The history of dietary customs is taught in a number of world famous universities. This is still very much on a regional basis. Despite the wide variety of dietary patterns in Europe, a distinctive European diet may be emerging under the influence of healthy eating advice. The aim of authorities throughout Europe is to encourage people to consume less saturated fat, cholesterol and sugar.
The dietary practices of people who choose a vegan diet can easily support these aims. Vegan food can also help in bringing most of the groups contributing to Europe’s rich cultural diversity together around the same meal on a non-discriminatory and secular basis, including:
- Allergy sufferers e.g. milk (2-3% of children and about 1% of adults), eggs (2-3% of children and adults),seafood (no European percentage), or those with hypercholesterolaemia ;
- Buddhists (European data not available) ;
- Christians (402 million), some of whom follow a plant-based diet during Lent ;
- Hindus (less than 1 million)
- Jains (European data not available) ;
- Jews (less than 1 million) ;
- Muslims (13 million) ;
- Rastafarians (European data not available) ;
- Sikhs (European data not available) ;
- Vegans (European data not available) ;
- Plant-based meals can also meet the needs of regular consumers of animal products and by-products.
In institutional catering, a well balanced plant-based option is a relevant requirement in every European country. Groups who may be relieved to have access to catering in schools, cafeterias, nursing homes, hospitals, prisons, etc. add up to many millions. Progress in this direction has already been made in various European countries such as the United Kingdom, Belgium and to a lesser extent Switzerland. The Eating Together project will help social inclusion and diversity in European countries such as France that have not yet achieved equal access to institutional catering.
Eating Together is a social bond for society. Eating Together is about healthy and tasty meals that take freedom of conscience into account. Eating Together does no harm to regular animal product consumers - quite the contrary. Last but not least, when a healthy balanced meal is prepared with local seasonal vegetables Eating together is also the best way to reduce environmental foodprint.
 Josef Schmidhuber (FAO), W. Bruce Traill (Reading University, UK) “ The changing structure of diets in the European Union in relation to healthy eating guidelines” in Public Health Nutrition, 2006, 9(5), 584-595
 “Opinion of the Scientific Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies on a request from the Commission relating to the evaluation of allergenic foods for labelling purposes” in EFSA Journal, 2004, n° 32, 197 pages.
 It is difficult to find homogenous and serious sources for the above listed European populations because in one of the bigger countries, France, gathering any religious background data for census is prohibited due to laws on secularity. The largest French survey mentions only the extent of religious belief (C. Beauchemin, C. Hamel et P. Simon, “Enquête sur la diversité des populations en France” in Document de Travail, october 2010, INED). In this respect, CIA data probably lacks precision, but its international approach is more relevent in quantifying the diversity of dietary patterns in Europe today. Moreover, homogenous data for the whole of Europe seemed a wiser choice than selecting from various scattered sources. The CIA point of view is that of an observer from outside the European Union. This explains our choice of a single general purpose data source .
 Several Belgian towns (including Ghent) have put a system of ovo-lacto veggie thursdays into practice. Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health conducts research for Swiss standards in favor of healthy eating in institutional catering. They promote daily ovo-lacto-vegetarian menu options for institutional catering. These options are still less advanced than those of the United Kingdom where balanced vegan options are available in hospitals, schools and prisons, for example.