Food Products You Wouldn't Realise Have Dead Animals in Them
I have been living as a vegan for almost 16 years now. (And I am still alive and kicking despite what so many friends, family and even, can I say ignorant, health professionals told me - touch wood!) What continues to surprise me is how there are animals products hidden in so many food products that are not obvious unless you are aware of it. Even if you check labels it isn't always clear - which I personally think isn't right for the consumer. This is by no means a final list, and it is only looking at foods! It does cover the majority of pot holes that are easy to fall down that can be disheartening and down-right disturbing when you are aiming to eat plant-based and then get "tricked". I trust it will help navigate the path. Please feel free to add specific brands you are aware that contain animal products, or helpfully ones that don't, under the blog post as this always helps others on the way.
Gelatine-Containing Products (Boiled tendons)
A binding agent made from boiled hooves, skin, and tendons of various slaughtered animals. Yummy. This is often in marshmallows, chewy candies, jelly type desserts, fat-free yoghurts and some brands of chewing gums and even as a coating for pills or vitamin capsules. Gelatine for me is one of those things I don't budge on as it is part that belonged to a living being that is now killed. It is eating meat, even if it doesn't look like it! So always check that your supplement capsules are vegetarian - they will be labelled somewhere small on the bottle and be ready for those times like fires when camping and trick or treat at Halloween to have alternative vegetarian lollies and marsh mallows. Rule of thumb here is, if they do not tell you on the packet where the gelatine is sourced from, you can be almost sure it is from an animal whose life was taken. This one and a half minute clip is brilliant at demonstrating how different the lolly looks from what it contains.
Red Food Colouring, Carmine (Squashed bug juice in our lipsticks and candies)
Red pigment, or additive number 120, is made from the crushed female cochineal insect, red beetle-like insects found in Central and South America. The stuff we call cochineal is a chemical extract from squished female cochineal scales when the insects are crushed and the pigment is extracted; it's literally bug juice. Reportedly, 70,000 beetles must be killed to produce one pound of this red dye. So this means anything that is dyed red, such as in soft drinks, lollypops, candies, processed seafood products, canned cherries and very often in our lipsticks and make-ups! Next time you go to eat something red, stop and spend a moment to consider if it is naturally found this colour (you will be surprised how many products are not naturally red as this) and how you feel about eating crushed up insects.
Wine and Beer (Filtered with "fish-guts")
Yep. How annoying right. Even a nice glass of unassuming wine can be made with milk proteins, meat-protein gelatine, bone char and isinglass, which is made from fish bladders, as ‘fining agents’ to improve the clarity. I know it sounds ridiculous and I understand if you don't believe me. But look it up, call the companies because this is rather standard across the wine and beer industry, which truly blows my mind. Check out my blog for wine and beer companies that don't use this process, as they do exist and still produce clear tasty wine and beer!
Aspartame (Pig Kidneys)
Ok, this one even surprised me when writing this. I always recommend clients to steer clear of aspartame because of the extremely high levels of reports of detrimental effects this artificial sweetener has on people. Now there is another reason to leave it off the table and use products such as stevia or real maple syrup instead.
During the manufacturing of aspartame, part of the chemical reactions depend on an enzyme from pig kidneys - porcine kidney acylase. This means also reading labels for anything sweetened with aspartame such as breath mints, chewing gum, jams and protein drinks (and check the label of pretty much any other packaged food product just incase!)
Rennet in Cheeses (Cows digestive juices)
Rennet is an enzyme that comes from cows’, often calves, stomachs and is used most often in making cheese into the solid form. If you are vegan, you won't be eating cheese anyway, but you may be vegetarian and not realise! You can buy cheese that is made from vegetable rennet but even better, you can buy so many nut-based cheeses now instead. Yes I know, it is not the same, but no calves were killed in the process and it is easier on our planet-earth for sustainability reasons and I promise they still taste good!
Chicken or Beef Flavour (Dead bits)
This one may seem more obvious, but it is still a stumbling point, especially when eating with friends who may not be paying as much attention. Flavours of chips, crackers and anything else processed, such as baked beans or sauces, can also contain parts of dead animals for flavouring. I am not sure which part I like least, eating the cracker that is flavoured with artificial flavours that contains only tastes made from a lab, or the product that is flavoured with dead animals. Either way, be conscious this is the situation when choosing what you eat.
Bagels and bread products (Bird feathers)
This one is also one of those weird ones, that may not be strictly a meat-product, but I had to include it because it is just another example of the bizarre stages that happen before our food gets to our plate that we want to understand. Some bread products contain an amino acid known as L-cysteine, which is used as a softening agent. L-cysteine is derived often from poultry feathers, and it can be found in many popular brand-name products including from businesses Lender's, Einstein Bros., McDonald's and Pizza Hut.
Sauces and Pastes with Anchovies (Dead Fish Bloody Mary Anyone?)
Anchovies, the small fish, are found dead and ground up in many sauces and surprising places because they add a salty flavour. Some main examples include Worcestershire sauce, which means the oh-so natural remedy for a hangover, the Bloody Mary, is not vegetarian unless they used the "vegetarian" version of Worcestershire sauce! Most Caesar salad dressings, many Thai curry pastes, and jarred pasta sauces and olive tapenade also contain anchovies.
Miso soup and other Japanese Meals (The hidden fish)
I use miso paste in lots of dishes at home, and you will find the huge majority of miso paste, bought in its natural whole form is vegan, made from soy, rice or barley. But beware that instant miso soups and often at Japanese restaurants, the miso soup will be made with fish stock and because it is used in lots of the sauces for other meals, it means some of the "vegetarian" options on the menu are not actually vegetarian after all. We made this mistake with our kids at our local Japanese restaurant for a while. They knew we were vegan, and we always ordered the most wonderful array of plant-based dishes with them and just assumed their miso soup was also vegan (yes, ass out of u and me) We just didn't click that their miso soup was made with dead fish because we didn't ask. As my daughter would say, "Major fail Mum" We won't make that mistake again.