A recent investigation by Hampshire and Kent Scientific Services in the UK has found that more than a third of foods labelled “vegan” contain animal products including egg and milk. This is a serious concern for consumers with food allergies.
The investigation, which looked at vegan alternatives for products such as chocolate, pizzas, burgers, muffins and wraps, found that 39 per cent of dairy and meat alternative products contained egg or dairy, and 90 per cent of the products marketed as vegan failed their tests for traces of dairy or had inaccuracies in their labelling.
As a result of the study, the UK’s Chartered Trading Standards Institute has called for more clarity on what foods can and can’t legally be described as vegan and plant based. They expressed concern that the lack of legal definition of the term “vegan” could be exploited by food businesses who seek to benefit through supplying the niche vegan market.
The dangers posed by inaccurate labelling of vegan products became acutely apparent in 2017, when UK woman Celia Marsh died after eating a vegan wrap, she had purchased from Pret a Manger. Celia had an acute dairy allergy, and the vegan wrap was subsequently found to contain an ingredient that contained milk.
The UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has said that food labels must not be misleading to ensure consumers can have confidence in the food they are buying. Labels are required to clearly indicate the presence of ingredients that may cause allergic reactions.
Noting the need, the Allergen Bureau has commenced drafting a guideline for industry to address best practice allergen management and labelling of VEGAN products.