Eating out and buying takeaway meals can sometimes be tricky, We discuss what vegans should expect and what to do if you are disappointed with service.
Relevant food law recognises that consumers’ choices can be influenced by several factors, including health, economic, environmental, social and ethical considerations. Existing law aims to protect consumers’ health but also the right to sufficient and appropriate information to ensure they can make choices according to their ethical needs. Under the regulations, staff in cafés, restaurants, takeaways or other eateries must be able to communicate with you effectively about vegan food options. They must show competence and knowledge, and communicate accurate and clear answers to your questions about ingredients derived from nonhuman animals, including questions about milk and other possible dairy ingredients in the food you wish to buy. If you ask, they must also be able to reassure you that they have done everything that they can to avoid cross-contamination of vegan food with non-vegan ingredients during all stages as far as possible and practicable, from storage to preparation to cooking and display. If they cannot provide this guarantee they must inform you.
Because there is a relationship between discussions about vegan food and allergens such as eggs, milk (and milk products) fish and crustaceans, vegans might like to know that allergen information must be provided to the consumer for both pre-packed and non-prepacked food or drink, and must be easily accessible, visible, and clearly legible to all consumers. Although allergen labelling does not constitute the entirety of information vegans need, they often take the bold text on pre-packed foods into consideration but are having problems in the non-prepacked sector.
Regulations for non-prepacked food concern food sold loose, for example, bread sold in bakery shops, meals served in a restaurant and food from a takeaway, and even sweets and chocolates sold loose.
The Food Standards Agency advises that in a restaurant or cafe, you should be provided with allergen information in writing. For example, full allergen information might be found on a menu, in an information pack, or on a written notice which is clearly visible. If you are self-serving from a buffet then you should see allergen information for each food item separately. If you don’t see written information, you should see a sign saying that you can speak to the staff. In addition, if you are reassured by staff about your concerns, the information given to you that you rely on should be backed up by written evidence. You should never feel awkward about asking to read the labels on any of the bought-in products that a food outlet uses.