One in three vegan products found in the UK found contain milk or egg-mainly due to lack legal definition for vegan food, recent research has claimed, stating that traces of egg or milk were found in an array of goods that were labelled as vegan or plant-based.
According to forensic scientists from Hampshire and Kent Scientific Services, 24 (39 per cent) out of 61 products marked as vegan contained egg or dairy, including 13 dairy alternatives and 48 meat alternatives. In total, 90 per cent were found to be unsatisfactory – meaning they failed for traces of dairy or inaccuracies in their labelling and nutritional information.
Of the 55 unsatisfactory samples, 27 (49 per cent) were related to labelling anomalies, including portion size and information about allergens, including no warnings. Of the remaining samples, 39 nutrition inaccuracies were identified – which was on average at least one per sample.
The items analysed for the research included vegan equivalents of chocolate truffles, pizza, burgers, muffins and wraps.
John Herriman, the chief executive of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), said that the lack of legal definition could be exploited by unethical food businesses claiming foods are as vegan, when in fact they contain animal-derived products.
“Perhaps of greater concern is that this ambiguity can have disastrous and sometimes tragic consequences for those with allergies to animal-derived products, like milk and eggs. We are aware that people have sadly lost their lives because of this and are therefore calling for more clarity on what can and can’t legally be described as vegan and plant-based food,” The Guardian quoted Herriman as saying.
About 1.5 per cent of the population is vegan and one in six people suffer from milk or shellfish allergies.
Although it is widely believed that something marketed as vegan is free from animal-derived ingredients, there is currently no legal definition for vegan food, allowing firms to market their products as being so even if they contain dairy or egg.
CTSI is calling for brining-in stricter laws against any food manufacturer or restaurant who are found flouting any new rules.
Kerry Nicol, the policy and campaigns executive at the CTSI, with the rise in popularity of plant-based and vegan diets, there is also a “rise in complaints and incidents where consumers feel they have been misled”.
“There has also been an increase in those with animal-derived allergies choosing foods marked vegan thinking they are safe for them to eat, only to suffer an allergic reaction,” Nicol said.
A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that food labels must not be misleading to ensure consumers can have confidence in the food they are buying – which is why we require the presence of ingredients which may cause food allergies to be clearly highlighted on packaging.