegetarian and vegan food, giving the organizers a year to collect the required number of signatures from across the European Union.

"Vegetarians and vegans struggle across the EU to identify suitable food," the petitioners wrote, according to a commission statement.

The petition calls for mandatory pictorial labels on food products, arguing that, at present, vegetarians and vegans must study food labels with a "hyper-awareness of ambiguous ingredients" to identify what they can eat.

It will be registered as a European citizens' initiative on November 12, the commission said. From then on, the petitioners have 12 months to collect at least 1 million signatures from a minimum of seven different EU member states.

If they are successful, the commission is obliged to consider the petition and respond to it within three months.

The EU's executive can decide to follow the request or not, but it must justify its decision.

The petition will join six other European citizens' initiatives that are currently open for signatures.

These include a call for a permanent EU citizenship in light of Brexit, a demand for stronger EU legislation to counter extremism and a petition seeking to end the practice of keeping farm animals in cages.

European citizens' initiatives have had some limited success since their introduction in 2012, with four reaching the required level of support. The first to do so - a petition on the right to drinking water - prompted the commission to pledge a series of actions.