Written by Shelly Beck, a first-timer at Expo West
Picture this – a vegan at Expo West visiting booth after booth of new products making vegan claims. It’s me, I’m the vegan. I’m talking multiple floors each with hundreds of brands near and dear to my heart or shiny and new, not to mention all the FREE SAMPLES. Imagine my dismay when I asked those running the booth if their product was certified vegan only to find out that it was just a soft claim they made themselves!
Obviously this is a less than minor issue and honestly, I still ate all the samples. However, I am just vegan by choice. There are some people out there who have no choice in their specialized diets. Not only did I see these soft claims in regards to vegan, but also to various allergens and gluten. Now because of what I do, of course I would see these claims and ask “Oh that’s great, who are you certified through?” Which was usually followed by a look of confusion or a meek “no one…. ourselves?” in return.
So what is someone with an allergy or intolerance supposed to think? I’m sure it’s so confusing and frustrating trying to figure out if something that says “nut free!” is actually nut free. Also, let’s not forget it is extremely dangerous and life threatening. Where’s the confusion (and danger), you ask? A soft claim versus certification. Sure any one can say their products are allergen free or vegan, but a certification ensures that it is 100% tried and true. So what happens if an allergenic customer sees these soft claims and thinks they are safe, but this particular product does not actually meet the standards to be certified allergen free? We can only hope that it would not result in an anaphylactic reaction, but that is the risk!
Read more about the different types of claims and their meanings here.