Despite what you may be told by those who should know better, the definition of a vegetarian is very clearly defined:
From The Vegetarian Society Of The UK:
A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or crustacea, or slaughter by-products such as gelatine or animal fats.
The Vegetarian Society Of The UK also has a document available to help caterers:
From the Food Standards Agency:
The term ‘vegetarian’ should not be applied to foods that are, or are
made from or with the aid of products derived from animals that have died,
have been slaughtered, or animals that die as a result of being eaten.
Animals means farmed, wild or domestic animals, including for example,
livestock poultry, game, fish, shellfish, crustacea, amphibians, tunicates,
echinoderms, molluscs and insects.
The term ‘vegan’ should not be applied to foods that are, or are made
from or with the aid of animals or animal products (including products from
Manufacturers, retailers and caterers should be able to demonstrate
that foods presented as ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan’ have not been contaminated
with non-vegetarian or non-vegan foods during storage, preparation, cooking
Having no obvious meat content does NOT make a product vegetarian. When a product is labelled vegetarian the seller has a duty to ensure ALL the ingredients are suitable for vegetarians, this includes the flavourings, colourings, additives, wine and other ingredients are suitable and that it has been prepared in a way to avoid contamination from non vegetarian products.
The preparation of foods, especially in restaurants and other outlets is where the biggest failings occur. Its all well and good ensuring the suitability to the point of preparation but if the food in cooked alongside meat dishes and served with the same utensils as meat dishes then the food is no longer vegetarian and any labeling to the contrary is misleading and is false advertising.