The difference between vegan
and dairy-free

Claims finally explained
Dark and milk chocolate leaves for snacking

The difference between vegan
and dairy-free

Claims finally explained
Always wondered what the difference between vegan and dairy-free was? How about other claims such as plant-based or lactose-free, are they different?

What is important to look at?

1 - The claim itself

Does the name of the claim contain an ingredient that can result in a food allergy or a food intolerance such as milk products or gluten? 
If yes, then the claim is strictly regulated by EU law.

2 - The “may contain” statement

Have you ever noticed on packs: “may contain milk”? The ‘may contain’ labeling is used for products that do not have milk as an ingredient but are for example made on lines that also share milk-containing ingredients. It results in unavoidable and involuntary presence of milk allergens due to cross-contact.  Despite measures taken, this hazard cannot be prevented, especially not with chocolate where typical wet cleaning regimes are not possible. Barry Callebaut therefore, where needed, labels a precautionary allergen declaration like ‘may contain milk’. Products with a may contain labeling should not be consumed by allergic persons

Vegan chocolate snack bars
Vegan chocolate snack bars

So what is the difference between claims?

1 - Dairy-free

A strict claim describing a product that has been produced in a fully-segregated environment i.e. no dairy is used in the manufacturing area and even the air is filtered. The end-product does not have detectable levels of dairy and is suitable for dairy allergy sufferers.

Dairy-free products do not include a “may contain” statement.

Barry Callebaut vegan products logo
Vegan logo on Barry Callebaut products
Needs to be accompanied by the sentence, "Vegan based on ingredients list only; possible cross-contact not taken into account." And for export to Americas: "Vegan claim not recommended for Americas market"

2 - Vegan

Vegan is not regulated however points to a product made without animal ingredients and without the use of living animals or animal-derived products. Vegan products might have been manufactured in an environment where dairy is also used, vegan products can therefore still have a “may contain” labeling when there is an allergen that can occur through cross-contact in the production environment. Hence they are not safe for dairy allergy sufferers. 
As there is no legal framework for the vegan claim food manufacturers have 2 options: 

  • design their own vegan logo to communicate about their product being vegan
  • have their products certified by one of the 17 international vegan labels. Products are certified on the condition that all requirements of the label are fulfilled. It might include a maximum dairy cross-contamination, for example EVU requires maximum 1g dairy /kg of end product

A “may contain milk” statement is required when there is no guaranteed very low max cross-contamination level confirmed by Barry Callebaut. Please check the product specification sheet. 

3 - Lactose-free

Describes a product that does not contain lactose. Whilst plant-based products are naturally lactose-free, dairy products such as milk can be lactose-free too. Indeed, lactose can easily be removed from dairy products thanks to an enzyme called lactase. Therefore a lactose-free product isn’t necessarily dairy-free.

A “may contain milk” statement can be needed. In absence of a EU regulation on lactose-free and knowing that there are national guidelines and limits, we indicate the max lactose level guaranteed on our lactose-free products


4 - Plant-based

Similar to vegan, it describes products made from plants only, without animal ingredients. 

A “may contain milk” statement is needed.

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Our R&D and regulatory experts can provide you with the support you need on your production lines or on your pack to make your plant-based products a success. Get in touch with your account manager.

Dairy-free pistachio praline

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