In 1992 there was the case of Linda McCartney vegetarian sausages being sabotaged with meat. They were actually packaged in my hometown of Hull. It was consumers that raised the alarm after biting into the pies and noticing they were full of meat.

What if it was an animal product you could not check by tasting or looking? After trying the Beyond Burger, it has gotten me thinking, as it was disconcertingly similar to eating a beef burger, even the texture seemed right. What if I want my vegan burger to look and taste nothing like meat?

Interestingly enough many vegans, “true vegans”, “pure vegans” or “extreme vegans” by which I mean those that want absolutely no relation to animal products or animal cruelty. Just to inform those that do not know, not all vegans are vegan for animal welfares’ sake. Even so the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat Burgers were only permitted to be imported to Denmark if tested on animals. Specifically the heme-protein (soy leghemoglobin) ingredient which gives the characteristic taste. Other vegan burgers and meat substitutions are also made from ingredients that first have been tested on animals. All new foods, additives, preservatives, cosmetics, medicines etc have to be tested on animals before giving to humans. The cruelty free brands use historical research results to have their product approved.

Even McDonalds in 2001 were in the news for having beef fat in their french fries. However, the ingredients on state beef flavouring, its actually derived from milk, and therefore they are vegetarian and not vegan as expected. Also if you were to have a milk intolerance or allergy, be careful with French fries in general as the oil they are cooked in may be shared with the other side options. I believe they were successfully sued but only as some McDonalds restaurants mislead customers stating they were vegan explicitly.

J20 is a popular bottled fruit juice mix and until recently was not suitable for vegans, and obviously the shelf life means even once they change their recipe there will still be numerous in circulation, they use egg extract in some processes and used to have an animal derived version of pectin.

Beer e.g. Carlberg is also not vegan or even vegetarian, fish is used somewhere in the processing. Britvic soft drinks brand also expects you to call them if you wish to discuss if their products are suitable for vegans or vegetarians, halal or kosher due to the way they are produced.

There is not a requirement to state why it is not suitable, or if it is suitable. There are only requirements to list the ingredients, specifically allergens. Even if it is listed, many of the preservatives or additives in food are tested on animals or made from animals.

Many items are marked not suitable for vegans as there is the risk of airborne contamination. For example: every bread made in Sainsbury’s on site/in store bakery is marked “not suitable for vegans”. But if you check the allergy info it should not contain animal products as ingredients. If you want to be “pure vegan” you really have to research or shop in the vegan/free from section at the supermarket.

 In Denmark’s 7Eleven there is a vegan croissant, often touching regular croissants, or a vegetarian slice of pizza touching a pepperoni pizza. In my opinion that is negligent. It is allowing for blatant contamination and contamination is define loosely as “anything in food that is not meant be in food” or technically “selling to the purchaser’s prejudice any food which is not of the nature or substance or quality demanded by the purchaser” is an offence.

Other allergy sufferers following a vegan diet in order to avoid egg, milk, shellfish, crustacea, fish (the most common of allergens, particularly in children) have to go to the free from section as there are no thresholds for vegan food or a clear definition and they vary between standards even for free from foods.

It is more a trading standards issue than a food safety issue if there is animals in your vegan food. I would argue against that. The “may contain X” labelling is also voluntary. Additionally if a drink contains above 1.2% alcohol, it does not need to have an ingredients list. If food is served to you open, it only need have the allergy information available.  Watch out for vegan “may contain milk, egg, fish and shellfish” signs. You probably do not want to eat there, even as a meat eater.

Knowing all this and being surrounded by varying dietary preferences – I accept the term vegan is not clearly defined. I also live by the rule that you have a right to eat whatever you choose. However , vegans and vegetarians particular the “pure vegans” are missing the information to make an informed choice in line with their beliefs.

Many non-religious meat eaters are reading this thinking, thank goodness I am not vegan, an allergy sufferer or another dietary preference. I have one thing to say. Horse meat. You do not know what you are eating either. The supply chain has become so large and complex and far removed from the consumer that it is hard for the general public to keep up. It has only taken one generation to grow the convenience culture.

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