French NGO lists ‘veg’ foods with animal ingredients

Red Orangina was one product on the list, that contains the red food colouring cochineal, derived from beetles

A French consumer NGO has announced a list of 12 apparently-vegetarian products that do, in fact, contain “hidden” animal ingredients, such as gelatine in yoghurt and cochineal in fizzy drinks.

The NGO Foodwatch has highlighted that some of these products do not even clearly mention their animal-derived ingredients on their labels, or do so only vaguely.

Such ingredients included pork or beef gelatine, resin from insects, or cochineal derived from beetles.

The products on the list include wine, yoghurts, tiramisu, ice cream, sweets, tinned vegetables, cheese, fizzy drinks and even apples, from giant brands such as Yoplait, Nestle, Fuji, and Haribo.

A statement from Foodwatch said: “Food manufacturers use [these ingredients], but they are happy not to label them clearly.”

A recurring problem, the NGO said, is that often labels are not specific enough, or rely on too much knowledge of ingredients on the part of consumers.

For example, Foodwatch said that Panier de Yoplait 0% yoghurts - in raspberry, strawberry, cherry and blackberry flavour - only mention “gelatine”, and neglect to say where it comes from.

Sweets manufacturers Haribo and Cémoi were accused of doing this too - but with pork gelatine - in their marshmallow products.

In response, the NGO launched a petition to demand that labels be more specific.

When contacted by Foodwatch, president of Yoplait France, Nicolas de La Giroday said: “The gelatine is of beef origin, in a quantity less than 0.5%.”

Cémoi confirmed that its gelatine was of pork origine, and defended its “mousse-like power” to “incorporate air into our marshmallow liquid”.

Similarly, other products such as Red Orangina, Fuji apples, a Comté cheese from Système U, and even many wines, relied too heavily on the consumer having extensive product knowledge and did not make animal-based ingredients clear enough, Foodwatch said.

(Even apples were affected. (Apple and Pear Australia Ltd / Flickr / CC BY 2.0))

Red Orangina labels list “carmin colouring”, which is derived from cochineal beetles; the Fuji apples are often sprayed with shellac, a natural resin produced by insects (ice cream by Unilever brand Carte d’Or also contains this); and the Comté cheese contains rennet, which comes from an enzyme in the stomach of slaughtered veal.

Many wine producers also use gelatine and a kind of fish paste to clarify their wines, the NGO said.

Despite the warnings, Foodwatch conceded that some of the products containing animal-derived ingredients were sufficiently explicit on their labels.

These included the Nestle Viennois chocolate yoghurts, whose labels clearly state “pork gelatine” as an ingredient; and broad beans from vegetable brand Cassegrain, which list “chicken stock” on the packet (even if they do not mention this on the front of their box).

The controversial list publication comes amid growing unrest between butchers and vegan activists in the Nord.

Tensions have erupted multiple times in recent months, including incidents where vegan activists have smashed butcher’s windows and daubed their shops with graffiti.

Similarly, butchers had planned to retaliate by having a barbecue outside a local vegan convention, which was later cancelled due to the threat of violence.

Some butchers have now gone as far as to hire security guards, and Laurent Rigaud, president of the butcher-charcutier union in the Nord, said: “It is not acceptable for businesses to be in danger.”

But Solveig Halloin, spokesperson for vegan group Boucherie Abolition, said: “This announcement is simply to make butchers appear as victims. Security guards are a totally useless precaution. But butchers are not victims. The real victims are inside the windows; decapitated and eviscerated.”

The full list of products from Foodwatch is as follows:

  • Panier de Yoplait 0% yoghurts - in raspberry, strawberry, cherry and blackberry (beef gelatine)
  • Nestlé Viennois chocolate yoghurts (pork gelatine)
  • Carrefour Tiramisu (pork gelatine)
  • Carte d’Or Desserts Ice Cream with meringue and strawberry pieces (shellac from insects)
  • Auchan Raspberry Macaron (beef gelatine)
  • L’Authentique Petit Ourson Guimauve marshmallow bears (pork gelatine)
  • Haribo Chamallows marshmallows (pork gelatine)
  • Fuji apples (shellac from insects)
  • Cassegrain broad beans with onions and carrots (chicken stock)
  • Système U Comté A.O.P. (rennet)
  • Red Orangina (carmin acid from cochineal beetles)
  • Some wines (gelatin and/or fish oil)

Stay informed:
Sign up to our free weekly e-newsletter
Subscribe to access all our online articles and receive our printed monthly newspaper The Connexion at your home. News analysis, features and practical help for English-speakers in France

More articles from French news
More articles from Connexion France
Other articles that may interest you