Next time you go to the French supermarket, you may want to take a very close look at what's inside the strawberry ice cream, tinned beans or Orangina you're about to buy.
Common items such as ice cream, fizzy drinks or even apples may contain traces of pork or beef, a leading European consumer watchdog has warned.
On Thursday, the food charity Foodwatch released the result of its study titled 'Hands off! Animals gatecrash these products' in which it accused food manufacturers of a lack of transparency over their food labelling and of misleading consumers.
It listed a dozen supermarket products containing these 'hidden' animal extracts.
The items singled out include the much-loved fizzy drink Orangina, which contains traces of insects, Yoplait's fruit yoghurt made with beef extracts , Carte d'Or ice cream also containing beef extracts, marshmallows with pork ingredients, tinned vegetables containing chicken stock and a tiramisu dessert with traces of pork.
The watchdog has accused food producers of concealing this fact by adding animal additives to products which the consumer would not expect to contain them, or by using names for animal-based additives which the consumer does not understand.
“The food industry knows full well when it uses food additives made with animal substances. We are also allowed to know so that we can choose freely what we want or what we don't want to consume,” Foodwatch campaign manager Mégane Ghorbani said.
While some French brands, such as Bonduelle, which sells tinned vegetables, or Auchan supermarket's own brand use animal extracts in unexpected products, they label their products clearly, the watchdog said. But other brands are deliberately misleading.
Most ususpecting French parents for example probably don't know that when they are buying French school kids favourite 'le petit ourson' sweet – a teddy-bear shaped marchmallow covered in milk chocolate – that it contains traces of pork.
This goes for other sweets from the Haribo brand. The pork comes from the gelatine in the sweets, but only 'gelatine' is listed in the ingredients, which most people may not know is made from animals, the watchdog said.
Another example Foodwatch gives is the ingredient 'shellac', also called E904, which is made out the cochineal insect and is found in the wax added on apples to make them shiny.
“Consumers want to know if their products contain animal extracts as they are vegetarian, or by religious conviction. They have the right to know,” Ghorbani told Franceinfo. “Things are not clear enough for the consumer. Sometimes marketing becomes more important that essential information they need to know,” she added.
The organisation carried out a study in the French supermarket over several months. Here's the list of products containing 'hidden' animal extracts they came up with.
Dairy products and desserts:
Panier de Yoplait 0%, Framboise Fraise Cerise Mûre Yoplait: contains traces of beef from the gelatine
Nestlé Le Viennois Chocolat Lactalis (Nestlé Ultra Frais): contains traces of pork from the gelatine
Carrefour's own brand Tiramisu: contains traces of pork from the gelatine
Auchan's own brand 'Macaron aux Framboises': contains traces of beef from the gelatine
Ice-cream 'Façon Glacier, Fraise & Morceaux de meringue Carte d’Or': contains 'shellac', an additive made from cochineal insects.
'L’Authentique Petit Ourson Guimauve (Cémoi)': contains traces of pork
Haribo's 'Chamallows, L’Original': contains traces of pork and of coloring containing conchenille insect extracts
'Orangina rouge': contains E120 made from insects.
Wine: animal-based gelatine and fish glue are used as clarifying agents in wine production, even when its organic. Because these
ingredients are used in the making of the product, they don't have to be added to the list of ingredients.
Cheese, fruit and vegetables:
Système U's own brand cheese 'Comté A.O.P U bio': it contains the enzyme rennet, which is found in a calf's stomach.
Tinned mixed vegetables for the Bonduelle brand 'Flageolets extra-fins, oignons et carottes Cassegrain': contains chicken stock.
Apples: some apples, such as the Fuji variety, may be covered in wax which contains 'shellac' made from insects.