Despite our best efforts, it is sometimes hard for vegans to navigate a world where animal products are so pervasive. Even after more than a quarter century of avoiding animal products, I am sometimes still surprised with how humans use animal parts in everyday life. A few days ago I was shocked to learn that the word “bone” in fine “bone” china did not refer to the colour of my formal dishes but rather to the fact it is actually partly made out of actual bones… Most of the time of the bovine variety. So I decided to do some research and put a guide together of items that could be a potential threat to your vegan lifestyle.
Warning! Animal Products Ahead!
- Wine and Beer – Some wines and beers use gelatine, bone marrow, honey, lactose and fish bladder during the production process or even as ingredients. To find out if your favourite wines or beers are vegan, get in touch directly with the winery or the brewer. Most of them are usually quite happy to hear you are taking an interest in their product(s) and may even offer alternatives if you sadly find out your brew no longer suits your lifestyle.
- Marshmallows – Most commercial brands contain gelatin which is made of bone marrow. Not to worry though, if you are in the mood for some freshly made rice cereal/marmallows squares, some varieties found at many health food stores offer a non gelatin alternative.
- Jello – Contains gelatin
- White Sugar – Many commercial plants still use bone char in their manufacturing process. It’s best to avoid all white sugar as it is often difficult to find out where it was produced; especially in processed foods. Stick to natural sweeteners such as maple syrup or Agave.
- plastic bags – Commercial shopping bags often use a chemical derived from animal fat in order for the bags not to cling to metal during the manufacturing process or to each other post production. Best to use re-usable bags.
- L-cysteine – Is a chemical found in many commercial breads/bagels. It is made with bird feathers, pig hair and in some cases human hair. I recommend making your own breads and rolls and be on the look out for this particular chemical when shopping for bread. Staying away from commercial processed goods, is the best way to avoid L-cysteine.
- Perfume and Ice Cream – Some perfumes and even ice cream contain a chemical called castoreum. It is a yellowish secretion produce by the castor sac close to a beaver’s anal gland. It has a sweet aroma and flavour and is used throughout many industries looking to include these characteristics into their product.
- Jams – Some jams include gelatin
- Red Dyes and shellac – Many red dyes and other food colouring come from using whole insects or the resin they produce. Look out for carmine, shellac and natural red#4.
- Crayons – Although crayons are mostly made of paraffin, many manufacturer will favour cheap alternatives such as the fat of unused animal carcasses from the meat and dairy industry.
- Dry Roasted Nuts – Some dry roasted nuts will contain gelatin
- Flavoured chips – Never mind all the unhealthy chemicals found in these chips, they often also include dairy.
- Gel Capsules – Most gel caps in your medicine cabinet and vitamins are made out of gelatin.
- Ready made Mixes – While these mixes might be a time saver especially when you have kids at home, they are not only unhealthy but also often contain beef fat.
- Omega-3 additives – Many processed foods and drinks now profess to be healthy by adding fish oils to your diet. You will find these fatty acids added in juices, supplements, certain types of milk and many more.
- Bone China – Yup… Still very angry about this one…
- Fizzy Pop – Sodas sometimes contain insect derived dyes.
- Worcestershire Sauce – The traditional type will contain fish but vegan versions are readily available.
- Cosmetics – Once again many of these will contain animal by-products but most also test on animals. You also have to be suspicious of subbrands claiming not to do animal testing while their parent companies do all the testing.
- Cleaning Products – It’s the same as the cosmetic industry. You will find a slew of products, even so called environmentally friendly ones, that will contain animal by-products.
- Apples and waxed fruit – This one came as a complete shock while on our recent road trip in the Okanagan. While shopping for a few snacks to take back home, I examined the bag to see where the apples were from. To my surprise I read the apples may be waxed with a vegetable and/or shellac base wax for freshness. Shellac based wax is made from a resin produced by the lac beetle which made these particular apples non vegan.
While this list is far from complete I hope it helps. If you know of more products that should be included on this list, send me a quick message in the “Contact Us” section of the site and I will add these items as I become aware of them.
If you’ve enjoyed this blog post you may want to have a look at the proposed changes to the soon to be revised Canadian Food Guide.