Beware of Hidden Animal Ingredients in Food

Friday, October 22, 2010 by: Cindy Jones-Shoeman
Tags: animal ingredients, food, health news

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(NaturalNews) Vegetarians and vegans are usually known for making wise food choices, seeking healthy foods. They, along with other consumers, might be surprised to find out that some seemingly harmless foods actually contain hidden animal ingredients.

Some newer nutrition labeling has helped vegans. For example, if a person looks at the ingredients list of a product, at the end of the list is a summary of sorts that warns people of some of the basic ingredients found in the product, whether or not they are obvious. One such label might read this way: "Contains Wheat, Peanuts, Milk." These labels will alert a vegan immediately that the product contains non-vegan ingredients such as fish, milk, or egg products; consumers will then know to avoid the product. However, this type of labeling is created only to address food allergies, meaning other animal products (such as ingredients derived from beef) and other foods avoided by vegans (such as honey) will not be listed there.

So how do vegetarians and vegans avoid hidden animal products? Fortunately, some companies will label their products as "vegan" when they are, but many companies are not as forthcoming. For example, some store brand cake mixes use beef by-products, and a consumer simply has to read through the list of ingredients. However, there are other hidden animal ingredients found in food that some consumers might not be aware of. Following are just a few.

Gelatin: Some consumers are surprised to discover that gelatin comes from animals and is usually made from various beef and cow parts. That innocent-looking, fruity-tasting dessert is actually mostly animal protein. In addition to gelatin desserts, it is often used in marshmallows, so be sure to read the list of ingredients.

Carmine extract: This seemingly innocent-sounding ingredient is actually made from insects called cochineals. The extract usually adds a reddish color to the food it is in; because it comes from a living creature, vegans will choose not to eat it.

Sugar: Not all sucrose is avoided by vegans, but vegans will make the effort to purchase vegan sugar. Some refined sugars are not vegan, and it's not because they come from an animal product. It's because of the way they are processed. Many sugars are processed through filters made of bone char (that often comes from beef bones). So what's vegan sugar? Vegan sugar is simply a type of sugar that has not passed through a bone char filter. It is not always easy to distinguish vegan sugar from other sugar, but Vegetarian Journal suggests that products labeled "100% Pure Beet Sugar" are definitely vegan and products labeled "100% Pure Cane Sugar" are probably vegan.

This list is by no means complete, but it just goes to show that truth in labeling applies only when a consumer knows what the labeling means. Most products will not tell consumers that gelatin is derived from beef, that carmine extract is derived from insects, or that sugar passes through a beef product. Vegetarians and vegans must be careful consumers, and sometimes that means buying products specifically labeled "vegetarian" or "vegan." More often, though, it means becoming familiar with hidden animal products in foods, and these three are simply a few to be aware of.


About the author

Cindy Jones-Shoeman is the author of Last Sunset and a Feature Writer for Academic Writing at Suite101.
Some of Cindy's interests include environmental issues, vegetarian and sustainable lifestyles, music, and reading.

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