You go to the supermarket and pick up a product that you think may be vegan, read the ingredients list and it’s all good except it says that it ‘May contain milk’ – is the product vegan or not?
On food packaging in the UK we have an ingredients list stating exactly every ingredient within the product. Then there is a little sentence underneath saying “May contain…”, followed by a list of ingredients i.e. milk, nuts, etc. But what does this actually mean? Does the product contain these things or not?
Let us explain
The ingredients list is a list of all the ingredients that are used to make the product, so we can assume that all these items are actually in the product.
The ‘may contain’ list is a list of ingredients that could have accidentally found its way into the product due to manufacturing processes. For example, a company could be making nut bars in the morning and fruit bars in the afternoon. A nut particle (that’s a very very tiny bit of nut) could have found its way into the fruit bar. The nut isn’t actually an ingredient of the fruit bar but they have to explain that there could be a nut in the fruit bar in case someone is highly allergic to nuts.
The “May Contain” list is usually a list of things that are used in the factory that people could be allergic to i.e milk, gluten, nuts, celery etc. Although many people could be allergic to lots of different foods, there are 14 major allergens to be aware of. Here is the list as mentioned by the Food Standards Agency, UK.
For more information regarding the guidelines, please read this info sheet.
We don’t want to state here that, from an allergen perspective, the product is fine to eat despite the ‘May Contain’ list of ingredients, far from it. If you have allergens then it’s obviously best to stay clear of the a product even if it ‘May Contain’ the food you are allergic to.
But surely if the product says that it may contain dairy, then it’s not vegan?
The Vegan Society recommends that if a product says that it’s vegan but may contain traces of milk, eggs, etc, then it’s still OK. They are however, trying to get as many companies as possible to display the Vegan Society logo to say that they are committed to not using animals in production of their products.
If you found this article helpful, maybe you would like our Vegan Survival Guide?