The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has today published ‘FDF Guidance on ‘Allergen’-Free and Vegan Claims’. This UK guidance, supported by the Food Standards Agency, aims to inform both the wider food industry and consumers as to the difference between ‘allergen’-free claims (e.g. milk-free) and vegan claims. Each claim communicates to different consumer groups, with only the allergen absence claim being food safety information.

The provision of this information aims to dispel any misunderstanding that a vegan claim automatically means a food product is safe and suitable for an allergic consumer. The document details the current legal frameworks that regulates the use of these voluntary claims and how it may develop going forward. It also signposts to resources and positions from other relevant stakeholders both in the UK and EU.

Heather Hancock, Chairman of the Food Standards Agency, said:

“The FSA warmly welcomes the FDF’s work to improve the clarity of allergen information provided to consumers. Getting this right is essential to ensure that food is safe for people living with food allergy or intolerances. This new guidance makes clear the requirements for free-from claims for egg and milk, and it also contains important clarifications about vegan labelling, which will help prevent shortcuts and other claims inadvertently leading people with food hypersensitivity to make the wrong food choices. It is very important that industry continues to make sure food hypersensitive consumers are informed and protected.”

Alex Turtle, FDF’s Food Law, Labelling and Enforcement Manager said:

“In an ever-evolving regulatory landscape, FDF strives to support food manufacturers to provide accurate consumer information, and is well-aware that an informed allergic consumer is a more protected consumer. Our new guidance informs both industry and consumers on the difference between these label claims and, from a food safety perspective, that vegan should not be interpreted as meaning ‘allergen’-free.”

Lynne Regent, CEO of the Anaphylaxis Campaign, said:

“The Anaphylaxis Campaign commends the FDF for recognising and addressing the confusion that has arisen around vegan labelling and allergy. By working with patient organisations such as ourselves to produce clear guidance for both consumers and industry, the risk of the allergic consumer misunderstanding the vegan label, with the potential for very serious consequences, will be reduced. As the only UK wide charity operating solely on behalf of those at risk from severe allergies and anaphylaxis, this guidance will be a valuable resource to help us provide reliable information about the crucial difference between ‘free-from’ and ‘animal free’.”

Chantelle Adkins, Director of Business Development at the Vegan Society, said:

“The Vegan Society is pleased to see further guidance for food manufacturers that helps to clarify the difference between vegan labelling and allergen labelling. We do not claim that products registered with our Vegan Trademark alone will be suitable for people with allergies. We take consumer safety very seriously and would encourage anyone with a food allergy not to rely on vegan labelling to mean that a product will contain no trace of animal derived allergens.”