By Elyssa Schwartz
Whoever started the cliché “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” was obviously not a vegan. Many vegans choose a plant-based lifestyle because they know everything that hurt you—and the planet, and all our animal friends. While many of us may think we’re up on our ingredients, many products have sneaky additives. Here is a list of hidden non-vegan ingredients in seemingly vegan products.
Finding Nemo (in your orange juice): Fish oil (yuck!) lurks in some orange juice brands such as Tropicana’s Heart Healthy O.J. Deeper investigation will also show that some juices are enhanced with lanolin-derived vitamin D. Lanolin is natural oil in the fiber of sheep’s wool and is listed on ingredient lists as vitamin D3.
Peanut butter and gelly: Some brands of packaged peanuts, like Planter’s Dry Roasted Peanuts and many store brands, include gelatin. Gelatin is a colorless, flavorless solid substance, derived from collagen inside pig skin and the bones of cattle and fish (scan the O.J. label for this too!)
Gelatin can also be found in marshmallows, Starburst and Jell-o products among many other common grocery store items. In addition, medication labeled “gel-cap” contains the animal-bone derived ingredient. Thankfully, non-gel versions of the medication you are prescribed to can be found, talk to your doctor or pharmacist for more details.
Drug free: Another medical practice that could possibly challenge vegan morals is general anesthesia. Before counting backwards from 10, ask about Propofol. This drug is usually used to create the hypnotic state and is emulsified with egg phospholipids.
Tortilla chip slip: “Safe” foods, such as Tostito’s tortilla chips, may not be so safe. Of course, the plain version of this product is 100 percent free of animal derivatives. Most tortilla chips are. But, do not assume that Tostito’s with a Hint of Lime Flavored Tortilla Chips are vegan (unfortunate, I know.) Just because corn is vegan and limes are vegan, does not make the product absent of milk. Same goes for the Jalapeño and other flavored varieties. In addition, BBQ-flavored Baked Lay’s contain chicken fat and many salt and vinegar chip brands contain dairy ingredients.
Don’t be an egg-head: As vegans, we are programmed to scan labels. As the tiresome investigating starts to take a toll, we might let our guard down a little. Take Organix Nourishing Coconut Milk shampoo for example. Organic? Check. Milk? Okay, but clearly coconut – so, check. Not tested on animals? Check. Recyclable? You bet. However, a paragraph long description on the label will tell you that the compound contains ultra whipped egg white proteins.
The sleaze of soy cheese: Don’t be a victim! It sure soundsvegan, but strangely enough many soy cheeses contains casein, a milk protein that helps it melt and adds flavor. Avoid all Galaxy Nutritional Food’s Soy Cheese such as Veggie Shreds and Veggie Slices that contain this ingredient. The company makes pure vegan cheese as well, however, usually found in specialty stores.
99 bottles of vegan beer on the wall:Be alert that many beer and wine brands are not vegan friendly. A number of wines contain gelatin, cow proteins and isinglass, which comes from fish bladders. Check out www.Barnivore.com to find a complete list of ingredients for practically any kind of booze known to man.
Avoid this or bug out!: Remember all the hype about Starbucks’ Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino not too long ago? The company’s new strawberry flavoring contains cochineal extract for dying purposes. Basically, Starbucks’ customers who order this beverage are subject to eating crushed and dried up bugs. Do not think for a second that this is unique to Starbucks. Some cakes, cookies, jams, ice cream, popsicles, yogurt, cider, tomato products, gum, candied cherries, pills, cough drops and pretty much anything else dyed red may contain this ingredient. Look for “carmine” or “natural red 4” on the ingredient label. The warning applies to fabrics and cosmetics as well. [Editor's Update: Starbucks removed cochineal extract from their recipe in April! Hoorah!]
Sticky-icky: Glue. Even though it is not worn or consumed, it still affects someone who obtains a vegan lifestyle. Most glues are not animal-friendly. The (icky) sticky stuff inside the bottle is made from connective tissue of cattle and horses. Some glue brands are even casein-based.
Cigarettes: Finally, as if there are not already so many reasons to just say no to this known killer. If that’s not enough to quit, consider that cigarettes are often filtered using animal products. Not only is honey sometimes used for flavoring, but recent Dutch research has identified the use of pig hemoglobin, a blood protein, in cigarette filters. The hemoglobin is used to make the filters more effective before the chemicals enter a smoker’s lungs. Regardless, the pig’s blood should be the least of any smoker’s worry. Smoking kills – don’t do it!
If you are a committed vegan and dig deep enough, you will find answers. Don’t be hesitant to find out what you are putting into your body. Use your judgment and decide what is right for you. Soon enough, you will be able to decipher any label and list imaginable. Don’t let these unwanted ingredients sneak onto your plate, in your collection of cleaning supplies or your family’s medicine cabinet.
Elyssa Schwartz is currently studying Journalism at the University of Central Florida. Somewhere in between her school work, brewing up new vegan recipes and writing for the university’s newspaper, she enjoys instructing children’s cycling, yoga and other fitness classes at a local gym. Upon graduating, Elyssa hopes to pursue a career in the magazine industry to promote a healthy environment and way of life.