Veganism and Food Allergies – What’s Safe to Eat?
A vegan diet excludes all forms of animal produce including meat, fish, shellfish, dairy, eggs, and honey. Done well, a vegan diet can be balanced and healthy, and supply nearly all the required vitamins and minerals. Certain nutrients such as vitamins D and B12 are difficult to source from plant foods alone and need to be supplemented instead.
Healthy vegan meals are based around beans, pulses, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and wholegrains. The lack of fish, eggs, dairy, and crustaceans cuts out some of the major food allergens, however 9 of the 14 common allergens are still relevant:
Cereals containing gluten
Soya beans are a useful source of protein for vegans and are widely used in ‘fake meat’ products like meat-free mince, sausages, and burgers, as well as soya milk, cream, and ice-cream. Tree nuts and peanuts are used to make nut loaf and nut milks, while sesame seeds are part of that ever-popular vegan dish, houmous. The popularity of vegan-friendly snack bars has led to many more people consuming dried fruits which may be preserved with sulphur dioxide.
There are some great alternatives to these ingredients which can be used to make foods both vegan and allergen friendly.
Burgers and sausages can be made with a mixture of beans and pulses that don’t include soya beans: kidney, mung, chickpea, haricot, and red, green and Puy lentils are ideal alternatives. Houmous works just as well without tahini – adding chilli flakes or dried red pepper flakes gives it a different twist.
Certified gluten-free oats are suitable for making oat milk, while sunflower, pumpkin, chia, and ground flax seeds are great swaps for nut-based meals or nut butters.
Buckwheat can be used as a grain or flour. Despite its name it has no relation to regular wheat (a common allergen) and the flour is an ideal gluten-free alternative for making pancakes.
If your products are designed for vegans you can apply for the Vegan Trademark, awarded by the Vegan Society. The trademark guarantees the product contains no animal ingredients, and that cross contamination has been minimised as much as possible. However, these checks are not the same as allergen standards, and any products eligible to carry the Vegan Trademark on the labelling should not be considered automatically safe for people with food allergies.
The new UK allergen law – Natasha’s Law – comes into effect in October 2021 and will require businesses to provide full ingredient and allergen labelling on foods which are pre-packed for direct sale. To ensure your business is in line with the new law, use Allergen Checker - the intuitive, user-friendly system for organising your product labelling.