Living a vegan lifestyle can be super-simple and full of only limited hiccups along the way. Sometimes, however, a curveball is tossed our way and we discover that a product we thought was (literally) harmless is actually non-vegan. The horror!
Even though I’ve been vegan for nearly 9 years, I still remind myself to scrutinize ingredient labels of new foods before tossing them into my cart (and sometimes even familiar foods which may have been reformulated!). Every once in a while, a non-vegan ingredient creeps onto our plates. This does not mean we are bad advocates for the Earth and for the animals——rather, it means we are human and the food industries can be sneaky with how they produce stuff. Here are a few things to look out for on your next trip to the supermarket:
1. “Non-dairy” creamer. Most of the time, “non-dairy” means… well, non-dairy. When it comes to powdered or liquid coffee creamer, this is usually not the case. These safe-sounding products still often contain milk ingredients, albeit in smaller quantities. Check out soy, almond or coconut-based creamers to be certain you’re drinking your coffee cruelty-free.
2. Worcestershire sauce. Anchovies are a typical ingredient in this saucy staple. This means many Bloody Mary mixes are often non-vegan and non-vegetarian. If your bartender can make this drink from scratch, you can request to leave this sauce out. And, if you would still like its complex flavors to accompany your homemade dishes, there is vegan Worcestershire sauce out there!
3. Refined sugar. Some foods and beverages involve certain processing agents that come from animal sources. This includes a lot of refined sugars, which typically use bone char in their processing. Each veg person decides if this bothers them to the point of only purchasing (or baking with) vegan sugar.
4. Some beer and wine. Alcoholic beverages are another source of concern for some. Isinglass (fish bladders) or egg products are sometimes used to clarify wine and beer. Barnivore.com is a great resource to double-check whether your drink is animal approved.
5. Stir-fry sauces. Fish sauce, clam sauce, oyster sauce and others can find their way into all varieties of Asian-inspired dishes, whether you find them on a menu or you make them at home using bottled sauces. Call or email the manager of your favorite takeout spot to get a list of the dishes that don’t use any of these ingredients so you’ll be prepared when you do dine out.
6. Candy coated in confectioner’s glaze. True story: one day I found myself with two different packages of candies in hand—each from the same company—and discovered one flavor used carnauba wax to coat the candy and the other flavor used confectioner’s glaze. “Glazed” also describes what my eyes looked like because, what the hell? Carnauba wax is sourced from the leaves of a certain palm tree while confectioner’s glaze, or shellac, comes from bugs—specifically, the Lac insect (Eww).
7. Snack chips. Unless it says “sour cream” or “cheese” or “bacon” in the flavor description, potato chips are totally vegan, right? Wrong! I’ve discovered milk ingredients in Salt & Pepper flavored chips, as well as some Barbecue flavors. Also, honey is sneaked into all kinds of chip varieties.
8. Cereals and candies with hidden gelatin. Gelatin is derived from collagen from a variety of animal body parts. It ends up in Jello, some cereals (I’m looking at you, Frosted Mini Wheats), candies, pastries and all sorts of beauty and hygiene products.
Download these apps to help decipher animal vs. non-animal ingredients on the go: