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June 13, 2017

Take a Closer Look

Post by Mala Machado

They are unmarked. They are sneaky. They are animal-derived. And they make their way into tons of foods that you would otherwise think are perfectly safe. It’s so very frustrating. Some of these ingredients have been around FOREVER and they become difficult to tease out.

I want to dedicate this space to call out some of those disguised ingredients.

I’m not implying that you must avoid all of these things to call yourself a vegetarian. I can assure you that when I eat at a restaurant, I’m likely ingesting some of them. It’s just that knowledge is power. Be informed.

  • Rennet – A stomach enzyme from baby mammals including cows, lambs, and goats.  It’s used in the process to make some cheeses.
    • Where does this turn up?  Cheese, especially hard cheeses.
    • What YOU can do:
    • Check the label for “microbial rennet” or “vegetable rennet” instead of just “rennet”.
    • I personally feel pretty safe with most of the Sargento brands of cheese. But love this  site for a list of vegetarian cheeses that can be sorted by brand and type: CHEESE!
  • Gelatin – A product derived from boiling down meat and bones from various animals including cows, horses, fish, and poultry.
    • Where does this turn up? Soft cheeses, yogurts, jello, mousse, panna cotta, jelly, marshmallows, jelly/gummy candy, the list is pretty endless.
    • What YOU can do:
    • Check the label for gelatin and/or look for agar-agar, carrageenan, arrowroot/kuzu, guar gum or xantham gum in products that usually have gelatin.
  • Cochineal or Carmine Food Dye (E 120, E 124) – Red dye derived from the bodies of the female cochineal insect.
    • Where does this turn up? Anything that appears red (from clothes to lipstick to food). Can be found in marinades, dressings, drinks, desserts, icing, jams, yogurts and cheddar cheeses. More ubiquitous than even gelatin.
    • What YOU can do:
    • Check the label! is this starting to sound familiar?
    • When in doubt, avoid artificially red colored foods. I personally have an aversion to reddish yogurts now…but that’s just me.
  • DHA – DHA is super important and I think we should all consider taking this. Especially those who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. It’s great for kids, too. However, most DHA is fish oil based.
    • Where does this turn up? In vitamins, notably, in prenatal vitamins. Also shows up in milk, both organic and inorganic (usually noted on the front of the carton).
    • What YOU can do:
    • Don’t take the prenatal vitamins that have DHA included. Instead, look for a DHA supplement that comes from Algal Oil. My personal favorite is from Target – DHA
    • Look for milk that has DHA but DHA from Algal Oil. My personal favorite is from Horizons – Milk
  • White or Granulated Sugar – This one’s a real shocker. Some sugars can’t be considered truly vegetarian because of the process by which they are made.  It is not uncommon to use animal bone char in the process to bleach & filter cane sugar. Bone char is made by charring animal bones, more commonly from the bones of cattle.
    • Where does this turn up? Granulated sugar, certainly, but also brown sugar and powdered sugars  made from white sugar.
    • What YOU can do:
    • Try to consume raw sugars or avoid refined cane sugar unless you  know it’s a company that uses a different process. Some of those companies include Wholesome! & Florida Crystals Co.
    • Consume organic sugar instead. Bone Char is not on the National Organic Program’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. So, sugar that is organic would not have been through the bone char process.
    • I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this website, but OrdinaryVegan has posted a list of non-bone char using sugar producers here. You may find others as well.
updated 7/14/2017 MM
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