IAN FLETCHER AND STEVEN RAEBURN
A Mars a day? Not if you're a vegetarian
VEGETARIANS with a sweet tooth may find many chocolate treats are off-limits, because they are now being made with animal products.
A recipe change to some of the UK's most popular chocolate bars by giant confectionery manufacturer Masterfoods will prevent strict vegetarians being able to enjoy a range of the UK's most popular chocolate brands.
Mars, Bounty, Snickers, Twix and Milky Way, as well as Maltesers and Minstrels, are now off the menu, because they will include whey containing animal rennet, a by-product of the slaughter process.
Trade magazine The Grocer said yesterday it had seen a letter to a consumer from Masterfoods which explained that, due to a change in the ingredients used in their chocolate recipes from 1 May, 2007, many of the products now contain whey.
The company explained that this was a by-product of the cheese-making process and uses rennet from an animal source.
Masterfoods corporate affairs manager Paul Goalby said: "Since changing the sourcing of our ingredients, we are no longer able to ensure our chocolate will be animal rennet-free and so we made the principled decision to admit it was not guaranteed to be vegetarian.
"If the customer is an extremely strict vegetarian, then we are sorry the products are no longer suitable, but a less strict vegetarian should be fine to enjoy our chocolate."
Products with a best-before date up to 1 October are not affected by the change and remain suitable for vegetarians. The company is offering a refund on any bar that has a later best- before date to those who cannot eat animal rennet.
The Vegetarian Society said in 2004, the last full year for which figures are available, the meat-free foods market was estimated at £626 million, a 38 per cent rise on the 1999 level. Data from the Office of National Statistics also shows that confectionery sales in the UK continue to rise.
A Vegetarian Society spokesman said: "There are about three million vegetarians in the UK, which is a significant part of the market. It is very disappointing that Masterfoods products are no longer vegetarian-friendly. We hope the company will reconsider this move."
George Rodger, a representative of the society in Aberdeen, said he deplored the change, which he believes is being made for economic reasons, to the detriment of UK farmers.
"Ninety per cent of the cheese produced in this country is produced with non-animal rennet. One must suspect Mars is going overseas to get whey products," he said.
He described the move as unnecessary, and criticised the company for their avoidable use of other animal products.
LEAVING AN UNPLEASANT TASTETHIS is not the first time foodstuffs have been "outed" for including animal products somewhere in their manufacture.
In 2002, fast-food giant McDonald's agreed to pay $10 million (£5 million) in an out-of-court settlement after Hindus living in the US claimed the company used beef extract in the oil with which it cooked French fries. In Britain, a majority of wines are "fined" using meat and fish products, including bull's blood, to improve their clarity. And supermarket apples are often given their shine by a coat of shellac, a protective covering derived from the shells of insects.
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