Thousands of UK Vegans Might Be Mistakenly Eating Animal Products

Food labeling in the UK is so unreliable that vegans, vegetarians and people with food sensitivities are likely eating products they should be avoiding. According to research conducted done for Ubamarket, it appears that 40 percent of UK residents don’t fully understand what they’re eating.

The problem with labeling means that many people have real difficulty eating the way they want to or need to — for example, avoiding gluten or animal ingredients.

Of those surveyed:

  • 32 percent are not aware that pesto is not vegetarian — because real Parmesan cheese, one of the ingredients, is always made with animal rennet
  • 81 percent don’t realize soy sauce is not gluten free
  • 16 percent believe all potato chips are automatically vegan. They’re not — milk powder is used used in the seasoning for many flavored brands.
  • A quarter of U.K. vegetarians and vegans are estimated to have mistakenly eaten something with meat in it

Worse still, one in five respondents indicated that they’d given up on trying to maintain a vegetarian or vegan diet because of frustrating food labels.

Can you imagine wanting to give up animal products and not being able to do so because you can’t trust what’s in your food?

Now imagine you have a severe allergy and must navigate your way through a food labeling system that puts your life at risk every time you buy packaged food.

Why this level of confusion? Because the labels don’t always tell UK consumers everything they need to know. That’s not just a source of frustration; that’s a food safety issue.

“Information which is inaccurate, incomplete or poorly communicated is a real safety risk to those with food allergies, intolerances and celiac disease,” said Allergy Action and food risk expert Hazel Gowland.

Indeed, it is. Two British women found this out the hard way.

  • Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, 15, collapsed on British Airways flight in July 2016 due to anaphylactic shock after eating a Pret a Manger baguette containing sesame. She died because the packaging did not warn her of this potential allergen, according to the coroner.
  • Celia Marsh, a 42-year-old dental nurse, died in December 2017 after eating Pret’s “super-veg rainbow flatbread” which was supposed to be dairy-free but was not. Pret announced that it had used a yogurt that was sold to it as “dairy-free” but contained traces of dairy protein.

Clearly, better food labeling needs serious attention in the UK to avoid more of the same. Ednan-Laperhouse’s parents now work tirelessly  to convince environment secretary Michael Gove to introduce “Natasha’s Law.” The law would tighten requirements for labeling food allergens in the UK.

“Food labels in their current form are not serving their purpose,” Ubamarket CEO and founder Will Broome  said in response to this study. “If 23 million British shoppers claim that they are impossible to read, supermarkets, suppliers and regulators should make commitments to reforming food labelling standards.”

Clarity and transparency in labeling are critically important for the health and wellbeing of the population. Vegans and vegetarians want to have confidence in their food choices. And those with food allergies want to remain alive.

It’s not too much to ask.

Photo Credit: Getty Images


Diane E
Diane E4 days ago

Thanks. Scary!

Barbara S
Barbara S7 days ago


Martha P
Martha P13 days ago

thank you

Thomas M
Thomas M18 days ago

thanks for sharing

Vincent T
Vincent T21 days ago


Maria P
Martha Pabout a month ago


Emma L
Ellie L1 months ago

Thank you

Mia B
Melisa B1 months ago

thank you

Daniel N
Past Member 2 months ago


Kevin B
Kevin B2 months ago

Thank you for sharing