12 Foods You Always Thought Were Vegan—But Aren’t
With manufacturers looking out for cheaper ingredients, animal products are increasingly finding their way into foods you thought were safe.
“Vegan friendly” isn’t just a label that some wine companies slap on their bottles to appeal to animal lovers—most vino is actually hiding some sneaky animal products. Wine tends to look murky unless it’s had a lot of time for the sediment to settle, so winemakers speed up the process by adding ingredients called “fining agents” to make reds and whites as clear as the crystal they’re poured in. Companies usually use egg whites, milk proteins, gelatin, or substances called isinglass, derived from fish swim bladders, according to Wine Enthusiast. Vegan winemakers either skip the fining agents altogether or substitute bentonite clay for the animal products.
More of a beer person? Most beers are vegan-friendly, but not all make the cut. Like wines, beers need fining agents to make the product shelf-ready. Most breweries have good enough filters that they can skip the weird ingredients, but some still take the traditional route, using gelatin and isinglass.
Search for your favourite beer on barnivore.com to make sure yours doesn’t contain animal products. Classic Guinness gets the green light, for instance, while Guinness Porter isn’t confirmed vegan (yet). If you’re overwhelmed by the rules, read these expert tips for becoming vegan.
Refried beans aren’t necessarily a vegan-friendly protein for your Mexican dinner. Some brands, like Old El Paso Traditional Refried Beans, contain hydrogenated lard. And as a quick refresher, lard is just another word for pig fat.
Just because it’s veggie-heavy doesn’t mean it’s nothing but plants. Check the label closely before chucking a can of soup in your cart. Campbell’s Old Fashioned Vegetable and Healthy Request Vegetable are both made in beef broth (and say so clearly on the label), and Progresso Vegetable soup contains egg whites in its noodles. Both brands have vegetarian versions, too, so just make sure you’re grabbing the right one.
The butter alternative was introduced as a way of saving money and later gained traction as a potentially healthier spread—it never claimed to keep dairy out of refrigerators. Some products, like Land O’Lakes margarine sticks and Becel Original, contain buttermilk and/or the milk protein whey, so scan the ingredients list before you buy.
Meat-free patties are a staple in many vegetarian households, so you might be surprised to learn they aren’t always suitable for a vegan table. MorningStar Farms Original Sausage Patties, for instance, announce that they’re 100 percent vegetarian, but a quick scan of the ingredients shows they also contain egg whites and whey. The brand’s Veggie Lovers Vegan Burger is (as you would assume) vegan, as are plenty of other meat alternatives.
OJ made of nothing but oranges is, of course, vegan, but fortified juices aren’t guaranteed to be animal-free, because those health boosts might have come from animal products. When your orange juice label boasts omega-3s, be aware that they often come from oily fish (the nutrition label should tell you if it contains fish), and vitamin D is sometimes derived from a substance in sheep’s wool called lanolin, according to Eat This, Not That.
If you thought marshmallows were “basically pure sugar,” you’re not totally off, but they do need something to give them that spongy texture. The ingredient in question: gelatin, which is made from animal bones, cartilage, and skin. If you’re a strict vegan, hunt down an animal-free option. Don’t miss these other essential items every vegan should have on their shopping list.
Take a hard look at a Starburst ingredients list. Like many other chewy candies, they include gelatin to help create that texture. But there is hope for vegans who want some “unexplainably juicy” candy. The company says it’s working on a new formula that will remove animal products without sacrificing quality. Given the facts that Wrigley’s successfully removed gelatin from Skittles in 2009, we might one day see vegan-friendly Starbursts in our candy jars.
Love it or hate it, candy corn isn’t vegan. For one thing, it contains gelatin, but its crunchy coating is also a no-go for strict vegans. Candy corn contains confectioner’s glaze, also known as shellac, which is also known as beetlejuice. You see where this is going. The glaze is made of resin secreted by Kerria lacca bugs. Not only is it an animal byproduct itself, but dead insects inevitably end up in the mix.
Some barbecue sauces get the green light, but be sure to double check the ingredients list before you start drowning your bean burger with it. For instance, some specialty Heinz sauces such as Texas Style Bold & Spicy BBQ Sauce use anchovies for flavour.
The curiously strong mints are curiously non-vegan. Altoids contain gelatin in their short list of ingredients, so you might want to consider switching brands if you’re strict about animal products.
After learning what foods are not vegan, next find out which essential nutrients you could miss if you eat a vegan diet.