FSA raises awareness on risks of vegan labels for allergy sufferers

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has launched a campaign to educate the public about the distinction between a 'vegan' label and a 'free-from' label.  

While vegan labels indicate products that do not intentionally contain animal-based ingredients, they may still be prepared in areas where cross-contamination with allergens can occur. On the other hand, in order to apply a free-from label, food manufacturers must adhere to rigorous procedures to completely eliminate the possibility of cross-contamination. This ensures that the products labeled as free-from do not contain any traces of the specified allergen that they claim to be free from.  

Recent research conducted by the FSA revealed that a significant number of people mistakenly believe that products labelled as 'vegan' are safe for consumption, even in case of allergies to animal-based ingredients. This misconception puts them at risk of allergic reactions.    

The research conducted by the FSA highlighted that:  
• Approximately 54% of individuals who react to animal-based products have used vegan labelling as an indication of whether a packaged food is safe to eat at least some of the time.  
• Approximately 53% of individuals who purchase food for someone with a hypersensitivity to animal-based products have used vegan labelling in a similar manner.  
• Surprisingly, 29% of individuals who react to or purchase food for those with allergies to animal-based products were unaware that they should check for precautionary allergen labels on vegan products to determine their safety.  

In response to these concerning results, the FSA has initiated a campaign aimed at supporting individuals with allergies to milk, eggs, fish, crustaceans, or molluscs. The campaign emphasizes the importance of always checking for precautionary allergen statements, such as 'may contain,' on products labelled as 'vegan' before consuming them.    

Supporting the FSA's campaign are three leading UK allergen charities: Allergy UK, Anaphylaxis UK, and the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation. Together, they emphasize the importance of awareness in helping individuals with allergies make informed choices regarding the safety of their food.    

The FSA recently updated its food labelling technical guidance to provide comprehensive information to food business operators (FBOs). The updated guidance advises FBOs to use Precautionary Allergen Labels (PALs) alongside vegan labels if cross-contamination cannot be ruled out.    

By raising awareness about the potential risks and educating the public about the distinctions between vegan and free-from labels, the FSA's campaign aims to ensure the safety and well-being of individuals with allergies while promoting informed food choices.    



Food Standards Agency