Once you’re feeling confident with our ‘Veganizing Your Breakfast’ section, this list of sneaky ingredients will come in handy when trying to decipher the ingredients list on some products.
If you’re new to VeganStart and make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up about it! Just make sure you strive to do better and improve! It’s just like developing any other habit, and will get easier with time as things get more familiar. #YouCanDoIt!
More importantly, congratulate yourself for becoming educated on your food options and being more informed on what you’re eating. Most people are unable to describe the ingredients on a label, but it really should be a life skill.
This list can get very long, so we’re starting with the most common items. If there’s one that you see often and would like us to include, please let us know!
Regurgitation never tasted better!
Is honey vegan? According to the Vegan Society, it isn’t, and that’s good enough for us! Here’s what they say:
Why isn’t honey suitable for vegans?
Bees produce honey for themselves, not for humans. They are often harmed in the honey gathering process. There are plenty of ways to protect insect populations, support crop pollination, conserve the environment and sweeten our food without farming bees or buying honey, propolis, beeswax or royal jelly. To replace honey in your diet try maple syrup, date syrup, agave nectar or even dried fruits.
The honey they make is their food for when seasons change and they can no longer rely on flowers. Just as we would preserve food for the winter, so do bees. Unlike most insects who become inactive over the winter, honeybees remain active in their hives, keeping themselves warm with their own body heat, fuelled by their honey. Commercial honey producers take the honey from them and either replace it with a white sugar concoction or will exterminate the bees. Killing them is unacceptable, and no human should take away their hard-earned winter food supply!
Bees are incredible creatures, living in complex communities that we’re only beginning to understand.
Did you know that bees are democratic and make decisions by quorum? Or that the Queen Bee should really be called the Mother Bee, as she doesn’t make decisions for the hive (the workers do!) If you have time, enjoy this hour long video presentation and learn how honeybee communities function and communicate: Honeybee Democracy*.
Bees also appear to have feelings and can respond with pessimism* as well as recognize human faces. A documentary that comes recommended is Queen of the Bees* which highlights many interesting aspects of these creatures.
Further, an incredibly interesting, thorough and informative read from a vegan and animal rights perspective is ‘Who Owns the Bees‘ by Lee Hall of Vegan Place. It would go very nicely with a fine cup of tea, perhaps with some agave syrup.
As vegans, we oppose the use and exploitation of bees. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t have any sort of relationship with them. We’d encourage ‘bee homing’ rather than ‘bee keeping’, where a home is offered to them, but they are not disturbed, and their honey is left for their own use.
* These pages contain some examples that rely on experiments with bees, which is an issue we struggle with. It’s helpful to learn about bees, but we’d prefer it if these were purely observational, and there was no interference. Unfortunately, examples of this can be hard to find and share, let us know if you know of any.
Curds and whey are a breakfast celebrated in children’s rhymes, but if Little Miss Muffet knew what went into dairy production, she’d likely be snacking on something different on her tuffet. Whey powder is also a strong spider attractant. (Just kidding! Actually, we don’t know for sure. ;)
Whey is 20% of the protein in cow’s milk and is isolated and refined into a powder. It’s used as a cheap source of protein and/or to “enhance crust browning, crumb structure and flavor, improve toasting qualities and retard staling”. Whey is actually a by-product of cheese-making, and the dairy industry has done a remarkable job of turning this waste into profit. It’s completely unnecessary in bread making, and the number of breads without it is a testament to this. These qualities can be attained with better recipes and baking, rather than adding an otherwise unwanted waste product.
Similar to whey, casein is another protein byproduct from the milk industry. The other 80% of the protein in cow’s milk is casein and is what gives cheese its stretchy characteristic. Some early plastics were made of casein, but now it’s a food additive and, surprisingly, can be found as a primary component in otherwise ‘non-dairy’ cheeses.
Watch out for other ingredients like calcium caseinate, or any other ‘caseinate’, which are likely derivatives of casein.
Lactose is the sugar found in cow’s milk. Lactic acid is another additive entirely and is most often vegan, made from bacteria.
Gelatin, the main component in Jello, is indeed ground up skin, bones and connective tissue like ligaments and tendons. It’s not found commonly in breakfast foods, but a good one to know about!
There are some new varieties of Vitamin D3. Vitashine has produced a Vegan Society certified version of Vitamin D3.
Vitamin D2 (aka ergocalciferol), which will most commonly be found in non-dairy milk, is always vegan.
TIP: A handy way to remember which version of Vitamin D is friendly: R2D2. We all love R2D2!
Other Added Vitamins
Nearly all other added vitamins are synthetic or vegan. D3 (cholecalciferol) is the one to watch out for. Pretty easy!
Mono, Di- and Triglycerides
It’s the Russian Roulette of the additive world. Any of these may, or may not, be vegan. You can contact the manufacturer (or search “is <brand name> <product name> vegan”) to try and determine this, but if you have a choice, it might be better to find a more wholesome brand of bread.
Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate
Another ingredient that may or may not come from animals. Take a pro-active step and request that the manufacturer explain the sources of their ingredients as you are vegan and need this information to decide whether or not to purchase their products.
Definitely not vegan, this one is made from human hair or duck feathers.
It’s from a synthetic or mineral source so, yes, vegan!
This additive, which helps ingredients mix, may or may not be vegan. Also be wary of stearic acid, and other ‘stearate’ derivatives.
This additive, which can inhibit the growth of yeast or mold, is vegan.
If the sugar is beet sugar, or any type of ‘raw’ or ‘evaporated’ or ‘USDA Certified Organic’ sugar, it will be vegan.
Some brands of cane sugar may be filtered with bone char. One major US brand, Florida Crystals, indicates they do not use any bone char and are very vegan-friendly.
“Bone char is not used at Taber’s sugar beet factory or at Montreal’s cane refinery. Bone char is only used at the Vancouver cane refinery. All products under the Lantic trademark are free of bone char. For the products under the Rogers trademark, all Taber sugar beet products are also free of bone char. In order to differentiate the Rogers Taber beet products from the Vancouver cane products, you can verify the inked-jet code printed on the product. Products with the code starting with the number “22” are from Taber, Alberta, while products with the code starting with the number “10” are from Vancouver, British Columbia.”
It appears most Canadian sugar is free of bone char; just be sure to watch out for the code on the Roger’s products.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t help us discern whether common foods use sugar that is vegan or not. Again, if it’s organic sugar, there is no need for concern. For other commercial products with sugar, it is simply buyer beware. This, however, is a difficult area to navigate, and it is understandable if you make this less of a priority. We would encourage you write companies to let them know you’re concerned about the sugar as a vegan (you may need to explain about the use of bone char). Perhaps they have already addressed this, and it’s always helpful to remind companies vegans are out there!
GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)
GMOs present many issues to be concerned with. What is the short-term and long-term impact and influence on other species in the wild? Does it create a dependency for farmers, and reduce food security? What about plants that are engineered to be more resistant to pesticides and herbicides? And the result that even more toxins are being added to the environment? This does not create a healthy habitat for other animals.
GMOs give us a many reasons to be alarmed. At the very least, they ought to be clearly labelled. However, we believe they are unnecessary, and we encourage readers to look further into the effects of GMOs as well. Once you’re educated, don’t be afraid to let companies know your feelings.
One way to ensure you avoid GMOs is to purchase certified organic products which will never contain GMO ingredients.
Animal testing is a new concern for plant based foods, until recently it wasn’t even something to think about, but companies have been now found to be testing on animals. There’s a very detailed article about it here on the Vegan Fidelity blog. Brands to watch out for include:
- Just Egg
- Impossible Foods
- Perfect Day (they don’t produce items themselves, but include brands like Brave Robot.)
It’s frustrating that this is even something we have to watch out for, and hopefully with more vigilant action from vegans, companies will go with non-animal testing methods for their ingredients.
Here are a few sites with comprehensive ingredient listings, let us know if you’d recommend another!
- The IVU has an extensive page on ingredient listings: http://www.vrg.org/ingredients/
- VeganPeace also has a considerable list: http://www.veganpeace.com/ingredients/ingredients.htm
- A quicker, more general list has been offered by the Vegetarian Society: https://www.vegsoc.org/veggieaware