Vegan Menu Option Requirement, Portugal: Urban Food Policy Snapshot

by Cameron St. Germain

Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy name: Vegan meal option required in public dining halls or cafeterias

Location: Portugal

Population: 10.35 million

Food policy category: Sustainable diets and nutrition

Program goals:

  • Ensure that all public cafeterias or dining halls have at least one suitable entree for individuals who choose not to eat animals or their byproducts
  • Encourage more people to choose plant-based meals, for environmental, ethical, religious or health issues

Program initiation

  • The law was passed on the 3rd of March of 2017, ratificated and published in the “Republic Diary”, at 17 of April of the same year.  The law will take effect two months later.

How it works

The law applies to all institutions that receive public funding and have a cafeteria or dining hall, including schools, universities, hospitals, elderly nursing homes and prisons. The law specifies that the vegan menu options must be planned by a nutrition specialist from the Public Health Minister.

A cafeteria or dining hall that does not comply can be reported to the Food and Economic Security Authority, the government institution that will be enforcing the law. If an establishment finds that there is insufficient demand for the vegan option, they can get an exemption.

Progress to date

This is the first law in Portugal to explicitly mention vegetarianism, according to Nuno Alvim, spokesperson for the Portuguese Vegetarian Society. The law was prompted by a petition started by the Portuguese Vegetarian Society, which garnered over 15,000 signatures.

This measure was also on PAN’s program (measure 37) for the national elections in 2015. This was the election that guaranteed the entry of André Silva, the national deputy of the party, in the parliament.

Why the program is important

Surveys in many countries have shown that the number of people following vegan and vegetarian diets is rapidly increasing. For example, the number of vegans in Britain increased from 150,000 in 2006 to 542,000 in 2016. The vegan population in Germany increased from 80,000 in 2008 to 1.3 million in 2016. A 2016 survey found that there are about 3.7 million vegans in the United States.

The Portuguese Vegetarian Association reported that approximately 30,000 Portuguese followed vegetarian or vegan diets as of 2007, and that the number has likely increased since then.

A 2008 survey of U.S. vegetarians and vegans found that 53 percent of people following a plant-based diet do so out of concern for their health. Fifty four percent of those surveyed said animal welfare was a concern, and 47 percent of those surveyed cited environmental concerns.

Many studies support the conclusion that plant-based diets have a positive impact on both human health and the environment. For example, this study by researchers at the University of Oxford concluded that shifting to more plant-based diets could reduce global mortality by 6-10 percent, and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 29 to 70 percent.


Because the policy was passed very recently, it is too early to evaluate its effectiveness. This is the first law passed by a national legislative body requiring vegan meal options to be served in public eateries.

Learn more

Point of contact


Similar practices

  • In 2012, the United States National Parks Service launched their Healthy and Sustainable Food Program, which required all concession stands to have at least one vegetarian option



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