Hidden ingredients: what to watch out for
Shopping for vegan food products is easy once you know how, but sometimes it can be challenging at first if you’re not sure what to look for. Here is a list of common non-vegan ingredients and potentially non-vegan products to be aware of when food shopping.
Butterfat/buttermilk: commonly used in chocolate (including dark chocolate)
Carmine/cochineal (E120): a red dye made from crushed beetles
Fish oil: beware anything ‘omega-3 enriched’ (such as margarine, olive oil and bread) as these sometimes contain fish rather than plant sources of omega-3. If the product contains fish it will say so on the packaging.
Gelatine: made from animal bones and connective tissues. Often used in marshmallows and chewy sweets and in some jelly desserts
Ghee: clarified butter, used in some Indian products such as naan bread, curries or dhals
Lanolin: a grease secreted from sheep’s skin and extracted from their wool, in some cases from the wool of slaughtered sheep
Lactose: milk-derived. Often used as an additive in products which might not be expected to contain milk, such as crisps and dips
L-Cysteine (E920): this additive can be vegan or non-vegan and is sometimes made from hair or feathers
Shellac (E904): insect secretions, sometimes used as a glazing agent on sweets and fruit
Vitamin D3, or unspecified “Vitamin D”: Vitamin D3, or unspecified “Vitamin D”: Vitamin D3 used in fortified foods is not suitable for vegans, as it is obtained from lanolin (a grease derived from sheep’s wool). There is one form of D3 that is derived from lichen and suitable for vegans, which is marketed as Vitashine. Products which contain 'Vitamin D' and don’t specify which form it is could contain the usually animal derived vitamin D3. (Vitamin D2 is suitable).
Some products to watch out for which are sometimes unsuitable for vegans:
Breakfast cereals: can contain milk, vitamin D3 or honey
Cereal bars: many contain honey
Thai curry paste: often contains fish, although some brands don’t
Margarines and spreads: most margarines and spreads contain milk products and/or vitamin D3; however there are some vegan brands available, such as the Pure dairy-free spreads which are available from most supermarkets.
Jelly: check it isn’t made with gelatine
Sweets and marshmallows: often made with gelatine
Stock powders: can contain milk products
‘Veggie’ burgers or sausages: many contain milk or eggs, including Quorn which is never suitable for vegans
Worcestershire sauce: contains fish. Vegan versions are available in the ‘free from’ section at the supermarket or from wholefoods shops
Alcoholic drinks: some are filtered using animal products, particularly beers, wines and ciders
Orange-coloured soft drinks: some (but not all) contain gelatine as a carrier for the colour beta-carotene, but are not required to state on the packaging that they contain gelatine as it is not considered an ingredient
Fresh pasta: often made with eggs. Dried pasta is usually suitable for vegans
Noodles: can be made with eggs. Look for (non-egg) wheat noodles or rice noodles instead
Dark chocolate: often contains milk ingredients in the UK