Vegan does not mean milk and egg free
Many people think that vegan foods are free from all animal products, including common allergens such as milk and egg. However, a ‘vegan’ claim is not the same as a ‘free from milk’ or ‘free from egg’ claim. Food labels must still be read, and food allergies disclosed when purchasing or ordering vegan foods.
Manufacturers can have a vegan or vegetarian claim on their product as well as a precautionary allergen label statement (PAL) for egg or milk. They should however ensure that the risk of cross contamination from egg and milk is reduced by using Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia is regularly alerted to products that are labelled as vegan but have a precautionary allergen labelling (PAL) statement on them for egg or milk. This means that the product does not have egg or milk in the ingredient list, but that it has a statement similar to ‘may contain egg’ or ‘may contain traces of milk’. PAL statements are voluntary and not regulated by law in Australia. Manufacturers can choose whether they put a PAL statement on a food product or not. This makes it difficult for people with food allergy to make informed choices about the safety of a food as some products without a PAL statement may be a greater risk than those with a PAL statement. To understand more, watch the video about precautionary allergen labelling from the National Allergy Council.
‘Free from’ claims such as ‘dairy free’ or ‘egg free’ on a packaged food are different to vegan claims as a milk or egg-free food MUST NOT contain ANY milk or egg. Manufacturers that have a ‘Free from’ claim should have processes in place so they can prove their claim (often including testing of every batch). Unlike a ‘Free from’ claim, a vegan claim does not require a manufacturer to prove that there has been no cross-contamination with animal products.
People with cow’s milk and egg allergy are strongly encouraged to always read the food label, ingredient list, and any PAL statements. If the labelling of a product is not clear, or you are unsure of the labelling of a particular product, it is recommended you check with the manufacturer of the product. People with milk or egg allergy are also encouraged to ALWAYS disclose their food allergy, even when eating at a venue or buying food from a venue that claims it is vegan. If you disclose your milk, egg or other food allergy to the waitstaff, and the venue agrees to serve you, the business must serve you food that does not contain the food you are allergic to.
It is important to note that several vegan products have been recalled in recent years because egg or milk have been found in the products when tested. A&AA understands that these products have been recalled because the amount of milk or egg in the products is more than what might be expected through cross-contamination when GMPs are used.
People who have milk and egg allergy MUST ask further questions of the manufacturer so they can make an informed choice about the safety of a vegan product.
For information on vegan foods, tree nut, peanut or other legume allergy head to our blog post on this topic.