The statistics show that not only is the number of participants in ‘Veganuary’ growing, but also the number of people who decide to adopt a vegan diet long term. Veganism has varying definitions but in terms of food denotes a plant based diet, avoiding all animal foods such as meat (including fish, shellfish and insects), dairy, eggs and honey.
If you are looking at vegan options for your menu to enhance your business and your offering, then it is not just the new dishes that you are going to offer that you need to consider, but also any legal implications.
There has been a great deal in the press regarding food allergens and this issue needs to be considered. Vegan items cannot just be listed as vegan, they also have to have all of the allergen information available as with your other menu items to comply with food information regulations. In practice this should not be too complicated as you will already have measures in place, but you should ensure that both staff training and any documentation are updated to include any new products before these are launched.
It is important to ensure that any vegan dishes that you serve have not been contaminated with non-vegan foods during storage, preparation, cooking or even display and so ingredients should be kept separated. You should also ensure that your kitchen staff are aware of the implications should they, for example, serve a vegan with meat in their dish. This would be in breach of the Food Safety Act as you are not selling food of the nature or substance or quality demanded and falsely describing or presenting food. There are also potential implications under human rights and equality legislation – to view veganism as a dietary choice only would be inaccurate in many cases, and in a case involving an ethical vegan former employee of the League Against Cruel Sports, the question of whether ethical veganism is a ‘belief ’ and therefore a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 will be raised. The case (Jordi Casamitjana v LACS) is due to be heard in March this year.
A move towards providing more vegan options may attract new customers and also only requires a little careful thought and preparation. While the legal consequences of a genuine mistake are likely to be mild, particularly if dealt with promptly and sympathetically, the PR consequences can often be far more damaging.
For any legal enquiries please visit Poppleston Allen's website.