Picture the scene. A lovely friend of mine has invited me over for snacks and drinks and is in a food shop (which will remain nameless), trying to pick out crisps, crackers and choccies. After checking each product is vegetarian, a cursory glance at the allergens on the back reveals that almost every packet of goodies contains cow’s milk goats milk, whey… ‘Why,’ she asks me when I come round ‘do they put milk in everything?’ I’m at a bit of a loss. I was gutted to find out that, when I turned vegan, that my Monster Munch eating days would be over. Memories of swapping the crisps at school and putting them on my fingers like rings and then munching them off have been consigned to the vaults of history. Walkers (who make them) have added a milk derived ingredient fairly recently when they were removing monosodium glutamate (MSG) from their products. For me, this just amounts to replacing one evil with another, but hey ho.
Many people are shocked that loads of crisps contain milk. They are even more shocked when they realise that products like Quorn do too. Quorn is one of the most surprisingly un-vegan brands around. Not to worry though, soya mince and vegan sausages and burgers are readily available in supermarkets, so until Quorn wake up and get with the vegan programme, you needn’t miss out.
It’s no great surprise that lots of chocolate contains milk, when the clue is in the name (milk chocolate) or in the colour (white chocolate) but did you realise that even some brands of dark chocolate contain milk? It seems crazy, but it’s true. Again, a quick look at the back of the packet is all you need to do to establish what’s in there. Sometimes, it can be confusing. After Eights, for example, used to be vegan, but then they changed their recipe to include butterfat, which is of course another milk derivative. Another confusing thing is that European law states that if milk free products are produced in a factory that also produces products that contain milk, they have to put a wee disclaimer on their packets. It’s basically to cover their backs so that they can’t be sued by anyone with a severe allergy, but I have spoken to friends with allergies and most say they’d be happy to consume a milk free product, even if it did say ‘ May contain milk traces due to manufacturing methods used’ or whatever…Vegan organisations sell these foods, so as long as milk products (or any other animal ingredient of course!) doesn’t appear on the ingredients list, I’m generally happy to go with it.
Unless it says ‘Contains cow’s milk’ or something similar, it can be a bit of a minefield, so for your information, some of the commonest milk-related terms are: Butterfat; Caesin (mostly found in cheese); Lactose; Whey and Lactitol (E966).
The good news is there are lots of yummy snacks out there that don’t contain any cow juice at all, hurray! Most of Golden Wonder crisps are vegan and if, like me, you miss putting crisps on your fingers, Hula Hoops to the rescue! Or you could always go with Salt and Vinegar or Pickled Onion flavour Ringos. McCoys do a lovely Salt and Malt Vinegar flavour crisp and you’ve got a good choice with Kettle Chips too. I particularly enjoy Tyrrells vegetable crisps. They have very simple ingredients and are always the first to be scoffed at a party in my experience. Who wouldn’t feel good munching away at a beetroot-based crisp pretending to be healthy?
Even Pringles have options although their labelling can be a bit misleading.
Make sure where it says vegan that there is a little tick next to it (like on my favourites, Paprika flavour.) Sometimes it says vegan, next to vegetarian, but there’s no tick, so be aware. Bafflingly, Walkers have vegan crisps in BBQ Rib, Prawn Cocktail and Roast Gammon flavours amongst others, so if you’re craving a meaty flavoured crisp, don’t despair!
A lot of dairy free chocolate can be pricy, so if you’re shopping to impress, by all means go for Booja-Booja or Lindt 70% or something, but slightly more affordable and still party-like are Bendicks Bittermints or Elixabeth Shaw Dark chocolate Mint Crisp. A company dedicated to dairy free chocolate is Moo Free, which does all sorts of flavours, including milk and white chocolate, using rice milk. Also, check supermarket own brands, because they can hold pleasant surprises in the milk-free department, and not just in the ‘free-from’ section either.
So you see, avoiding dairy can be a bit mystifying at first but once you get the hang of it, it’s a breeze. Bear in mind though that INGREDIENTS CAN CHANGE, with companies fiddling about with recipes in the never ending pursuit of ‘new and improved’, so do check your favourite vegan products every now and again, especially if they’ve suddenly changed the packaging. Viva! have a great guide to going dairy free, as do many of the other animal charities. With lactose intolerance on the rise and many people simply wanting to cut back on dairy, demand is on the rise, so hopefully one day, dairy free will be the norm.