By Annie Arnone
The Ram in the Rye’s new menu advertises a vegan quinoa burger that is not actually vegan.
A legend on The Ram’s menu details the dietary specifications of each food item, including Halal, gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options. While the quinoa burger is labeled as vegan, the buns may contain eggs and milk ingredients.
According to Mike Leary, the Ram’s kitchen manager, the quinoa patties are made in-house and the buns used for the burgers and sandwiches are distributed to them by Ace Bakery.
General manager of the Student Campus Centre Michael Verticchio said in an email that the quinoa burger has a vegan-friendly patty and the default buns can be substituted with a gluten free, vegan option (also supplied by Ace).
However, Rosanna Dicecco, a customer-service representative for Ace, said that no buns produced in their bakery are 100 per cent dairy or egg free.
“We cannot promise that our products are allergen free to our customers due to airborne ingredients and cross contamination,” she said.
Second-year English major Martese Bellizzi suffers from both dairy and egg allergies, and refuses to dine at the Ram after hearing about the menu contradictions.
“I know people like the Ram, but I’ll never eat there after hearing this,” she said. “It’s not only about being vegan or vegetarian, allergies are serious matters.”
A person with dairy and/or eggs allergies can suffer from a mild reaction, such as a stomach ache or hives, to more serious complications, like vomiting or life-threatening anaphylaxis.
Bellizzi’s allergy falls on the severe end of the spectrum. She said that if she were to ingest dairy or eggs, she would go into anaphylactic shock— the results being potentially fatal.
The Foods for Special Dietary Use section of the Canadian Food and Drug Regulations states that mislabeling packages or falsely advertising a product for dietary use is strictly prohibited.
According to the Food and Drugs Act, “Minor offenders face a fine of no more than $50,000 and/or imprisonment for no more than six months. Indictable offences carry a stiffer fine not exceeding $250,000 and/or imprisonment for less than three years.”
The Act also says that restaurants will be held liable even if the fault falls on the supplier.
Alana DelZotto, a vegan Ryerson arts and contemporary studies student, said she was devastated to hear that the quinoa burger was not vegan. When she ordered it for the first time, they served it to her with mayonnaise.
“I knew the sauce didn’t look right, so I asked the waiter to clarify that it wasn’t mayonnaise. He told me that if it was a vegan burger, the sauce should be egg-free.” Following her meal, a staff member apologized to her. They confirmed that the sauce on her “vegan” burger was made with eggs.
Ram staff told The Eyeopener that the quinoa burger can be ordered as a vegetarian option, which comes with mayo, or a vegan option, which does not. The onus falls on the customer to specify their dietary needs, despite misleading labeling.
“I think [The Ram] needs to come forward with an apology and make it known that [their burgers] aren’t vegan,” said DelZotto. “There aren’t enough options for people who are vegan, as is.”
Alex Dabideen, manager of the Ram, said the kitchen will correct their menu mistake as soon as possible.
“If [the chef] says it’s vegan, it should be vegan. I’ll bring it to his attention and we will make the changes,” he said.
Verticchio added that it is encouraged for customers to share any dietary restrictions, so Ram staff can “ensure the food prepared is in accordance with their wishes.”