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Food safety organisation warns that many products labelled as vegan can have traces of animal products

Doctors warned of the potential health risks.
Sep 28th 2020, 12:34 PM 19,883 67

THE FOOD SAFETY Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has warned consumers of the possible dangers of eating vegan-marked products in the belief they are completely free from animal-based allergens.

The authority said consumers sometimes assume that a food declared as vegan contains absolutely no animal products, in line with the ethos of veganism.

This is not always the case, as low-level accidental cross-contamination from animal-based allergens can occur during the production process. 

The term vegan is not defined in EU or Irish food law and therefore, there are no limits set out in food law about the proportion of animal-derived ingredients permitted in such food.

The FSAI is also urging food businesses who make vegan-labelled food to double their efforts to ensure that their production and packaging processes are sufficient to minimise the risk of cross-contamination with animal-derived ingredients.

The FSAI said it has seen an increasing trend in people moving towards plant-based diets, including those who describe themselves as ‘dietary vegans’ (those who are vegan for food consumption only).

In 2018, 4.1% of Irish adults considered themselves as dietary vegans, accounting for over 146,000 adults, according to a Bord Bia report. 

Dr Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive, FSAI, said the rise in popularity of plant-based foods does not come without health risks. 

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 “With the proportion of the population adhering to plant-based diets, including dietary vegans, growing significantly in recent years, there has been a corresponding upsurge in products on the market purporting to cater for such diets.

“However, under EU and Irish food law there is no clear definition of the term “vegan”, creating challenges for regulatory authorities and some people on vegan diets. Most people who follow dietary vegan or plant-based diets do not have allergies to animal-derived products, but for those who do, accidental cross-contamination of the foods labelled as vegan could have very serious health consequences.”

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Garreth MacNamee


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