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14 Things You Thought Were Vegan but Are Actually Not

Things that are obvious at first glance do not always turn out to be what they should be. This rule also applies to vegan food and vegan-friendly household items. Even obviously vegan products like French fries or white sugar may surprise you with animal ingredients. This article has collected 15 examples that remind you it’s crucial to double-check labels to avoid hidden unwanted ingredients.

1. French Fries

It may seem that French fries are the most vegan food imaginable. It’s just potatoes and salt. But the situation is not that simple. Some fast food restaurants cook fries in the same oil they use, for example, for frying meat or fish. Sometimes potato pieces are coated in powdered milk or fried in animal fat.

2. Bread

Some types of bread are baked with eggs, milk, honey, and butter. Commercially produced bread may contain animal ingredients that improve the texture and flavor, and may prolong shelf life.

3. Sugar

White sugar is processed with the addition of bone char. It works like an organic whitener. Even brown sugar passes this stage, then it is later colored brown with molasses.

4. Chewing Gum

Sometimes chewing gum manufacturers add ingredients of animal origin to their products in order to achieve the desired texture or color. The most commonly used are gelatin, carmine, and lecithin.

  • Gelatin is produced from different parts of the bodies of animals. It is used to make the texture and to shape pieces of chewing gum.
  • Carmine is a dye extracted from insects.
  • Lecithin is used as a softener. It can be made from eggs and dairy products, and can also be plant-derived.

5. Fruit Juices

Fruit juices don’t actually contain just juice. Producers use a number of colorants, flavorings, and additives. Sometimes gelatin is used as an additive to fruit juices. It helps filter out the pulp and makes the liquid homogeneous. It binds to cloudy substances and is then removed. It cannot be said for sure whether the gelatin is completely removed. Other animal products, like honey or non-vegan vitamins, can also serve as added ingredients.

6. Soy Sauce

Basically soy sauce is vegan-friendly since it contains just water, soybeans, and wheat. However, some commercially produced types of sauce may contain flavor enhancers derived from meat and fish.

7. Gummy Bears

As a rule, gummy bears are made with the addition of gelatin. This additive gives bears and other types of gummy candies a gel-like texture.

8. Breakfast Cereal

Breakfast cereals don’t contain animal-derived products as primary ingredients but manufacturers often fortify them with lanolin-derived vitamin D and add honey as a natural sweetener.

9. Chips

Classic potato chips don’t contain non-vegan ingredients. The situation is different for the flavored types of chips. They may contain animal products like honey or dairy products and meat-based flavors. Salt-and-vinegar flavored chips are more likely to contain milk or lactose as a mixing ingredient. Some of them are also fried in animal fat.

10. Apples

Once harvested, apples are prepared for sale. They are cleaned and washed, and the natural wax, which protects them from drying out, is removed from their surface. Therefore, to increase the shelf life and to improve their appearance, apples are covered with a thin layer of wax. This wax can be of both vegetable and animal origin. For example, it can be made from the Indian lac bug. Therefore, we cannot consider apples a completely vegan product.

11. LCD Screens

Our phones, tablets, laptops, computers, and TVs may have animal derivatives in their screens.

12. Toothpaste

Toothpaste is likely to contain various animal-derived ingredients. For example, propolis — the bee product made of wax and bees’ saliva. It is used as a natural alternative to artificial substances. Some toothpaste uses animal-derived colorants like cochineal. Glycerin is often used to keep the product moist, and it can be produced both from animal and plant raw materials, so it is almost impossible to know whether it is vegan-friendly or not.

13. Bricks and cement

It may sound surprising but our homes can’t be considered vegan-friendly. Building materials often contain animal fat or ox blood. These animal-derived substances aim to help buildings last longer.

14. Shampoo and conditioner

These haircare products contain animal or dairy-derived lecithin. Glycerin and lanolin, which are sourced from animals, are used to moisturize hair. They are also used as active ingredients in shampoos and conditioners alongside casein, keratin, and beeswax.

Bonus: The unexpected thing that could be 100% vegan

Vegan burgers are actually widespread. Some popular fast food companies have included them on the menu in plenty of countries. The hamburger patty here is made from various vegetable ingredients: beans, grains, mushrooms, seeds, nuts, etc.

Beans and grains are used as meat substitutes. Vegetables and mushrooms give the patty a good taste and texture. Nuts, flour, and other dry ingredients make the patty more sticky and help it to not fall apart by absorbing excess liquid.

Have you ever found unexpected ingredients in vegan products? What was your most surprising find?

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