Marks & Spencer (M&S) is under scrutiny due to its new vegan range, Plant Kitchen, bearing warnings that the products are ‘not suitable for milk or egg allergy sufferers’.
The ‘plant-based, totally delicious’ range comprises 60 meal options aimed at vegans, flexitarians and meat-reducers, however some dishes carry warnings in the small print that production is carried out in factories which also handle animal-derived ingredients, including eggs and milk.
Following the launch of the range – which positions itself as appropriate for Veganuary subscribers – allergy sufferers dubbed M&S’ vegan labelling as ‘misleading’ across social media, with one consumer likening it to ‘putting out gluten-free products with a gluten allergy warning on them’.
Defending its position, the retailer responded to dissatisfied consumers on Twitter by reiterating that its range is ‘100% suitable for vegans’, and explaining that it had ‘engaged with both the Vegan Society and Allergy UK’ when developing the recipes. M&S went on to state that while it ensures ‘the highest hygiene standards are being met’, allergen declarations are included on-pack ‘as a precaution for those who have severe allergies to trace amounts’.
We ask all our manufacturing suppliers to complete a robust allergen risk assessment to identify any potential risk for cross-contamination
A spokeswoman for the retailer adds: “We ask all our manufacturing suppliers to complete a robust allergen risk assessment to identify any potential risk for cross-contamination in the raw material supply chain and within the manufacturing environment. This includes the potential for process equipment to be cross-contaminated, contamination from personnel or the factory environment.
“Using the risk assessment we agree appropriate controls with the supplier to manage this risk. This includes segregation of production and storage areas to prevent physical cross-contamination. Between non-vegan and vegan production there is a fully validated clean. This approach is validated and verified on a routine basis and independently audited by our third party audit service provider.”