Banknote row illustrates vegan challenge

By Jo Francis, Friday 02 December 2016

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The row over the use of tiny amounts of tallow in polymer banknotes illustrates the challenges in achieving 100% vegan products.

It was weirdly prescient that I should have been contemplating the notion of vegan printing, just a few days before the row over the use of tallow in the new polymer fiver erupted.

The news that De La Rue’s polymer substrate also contains tiny amounts of animal derivative means that two major suppliers are now going back to the drawing board on their formulations.

The fact that such miniscule amounts are involved – specifically 0.003% in the case of De La Rue – started me thinking.

If one were to analyse the existing cotton paper banknotes would these be just as likely to contain trace elements like this?

I’m thinking about things like the plasticisers used in inks.

The current furore over polymer banknotes is, I suppose, a pretty unique situation. There are very few products that citizens who object to the use of animal products can argue that they are effectively forced to use. A national currency is one of those items.

But it just goes to show the amount of detailed analysis that would be involved if one were to attempt a vegan offering. Being 100% animal derivative-free is more difficult than many of us might think.  

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