One of the biggest challenges, especially for a new vegan like myself, is knowing what foods I can, and can’t buy. Going food shopping has turned into something of a scientific investigation, which normally results in a huge amount of trust being allocated to food manufacturers in their labelling. However trustworthy and correct that labelling may be, it still leaves me feeling somewhat nervous and apprehensive about my ‘vegan’ purchases. It’s these feelings that have nudged me into more self-education about the not so obvious ingredients that are added to foods, and derive from animals. Below is a list, ranging from the obvious to the not so obvious items to avoid on a vegan diet.
- Meat: Beef, lamb, pork, veal, horse, organ meat, wild meat, etc.
- Poultry: Chicken, turkey, goose, duck, quail, etc.
- Fish and seafood: All types of fish, anchovies, shrimp, squid, scallops, calamari, mussels, crab, lobster and fish sauce.
- Dairy: Milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, cream, ice cream, etc.
- Eggs: From chickens, quails, ostriches and fish.
- Bee products: Honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, etc.
Ingredients or additives derived from animals
- Certain additives: Several food additives can be derived from animal products. Examples include E120, E322, E422, E471, E542, E631, E901, E904 and E920.
- Cochineal or carmine: Ground cochineal scale insects are used to make carmine, a natural dye used to give a red colour to many food products.
- Gelatine: This thickening agent comes from the skin, bones and connective tissues of cows and pigs.
- Isinglass: This gelatine-like substance is derived from fish bladders. It’s often used in the making of beer or wine.
- Natural flavourings: Some of these ingredients are animal-based. One example is castoreum, a food flavouring that comes from the secretions of beavers’ anal scent glands.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Many products that are enriched with omega-3’s are not vegan, since most omega-3’s come from fish. Omega-3’s derived from algae are vegan alternatives.
- Shellac: This is a substance secreted by the female lac insect. It’s sometimes used to make a food glaze for sweets or a wax coating for fresh produce.
- Vitamin D3: Most vitamin D3 is derived from fish oil or the lanolin found in sheep’s wool, and is often used to fortify foods like cereals. Vitamin D2 and D3 from lichen are vegan alternatives.
- Dairy ingredients: Whey, casein and lactose are all derived from dairy.
Foods that often (but don’t always) contain animal ingredients
- Bread products: Some bakery products, such as bagels and breads, contain L-cysteine. This amino acid is used as a softening agent and often comes from poultry feathers.
- Beer and wine: Some manufacturers use egg white albumen, gelatine or casein in the beer brewing or winemaking process. Others sometimes use isinglass, a substance collected from fish bladders, to clarify their final product.
- Sweets and candy: Many varieties of jelly, marshmallows, gummy bears and chewing gum contain gelatine. Others are coated in shellac or contain a red dye called carmine, which is made from cochineal insects.
- French fries: Some varieties are fried in animal fat.
- Deep-fried foods: The batter used to make deep-fried foods like onion rings or vegetable tempura sometimes contains eggs.
- Pesto: Many varieties of store-bought pesto contain Parmesan cheese.
- Pasta: Some types of pasta, especially fresh pasta, contain eggs.
- Crisps: Some crisps are flavoured with powdered cheese or contain other dairy ingredients such as casein, whey or animal-derived enzymes.
- Refined sugar: Whilst most brands sold in the UK are bone-char free, manufacturers sometimes lighten sugar with bone char (often referred to as natural carbon), which is made from the bones of cattle.
- Roasted peanuts: Gelatine is sometimes used when manufacturing roasted peanuts in order to help salt and spices stick to the peanuts better.
- Some dark chocolate: Dark chocolate is usually vegan. However, some varieties contain animal-derived products such as whey, milk fat, milk solids, clarified butter or nonfat milk powder.
- Some produce: Some fresh fruits and veggies are coated with wax. The wax can be petroleum- or palm-based, but may also be made using beeswax or shellac.
- Worcestershire sauce: Many varieties contain anchovies.
I’m sure this list is by no means exhaustive, so please do leave a comment below if there’s anything I should add.