The difference between animal-free and ‘free from’
Products suitable for vegans may not be suitable for people with allergies. Vegans avoid exploitation of animals, whereas people with allergies need products that do not contain the allergens that affect them. These are separate issues.
Certain allergens must be highlighted within ingredient lists. These include some animal allergens, namely shellfish, fish, milk, eggs and molluscs. Companies must work out if their products contain or may contain major allergens. If there is a risk, the label carries a ‘may contain’ warning.
Guidance from the Food Standards Agency (FSA)
There is no legal definition of the term vegan, but the FSA provides voluntary guidance on the use of the terms vegetarian and vegan in food labelling, including advice about cross-contamination. They suggest that “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 or display”. However, The Vegan Society is not against foods labelled as vegan also carrying a ‘may contain’ warning about animal allergens.
What about Trademarked products?
The Vegan Society does not claim that products registered with the Vegan Trademark are suitable for people with allergies. This will depend on the standards achieved by individual manufacturers. To encourage manufacturers to give a serious commitment to avoiding cross-contamination with animal substances, the Vegan Trademark licence agreement asks companies to confirm that they strive to minimise cross-contamination from animal substances used in non-vegan products as far as is reasonably practicable.
For example, products registered with the Vegan Trademark can correctly say ‘may contain milk’. We encourage manufacturers to produce more foods without animal ingredients in order to reduce the exploitation of non-human animals. As demand for vegan products grows, the number of vegan production lines and factories will increase.