Should Medicines and Cosmetics With Non veg Content Be Labelled?

Every food article in India that contains non veg ingredient should contain a red spot mark to notify that it is a non-veg product. But this rule does not apply to medicines (Allopathic or Ayurvedic).  Recently Supreme Court of India dealt with a case regarding this issue.

We already have discussed that some  of the Ayurvedic medicines do contain non veg ingredients.

Related articles – 
Is Ayurveda totally vegetarian?
List of Ayurvedic medicine with non veg ingredients

Excerpts from the Supreme Court Order –

Appellant – Indian Soaps and Toiletries makers association
Versus
Respondent – Ozair Husain and others.
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5645 OF 2003


Cosmetics –
The appellant argued that, in case of cosmetics, it is neither practicable nor desirable to give any identification as to ingredients of ‘vegetarian’ or ‘non-vegetarian’ origin. It has no relevancy as the use of cosmetics has nothing to do with the vegetarian or non- vegetarian origin ingredients; they are not ‘food products’ and are not meant for ingestion.
It is very difficult to identify the origin of non-veg ingredients, as it is very difficult to know the basic source from which such ingredient is derived.

In case of drugs – Earlier a proposal was made by certain persons to amend ‘the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945’ so as to mention the words “vegetarian” and “non-vegetarian” on the labels of the drugs and cosmetics.  The topic was raised in the meeting  of Drug Technical Advisory Board. But the proposal was rejected.

Food habit in India varies from person to person and place to place. Religion also plays a vital role in making such habit. Those who follow ‘Jainism’ are vegetarian but many of them do not eat some of the vegetarian food such as potato, carrot, onion, garlic etc. which are grown below the earth.

Majority of Indians treat ‘honey’ and ‘lactose’ (milk derived sugar) as vegetarian but scientists treat them as ‘non vegetarian’ products. Amongst the non-vegetarians a number of persons are ‘eggetarians’ i.e. those who only take one non-vegetarian product–egg. They do not eat other non-vegetarian food like animals, fishes or birds. There are number of persons who treat egg as vegetarian food. Even amongst non-vegetarians, a large number of persons do not take beef or ham/pork because of religious belief. Many of the non-vegetarians do not eat snakes, insects, frog or bird.

Considering all these points, Supreme Court of India has given the judgement that there is no need to label medicines and cosmetics as veg or non veg.

The purpose of medicine –
The purpose of medicine is to cure the pain of the sufferer. A true doctor will not worry whether the person is a vegetarian, or a non vegetarian, a white or black, a Hindu, Muslim etc. All that a doctor cares about, is to treat the disease of his patient. Hence from this point of view, there is no need to denote whether a medicine is veg or non veg.

There are some people who can not tolerate the fact that they are being given non veg medicine. These people would prefer dying than to consume non veg.

It is the right of the patient to know what is being given to him to consume.

Considering all these factors, 

  • From a manufacturer’s point of view, it is fine not to disclose if the medicine contains a non veg ingredient.
  • It will be very fine if some manufacturers take initiative and disclose about non veg ingredients, voluntarily, considering the feelings of the patient.
  • If you, as a patient, are particular about vegetarianism, you can always ask your doctor to choose medicines with veg ingredients only.
  • You can always ask me if a particular Ayurvedic medicine is veg or non veg and make your own decisions.

8 thoughts on “Should Medicines and Cosmetics With Non veg Content Be Labelled?”

      • It is good to specify whether a medicine is veg. or non-veg. as each person has his/her own preferences and beliefs. But it is important that harmful lab tests are not done on animals during research of medicines.

        Reply
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