Monday, May 14, 2007

Mars Candy Bars not Vegetarian-Friendly in UK

The news broke this weekend that Mars quietly changed the recipe for some of their most popular candy bars in Europe which now makes them verboten for strict vegetarians.

imageUp until now those vegetarians who eat dairy were able to enjoy Mars Bars, Twix, Milky Way and Bounty bars. Though they do contain milk products, there were no products in the ingredients derived from dead animals.

Not so as of this month. Mars switched to a whey product that uses rennet. Rennet is an enzyme harvested from slaughtered calves’ stomachs.  It’s often used in the production of cheeses.

I’m not a vegetarian though I don’t eat meat from mammals. However I will eat products that contain some animal by-products such as gelatin or rennet (cheese). I don’t really like the idea of eating boiled down animal joints, but I like my gummi bears an awful lot.

The big question at the moment is how this revelation will effect the fight to Keep Chocolate Real with the FDA and the Grocery Manufacturers Association. The new proposal not only would allow the swapping of cocoa butter for vegetable fats, it would also allow the use of whey in chocolate products as well. Whey is a cheap filler. Though nutritionally it may improve the profile of a chocolate bar (it’s protein instead of sugar or fat) it can also be made, as mentioned above, using rennet. Wouldn’t it be sad if suddenly so many mass-manufactured chocolate bars were suddenly off limits to so many people?

More commentary here.

UPDATE: It looks like Mars underestimated their vegetarian clientelle and have reversed their previous decision and will now use whey made in an all vegetarian way. Masterfoods was innundated with 6,000 emails. It makes me wonder what else we could get companies to do if we just told them what we wanted or would accept. More news here.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 7:45 am Tracker Pixel for Entry     CandyNews

  1. For our next trick, we’ll replace the cocoa solids with sawdust!

    Comment by Erik on 5/14/07 at 4:44 pm #
  2. Well, add this to the list of why I should never be a vegan…. raspberry

    Comment by Sera on 5/15/07 at 8:00 am #
  3. I love the line in the news article about how less strict vegetarians can eat their candy. Most vegetarians I know try to avoid as many meat by-products as they can. Good thing I don’t eat the Mars bars anyway. And with so many food allergies out, you would think that the companies would be looking at what they put in their products. I guess they just look at their bottom line and how much profit they can make.

    Comment by Mia on 5/17/07 at 10:41 am #
  4. Is this in the US as well? Does anyone know a contact number?

    Comment by ALH on 5/17/07 at 11:30 am #
  5. Cybele's avatar

    ALH - I don’t think it applies to the US, but first check the ingredients of the candy bar for WHEY. I looked at the Snickers I have here and there’s no whey in it, so it’s a non-issue. If the FDA allows the change in the definition of chocolate it’s possible that American chocolate will contain whey which could be made with slaughtered-animal ingredients.

    Comment by Cybele on 5/17/07 at 11:35 am #
  6. I’m with Mia. As a vegetarian of 10 years, I can tell you that there is nothing “strict” about not eating calf stomach. This is really so disappointing. *sigh* I hope they are put through the ringer for this.

    So, then, do the UK and US supply of Mars candy come from different sources? Do they use different ingredients? I want to know if I’ll never be able to eat Milky Way again. :[

    Comment by Theresa on 5/18/07 at 11:09 am #
  7. Cybele's avatar

    Theresa - the Mars products sold in the US are made in the US. Most of the others are either made in Canada or Europe. You have to read the ingredients as they vary from country to country. (American Starburst contain gelatin, UK ones don’t.)

    The thing to keep an eye out for is Whey. Most American Mars products don’t even use Whey (as it’s not currently allowed in chocolate), so it’s a non-issue.

    Not all Whey contains rennet (from calves’ stomaches), but Mars can’t be sure so they’re telling people that it “might” just to cover their butts. (Just as not all cheese uses animal rennet.)

    I know they’re making fun of vegetarians in the UK about this issue, but the plain fact is, if you don’t eat something and someone goes and changes a tried-and-true recipe, I think you have the right to complain to get them to change it back or just stop buying it. The point is that they need to tell you so that you can make an informed decision. If some vegetarian hadn’t called and asked, I’m not sure they would have just openly disclosed it on the package.

    Comment by Cybele on 5/18/07 at 11:54 am #
  8. Apparently they’ve reversed their decision, and will go back to using vegetarian whey.

    Comment by Tricia on 5/19/07 at 4:49 pm #
  9. Masterfoods Uk’s decision to revert to vegetarian rennet in its Whey is on the TV news (20/5/07)this morning…“politicians take note..not all U-turns are bad” said BBC x-political correspondent and current affairs presenter Andrew Marr.

    Travelling in the US and Latin America for several months recently I had to be on the lookout for Cuajo (Rennet in Spanish), and Grenetina (Gelatine in much of South America), or Gelatina in Chile and Argentna.

    Comment by Dave Bentley on 5/19/07 at 10:09 pm #
  10. I thought FDA should take strong step against MARS company

    Comment by Jaan on 5/24/07 at 10:24 am #
  11. Cybele's avatar

    Dave - thanks for the update!

    Jaan - why should the FDA take steps against Mars?

    Comment by Cybele on 5/24/07 at 10:44 am #

    Comment by DEB on 6/12/07 at 12:31 pm #
  13. Cybele's avatar

    Deb - you’ll have to look on the wrapper. All food products sold in the US have to identify where they were made. My guess is yours was made right here in the US.

    Comment by Cybele on 6/12/07 at 12:36 pm #
  14. As a vegetarian in the Uk, i have to say im dissapointed , being a sucker for mars :(

    Comment by shannon on 1/23/08 at 10:58 am #
  15. Cybele's avatar

    Shannon - did you read the update? Mars reversed their previous position and their products that contain whey should be vegetarian friendly.

    Comment by Cybele on 1/23/08 at 11:02 am #
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