UK – The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has launched a campaign aimed at educating individuals with food hypersensitivity about the potential risks associated with foods labeled as “vegan.”

This move comes in response to startling research findings indicating that 62 percent of individuals sensitive to animal-based products, or those purchasing on their behalf, confidently assume that “vegan” labeled foods are safe for consumption.

This assumption, as the FSA points out, is not only incorrect but could potentially endanger the lives of those with severe allergies to milk, eggs, fish, and shellfish.

The study further revealed that 54 percent of those affected by animal product allergies have, at some point, relied on vegan labeling as a method to ascertain the safety of packaged foods. This highlights a widespread misunderstanding about what “vegan” labels signify and the potential risks of cross-contamination during food production.

The FSA’s “Vegan Food and Allergens Campaign” seeks to rectify this dangerous misconception by urging individuals with food allergies, and those shopping for them, to diligently check for precautionary allergen statements, such as “may contain,” on vegan product packaging.

The initiative aims to foster a safer food selection process for those with allergies, encouraging informed decisions based on accurate labeling rather than assumptions.

Emily Miles, CEO of the FSA, expressed concern over the findings, emphasizing the risk of cross-contamination in facilities that handle both vegan and non-vegan products.

Through our campaign, we are urging people to always check for a label such as a ‘may contain’ and have a conversation about their allergens with food servers and businesses,Miles stated, underscoring the goal of enabling individuals to make safe food choices confidently.

Clarifying “free-from” versus “vegan” labels

A crucial aspect of the campaign is distinguishing between “free-from” and “vegan” or “plant-based” labels.

Unlike vegan labels, which primarily indicate the absence of animal-derived ingredients, “free-from” labels carry a stricter connotation.

Food products sporting a “free-from” label must undergo rigorous processes to minimize the risk of cross-contamination, ensuring they do not contain any of the allergens they claim to be free from.

Supporting the FSA’s campaign are leading UK allergen charities, including Allergy UK, Anaphylaxis UK, and the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation. These organizations have collectively stressed the importance of the campaign in aiding individuals with food allergies to make safer dietary choices.

The joint statement emphasized the critical need for raising awareness about the potential for cross-contamination in vegan products and the distinction between vegan and free-from products.

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