Food Labelling and Veganism | ALS Laboratories UK

Monday 20th November 2023

The Vegan Society (1) defines veganism as follows:

"Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."

As of July 2023, approximately 2% (1.3 million) of people in the UK self-describe as having a “vegan” or “plant-based” diet (2). The number of products on the market has increased drastically over the last few years to meet this demand – with many meat-alternative products, plant-based meals, and products such as oat and soya milk advertising themselves to those who look to avoid meat, dairy, egg, and other ingredients originating from animals.

However, while you may expect a vegan product to be completely free from any trace of milk, egg, or similar ingredients, the reality is that this may not always be “possible and practicable”.

For those unlucky few for whom contact with trace levels of food allergens can cause a severe or even fatal reaction, the “Plant-Based” and “Vegan” labels present an added challenge. The Food and Drink Federation has issued advice that people with allergies to milk, eggs, fish, crustacea or molluscs should not rely on such labels to ensure that foods are safe for them to eat (3). Always check the packaging.

As the vegan movement goes strength to strength, it remains focussed on reducing the food chain’s reliance on animals and animal products are far as possible. Those who avoid specific foods for health reasons, rather than ethical ones, must keep this in mind this to keep themselves and their family safe.