Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hidden ingredients: what to watch out for

 Hidden ingredients: what to watch out for

Shopping for vegan food products is easy once you know how, but sometimes it can be challenging at first if you’re not sure what to look for.  Here is a list of common non-vegan ingredients and potentially non-vegan products to be aware of when food shopping.

Things that shocked me in this article:  Um Worcestershire sauce has fish?!?! Didn't know that, Also didn't know that all soy cheeses are not created equally, some contain animals by the product of Casein, you can buy brands of soy that are casein-free but they don't melt well.  Did you know this, and a lot of vegetarians don't, that most dairy cheese is made with pepsin, rennet, or lipase, which are coagulated enzymes from the stomach linings of slaughtered cows and pigs.

The moral of my story here is that there are so many things in our food that we don't know about and it shouldn't be that way. I want to read a label and be able to pronounce what I'm putting in my children's mouths. Hopefully this list will help you to be able to do the same.


Albumin: is used to thicken or bind in baked goods, soups, cereals, puddings and other products. It is a protein found in eggs, milk, and Blood.

Beeswax (E901)

Butterfat/buttermilk: commonly used in chocolate (including dark chocolate)

Carmine/cochineal (E120): a red dye made from crushed beetles, colors juices, candy, baked goods, and other processed foods.

Casein, (cochineal, or carminic acid): this can be found in soy cheeses btw, also in many other things it's a protein derived from animal products that is used to enhance texture in sour cream, cheese, and dairy items.

Fish oil: beware anything ‘omega-3 enriched’ (such as margarine, olive oil and bread) as these sometimes contain fish rather than plant sources of omega-3.  If the product contains fish it will say so on the packaging.

Gelatin: made from animal bones and connective tissues by boiling the bones skin and other parts of cows and other animals.  Often used in marshmallows, candy, desserts and chewy sweets and in some jelly desserts

Ghee: clarified butter, used in some Indian products such as naan bread, curries or dhals


a grease secreted from sheep’s skin and extracted from their wool, in some cases from the wool of slaughtered sheep

milk-derived. Often used as an additive in products which might not be expected to contain milk, such as crisps and dips

Lard : is a fat taken from hogs, it is an ingredient in crackers, pie crusts, baked goods as well as refried beans and other processed foods.

L-Cysteine (E920): this additive can be vegan or non-vegan and is sometimes made from hair or feathers

Shellac (E904):
insect secretions, sometimes used as a glazing agent on sweets and fruit

Suet: This hard, white fat from cattle and sheep is found in margarine and baked goods.

Vitamin D3, or unspecified “Vitamin D”: Vitamin D2 is the form of vitamin D which is suitable for vegans, vitamin D3 is not suitable.  Products which contain Vitamin D and don’t specify which form it is could contain D3

milk-derived, processed into cheese, found in commercial food products, protein powders, crackers and breads.

White Sugar: Over half of the cane refineries in the United States use bone char (charcoal made from ground animal bones) as their activated carbon source.

Food products

Some products to watch out for which are sometimes unsuitable for vegans:
Breakfast cereals: can contain milk, vitamin D3 or honey

Cereal bars: many contain honey

Thai curry paste: often contains fish, although some brands don’t

Margarines and spreads: most margarines and spreads contain milk products and/or vitamin D3; however there are some vegan brands available, such as the Pure dairy-free spreads which are available from most supermarkets.

Jelly: check it isn’t made with gelatin which is made from animal bones and connective tissues.

Sweets and marshmallows: often made with gelatin, which is made from animal bones and connective tissue.  They sell a wonderful animal free marshmallow fluff as well as marshmallows.

Stock powders: can contain milk products

‘Veggie’ burgers or sausages: many contain milk or eggs, including Quorn which is never suitable for vegans

Worcestershire sauce: contains fish.  Vegan versions are available in the ‘free from’ section at the supermarket or from wholefoods shops

Alcoholic drinks: some are filtered using animal products, particularly beers, wines and ciders

Orange-coloured soft drinks: some (but not all) contain gelatin as a carrier for the colour beta-carotene, but are not required to state on the packaging that they contain gelatin as it is not considered an ingredient.

Fresh pasta: often made with eggs.  Dried pasta is usually suitable for vegans

Noodles: can be made with eggs.  Look for (non-egg) wheat noodles or rice noodles instead

Dark chocolate: often contains milk ingredients in the UK

Bon Appétit,

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