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I am looking at a bar of Co-op Fairtrade Dark Chocolate. It is labelled as suitable for vegetarians but not vegans. The reason is not obvious to me. Here are the listed ingredients:

Sugar, Cocoa Mass, Cocoa Butter, Emulsifier (Lecithins (Soya)), Vanilla Extract.

These sound vegan to me.

There is also a boiler plate allergy advice saying that it may contain peanuts, egg, milk and gluten. None of these appear to be intentional ingredients but I guess that they fear the possibility of cross-contamination from other products in the same factory.

Could be just that this danger of cross-contamination excludes it from being vegan? If so, my morals could accept tiny amounts of unintentional animal products.

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I am fairly certain this is merely a labelling oversight. I would consider it vegan and buy it (in fact I do buy the bar I think you are describing from time to time).

Many UK retailers do not bother to label their products as vegan simply because of a general lack of awareness about veganism until recent years. Major ones seem to be catching on little by little, but there are still countless "accidentally vegan" products out there. I find myself reading the ingredients and making a decision simply on that basis a lot of the time. Perhaps also worth noting that I have seen a few reports of products which clearly contained milk or honey being labelled as vegan, so I pretty much always read the ingredients anyway. More scrupulous vegans will look for a trusted trademark like the Vegan Society's, or ask the manufacturer or retailer for information.

Most people and organisations, including the UK Vegan Society, do not consider possible cross-contamination from dairy products or eggs which are not intentional ingredients to make a product non-vegan.

It is possible for sugar not to be vegan, but that does not seem to be the case for UK products, and would in theory preclude it from being labelled as vegetarian also (considering that alcoholic drinks processed with animal products are not allowed (at least by the UK Vegetarian Society) to be labelled vegetarian).

I would caution here that, at least at the time of my most recent visit, the Co-op were selling two Fairtrade branded dark chocolate bars, the 70% cocoa one with no non-vegan ingredients, and the 85% cocoa one including (for some strange reason) milk. Milk is clear in the ingredients list.

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    Being vegan today seems to be a rerun of being vegetarian many years ago. So, the cross-contamination is probably not the explanation. It is more probable that they have not even considered the question. I am not sure which of those bars that I have, maybe neither. I see "cocoa solids 50% minimum". – badjohn Feb 27 at 15:43
  • I cannot find an online image of the bar that I have. The packet is mostly red and bears the FAIRTRADE logo (and the Coop one, of course). It is 135g. – badjohn Feb 27 at 15:47
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    Not sure that's the bar I'm thinking of, but anyway I think the same applies - if it has entered the head of someone in the organisation that labelling the product as vegan might result in increased sales, the message either hasn't yet reached the packaging design department or the redesign hasn't been implemented yet. My vegan parents currently have 6 chocolate bars in the house from 4 different retailers. Only one (Vego bar) is labelled as vegan... @badjohn – Zanna Feb 27 at 16:17
  • I think this answer would make sense if the shop wasn't the Co-op. The Co-op has excellent Vegan/Vegetarian labelling - it extensively labels its own brand products, including toiletries and cleaning products, which other supermarkets often don't. – Daveoc64 May 13 at 10:42
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It may also be a financial choice.

In many countries, brands have to pay to be labeled as organic, vegetarian or vegan (at least to be labeled with official, internationally recognized labels). The farmer markets of my country are populated with booths of local producers who offer organic, local food, yet they aren't labeled "agriculture biologique" (i.e. organic crops) because the French label costs a lot of money for it to be used and small farms can't afford it.

The European vegan label require companies to request a license offer in order to be allowed to use it, and as for the French organic farming label, I wouldn't be surprised if this operation costs money.

It may also be because of the boilerplate allergy advice that indicates the potential presence of dairy products and eggs. Many vegans wouldn't eat a product that was produced in the same location as non-vegan products because of the potential "contamination". It may be another reason why this chocolate bar is labeled as vegetarian but not vegan.

  • Indeed, those seem like the most plausible reasons. I would like to avoid the possibility of cross-contamination but I accept it as a compromise with the real world. – badjohn Mar 8 at 9:32
  • @badjohn That's a very personal decision to make, I guess that's why it isn't labeled as vegan. I don't know for sure in this case :) – avazula Mar 8 at 9:37
  • Indeed and I would understand if that were the explanation. I guess that the ideal might be a label to indicate that no non-vegan ingredients were deliberately added. Of course, that would be too complex to be feasible. Instead, the less strict among us will just need to read the label carefully and make our own judgement. – badjohn Mar 8 at 9:40

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