By Ghanim al-Sulaiti
Yesterday, I accidentally ate dairy in the form of yoghurt branded as an alternative to regular dairy yogurt, here in Doha. On the menu of the popular cafe, I opted for ‘coconut yoghurt’ given it is made from coconut milk, and a good vegan alternative...or so I expected.
Given the cafe was offering the coconut yoghurt as an alternative to the regular yoghurt, I didn’t even think to check, that all may not be what it seems.
After consuming most of the yoghurt, I started to have some doubt and went on to enquire with staff as to how long they had been serving the vegan alternative. It turned out the coconut yoghurt was not genuine coconut yoghurt made from coconut milk, but instead was ordinary, dairy yoghurt with artificial coconut flavouring. I was frustrated, angry and came to the realise that I had just consumed dairy for the first time in six years.
Unfortunately, our world is not as vegan as I sometimes wish it were. There are uses of dairy in things one would suspect would be vegan, but you can’t be too careful and it’s always a good idea to double check when trying new products — even when something is described as an alternative.
Restaurants may claim to understand what veganism is, and they may be keen to jump on to the fast-growing trend of offering vegan food but that doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes, haven’t trained their staff in the area of veganism, or are simply…wrong.
I’ve even seen things labelled vegan that list whey, honey, dairy, and eggs in products’ ingredients. It’s always a good idea to check, educate, and have conversations to really ensure that products are genuinely vegan, and while veganism has grown this year faster than any other year there still isn’t a worldwide understanding.
Despite my anger, I also had to adopt some understanding. The reality is that we live in a non-vegan world and this is just another reminder that we all need to do our best to keep educating and helping people understand why we choose to not consume animal products.
Encouraging more vegan options at restaurants is a great way to make vegan eating easier for the millions of people who are moving away from animal products — so we have to stay positive. I spoke with the café staff and went on to explain that they could very easily offer genuine coconut yoghurt, which would encourage vegan visitors and would also mean the company were offering a sustainable, vegan, healthy version of their dish.
I think that here in the Middle East, once more restaurant owners get an idea of how easy, delicious and profitable it can be to serve vegan food, it won’t take much to get them to add it to the menu permanently.
Have you had accidentally consumed non-vegan food as a result of a restaurant’s mistake?
* The author is an expert in vegan wellbeing and health. Instagram handle: @Ghanim92
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