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Common Foods

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is honey vegan?

Bees are often killed in the production of honey, in the worst case the whole hive may be destroyed if the keeper doesn't wish to protect them over the winter. Not all beekeepers do this, but the general practice is one that embodies the attitude that living things are mere *material* and have no intrinsic value of their own other than what commercial value we can wrench from them. Artificial insemination involving death of the male is now also the norm for generation of new queen bees. The favoured method of obtaining bee sperm is by pulling off the insects head. Decapitation sends an electrical impulse to the nervous system which causes sexual arousal. The lower half of the headless bee is then squeezed to make it ejaculate. The resulting liquid is collected in a hypodermic syringe.

Is sugar vegan?

Some refined sugars use bone charcoal as a decolourant. In the UK Tate and Lyle and Billingtons sugars are free of animal substances. British Sugar, trading as Silver Spoon (the largest UK supplier) state that their white sugar is vegan but they cannot guarantee their brown sugars as some bone charcoal may be used by their suppliers. No data is presently available concerning sugar in other countries.

from a reader: The problem with sugar isn't just the refining process - non-organic cane sugar fields are burned, killing the animals that live in them. For a guaranteed vegan sugar, look for "organic evaporated cane juice" or "organic dehydrated cane juice" or just "organic cane sugar"

are apples vegan?

In the UK the shiny Washington red apples are glazed with shellac, which is a resin produced from insects.

are dried bananas vegan?

Many are dipped in honey. In the UK they often don't mention this on the label.

is bread vegan?

Some bakers grease the tins with animal fat. If you're using a local bakery ask them what they grease their tins with. In the UK Allied bakeries (makers of Allinson wholemeal) have stated they only use vegetable oils.

are cereals vegan?

In the UK all Kellogs products were previously unsuitable for vegans as Vitamin D3 (of animal origin) is added though in the US some of Kellogg's cereals were apparently vegan, Kellogg's Nutri-Grain cereal (plain "Wheat" variety only) is a good vegan source of B12. Be careful though, the almond-raisin variety contains animal based glycerin.

Apparently the Kellogs website now give a long list of products which are suitable for vegans, though we are unsure which countries this relates to. Ingredients can change from time to time and multinationals often use different ingredients in diffeferent countries. Continual checking is the only answer.

are crisps (potato chips) vegan?

Many manufacturers use whey as the flavour carrier. Check with your local vegan society as to what crisps are vegan.

Are industrialized ingredients vegan?

For sure. If a manufacturer can stick some part of an animal in something, chances are they probably will. Learn to be a fastidious label reader and avoid products not properly labelled unless you know for sure that they are suitable for vegans. Buy products from companies who make their stance on animal products known. Look out for ethically vegan companies and support them when possible.

Some foods have "E" numbers listed in the ingredients, with no mention as to the source of these E numbers. Ones to definitely avoid include:

120 - cochineal
441 Gelatin(e)
542 - edible bone phosphate
631 - sodium 5'-inosinate
901 - beeswax
904 - shellac
920 - L-cysteine hydrochloride
Un-numbered: calcium mesoinositol hexaphosphate, lactose, sperm oil, spermaceti

Possibly animal derived: 101, 101a, 153, 203, 213, 227, 270, 282, 302, 322, 325, 326, 327, 333, 341a, 341b, 341c, 404, 422, 430, 431, 432, 433, 434, 435, 436, 470, 471, 472a, 472b, 472c, 472d, 472e, 473, 474, 475, 476, 477, 478, 481, 482, 483, 491, 492, 493, 494, 495, 570, 572, 627, 635

Un-numbered: calcium hepatonate, calcium phytate, diacetin-glyceryl, glyceryl diacetate, glyceryl triacetate, glycine, leucine, monoacetate, monoacetin, oxystearin, triacetin and any unspecified flavourings.

Are candy canes vegetarian?

from a reader in the USA: As far as candy canes go, they're little more than sugar. You shouldn't be eating them anyway. (I should talk; I love candy canes!) I don't know if they contain animal products, but candy canes are on my 'out' list as I progress to a more healthy diet.

Does chocolate contain animal products?

from a reader in the USA: Chocolate in most cases is not vegan. Most chocolate contains whey, milk solids and refined sugar. However there is hope, there is "tropical source" chocolate bars, squares and chips. They are available in most health food stores. Newmans also has vegan or "nearly" vegan chocolate chips. [note: in the UK: Plamil, and other brands of vegan chocoalte are availbale from health stores].

Is Maple Syrup vegetarian/vegan?

Yes, rumours abound about maple syrup containing pork fat. The US vegan society has checked all known sources and found that they are all suitable for vegans.

from a reader in Canada: The answer would be that in it's natural form, yes of course it is. However those with environmental concerns should be aware that it takes approx 40 gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of syrup. The method used for reducing the syrup is to boil, boil, boil it for hours until it thickens. Being largely a cottage industry, this is traditionally done outside with large metal kettles over natural wood fires. The amount of wood required is huge, requiring trees to be cut the previous year for firewood, killing many small woodland inhabitants, depriving larger animals of natural habitat and with the resulting smoke contributing to pollution and global warming. No doubt some producers operate in a sustainable manner and scientific studies have shown that pollution from woodsmoke has a tendancy to remain local, but consumers of that wonderful sweet syrup might wish to be aware of these facts. A friend told me this week that he and his father tapped 118 trees in northern New Brunswick this year, burned for a week and came out with 3 gallons of syrup. Seems like a high price to pay.

Do vegans consume yeast?

from a reader in Spain: Yes they do. Yeasts belong to the same group of organisms as mushrooms. Here's a dictionary defintion: fun·gus (fnggs) n., pl. fun·gi (fnj, fngg) or fun·gus·es. Any of numerous eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Fungi, which lack chlorophyll and vascular tissue and range in form from a single cell to a body mass of branched filamentous hyphae that often produce specialized fruiting bodies. The kingdom includes the yeasts, molds, smuts, and mushrooms.

Are there vegan marshmellows available?

(we are informed that a company called 'Emes' which used to produce the in the USA has gone out of business)

Here's a recipes to make your own:

Do vegans eat at fast food places like McDonalds or Taco-Bell?

Unfortunately there is no simple answer to this. Many Companies allow individual stores to decide part of their menu, or the ingredients used. In general, you should:

Ask for a nutrition information booklet. Asking an employee may not be enough.
If the food in question contains an undesired element, ask if it can be substituted for, or deleted altogether.
Fill out a comment card, if you think their menu does not have enough selection. If the company receives enough of these, they may decide to follow up on them.
Taco-Bell do not use lard anymore in their cooking.

Are vegetarians/vegans allowed to eat seafood?

Anyone is 'allowed' to eat anything they like. However all the standard definitions of vegetarian and vegan exclude any form fish or other seafood. There are people who eat fish and mistakenly call themselves 'vegetarian', but that does not comply with any commonly used definition.

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Download the Vegetarian Nutrition Booklet for Kids and Adolescents