Hidden Animal Ingredients In Products

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Hidden Animal Ingredients In Products

There are many animal ingredients hidden in products. It is important to distinguish the difference between “vegan” and “plant-based” foods and products. A “vegan” diet or product essentially means that the products contain no meat, dairy, egg, or other animal byproducts, or have been tested on animals. Products that are certified vegan are products that have been certified to contain none of those ingredients, or have been tested on animals. However, plant-based food products are foods that are made primarily from plants, but can contain animal products or byproducts. Visit the Vegan & Plant-Based Lifestyle page for more information.

There are a number of ingredients that are commonly used in foods that have inconspicuous names and can make it hard to identify if foods are truly vegan. Below is a non-exhaustive list of ingredients that are commonly found in food and other products, and should be avoided for a vegan lifestyle.

  • Albumin – protein of egg whites
  • Allantoin – uric acid from most mammals; often used in cosmetics
  • Alpha-hydroxy – may come from lactic acid
  • Ambergris – whale intestines. Used in perfumes and food and beverage flavoring
  • Angora, wool, cashmere, mink – fur of animals
    • now popular in false eyelashes
  • Beeswax and honey – some vegans don’t consider honey to be an animal product, but I do not consume it
    • agave nectar is a good substitute for honey
  • Biotin – found in milk and yeast
  • Boar bristles – hair from hogs
  • Bone char”* – usually not listed this way on labels. Used to bleach common foods (white and powdered sugar, flour), make bone china, and as aquarium filter charcoal
  • Bone meal – crushed or ground animal bones. Fertilizers, source of calcium in supplements; toothpastes
  • Calcium stearate – mineral derived from cows or pigs
  • Capric acid – animal fats
    • typically not included on labels of gum, ice cream, candy, baked goods, liquor
  • Carmine, cochineal – red coloring from ground up female cochineal beetles (red dye, too)
  • Casein, caseinate, whey (milk-derived)
  • Castor; castoreum – creamy substance from muskrat and beaver genitals. Less common now
  • Gelatin – from bones, cartilage, tendons and skin
    • commonly found in marshmallows, jello, yogurt, frosted cereals, molded salads
  • Glucose – animal tissues and fluids unless specified as vegetable
  • Isinglass – gelatin from the air bladder of the sturgeon and other fish
    • used in fining wine, vinegar, beer, bottled juices, soft drinks
  • Lactose – natural sugar in milk and other dairy products. Anything with ‘lact’ in it is likely from milk
  • Lecithin – animal tissues and egg yolks (unless specified otherwise, such as soy lecithin)
  • Lutein – yellow coloring from egg yolks or marigolds
  • Myristic acid (tetradecanoic acid) – animal fats
  • Natural flavorings/sources – often from animal sources
  • Oleic acid – animal tallow (fat)
  • Palmitic acid – animal or vegetable fat – baked goods, butter, cheese flavoring
  • Pancreatin – extract from pancreas of cows and pigs – used as a digestive aid
  • Pepsin – enzyme from the stomachs of pigs
  • Propolis – resinous cement collected by bees – food supplement, natural toothpaste
  • Rennet – stomach lining of calves and other baby animals
  • Sodium stearoyl lactylate – May come from cows, hogs, animal milk, or vegetable-mineral sources and is used in cake, pudding, pancake mixes, baked goods, margarine
  • Stearic acid (octadecanoic acid) – animal fats and oils used in Vanilla flavoring, chewing gum, baked goods, beverages, candy, soaps, ointments, candles, cosmetics, suppositories and pill coatings.
  • Suet – hard fat found around kidneys and loins. Also sold in cake form as a wild bird food
  • Sugar – depending on the type of sugar and the manufacturer, it may or may not contain bone char. Unless the package is certified vegan, it should be assumed that bone char was used in the process
  • Tallow – solid fat from sheep and cattle. Found in waxed paper, margarine, soaps, crayons, candles, rubber, cosmetics, and more
  • Vitamin A (A1, retinol) – can be from egg yolks, fish liver oil, or vegetables (the package should specify)
  • Vitamin B12 – vegan sources: cyanocobalamin, methylcobalamin
  • Vitamin D3 – cholecalciferol comes from lanolin (sheep’s wool) or fish liver oils
  • Artificial food colorings/dyes – although the coloring itself may not contain animal products, they are commonly tested on animals and should not be considered vegan. Some common artificial colors:
    • Yellow 5 & 6
    • Red 40
    • Blue 1

*Bone char (charred animal bones), AKA “natural carbon,” is used in bleaching and filtering sugar – granulated, brown, and powdered – as well as flours. If a label does not specify “vegan,” bone char was likely used. Beware of supermarket brands that source from multiple producers.

Although not every vegan product has the certified vegan logo, it is the easiest and most credible way to identify truly vegan products. If you are considering purchasing a product and are unsure an ingredient is vegan, contact the manufacturer to clarify. Here at Vegan Survival Foods, I personally contact the manufacturer to ensure the products are vegan, so you can be confident that what you are getting is an ethical product.

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