When you decide to buy a vegan product, it suddenly becomes difficult to identify because sometimes there is a fragile line distinguishing it from non-vegan products. It is a strange feeling when you don’t know what does your product actually contains, and you start doubting even the obvious.
To avoid it check our vegan analyses categories below:
How to buy and identify Vegan & Non-Vegan Products
Unscrupulous manufacturers use all sorts of malpractices to misguide gullible consumers to increase their profit margins at the cost of the welfare of animals and the environment. Vegans are left with no option but to be self-aware. Several techniques have been suggested to make sure that whatever you select, it satisfies the strictest of vegan standards.
Who is Vegan and what do they eat?
Veganism is becoming popular day by day. Many celebrities have become vegan and a number of such products are being introduced in the market every day. You may like to know what does a vegan eat if there are so many ingredients in the market that are animal-based. Veganism is a way of living by excluding consumption of animal-based products so as to reduce the exploitation and cruelty for food, clothing or any other purpose. People choose to be vegan due to health and environmental issues, in addition to the ethical issues. Vegans avoid food of animal origin namely, meat, chicken, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy and honey, and many other animal-derived ingredients. Examples of such products include beer, wine, marshmallows, candies, chewing gum, breakfast cereals etc. It doesn’t mean that you survive just on Tofu and veggies. Many products can be made by using only the plant-based ingredients and without harming the animals or our environment. In a nut shell, there is a wide variety of food products available for vegan consumption and this eating pattern helps them and their surroundings.
How do I Identify a Vegan product?
You may come across a number of products in the market which are vegetarian, but it is not known if it is vegan or not. It is straightforward to choose a vegan product if it has a vegan rating on the product label or has a logo on it, which informs you that it is a cruelty-free product. But for any other products, we need to be on guard ourselves, and we must check from our sources if it is a vegan product or not. You may have to go through the list of ingredients and decide for yourself if it is vegan by looking for ingredients that are known as non-vegan. So, if the ingredient list of your product contains some animal-derived element, then it is a non-vegan product and is not suitable for your consumption. It means that you need to be extra cautious while buying such products.
Here are a few strategies to consider:
1. Look for Vegan logos
Many companies are introducing the products in the market, which are termed as certified vegan products. This is the most natural step to follow. If a product has a logo as “Certified Vegan” or “Suitable for vegan,” it means that your search is over, and you can safely consume such a product as a vegan. If you are looking for a vegetarian product, you can check for the green dot on the pack. For the uninitiated, the green dot stands for a vegetarian product, and a brown dot stands for a non-vegetarian product. There are more than 20,000 products with the trademark of Vegan Society, which ensures that those products meet their criterion. Search for the V-Symbol for the products certified as Vegan by the Vegan Society. For the other products, you may request by writing to the manufacturers by urging them to apply for a vegan society trademark. Many manufacturers are putting the label “Suitable for Vegans” on their products to inform consumers that their products are genuinely vegan.
2. Check the allergen information
A lot of people are nowadays allergic to dairy products, gluten, seafood, eggs, shellfish, dairy derivatives, etc. The manufacturers must mention such allergens for the safety of consumers. You need to scan the allergen information on the product packaging. There is a regulation in countries like the USA, Canada, EU, Australia, among others that mandates the manufacturers to mention these allergens, sometimes even in bold legally. The information is usually specified at the end of the ingredient list, and hence it is not required to go through the entire inventory.
It is a possibility of some exposure of animal ingredients to your product even if it is vegan as per its list of ingredients. The product may have traces of milk or eggs because the manufacturing plant may be using the facility to produce some other non-vegan products. Many manufacturers may not mention this fact on their products, but the allergen information may mention this as traces.
3. Check the ingredient list
You can scan the list of ingredients for checking if the product contains objectionable items in it that are termed as non-vegan substances.
4. Check the web whenever in doubt
The internet is an ocean of information that can help you find out detailed information about some ingredients. Google search is there to help you in doing the research. The search results collect data from many sources, including posts and blogs on that topic. Some manufacturers resort to the practice of introducing non-vegan ingredients surreptitiously into the products by giving fancy names to some ingredients. Same old non-vegan ingredients keep coming back with different names on the ingredient panel of food products. You can research them on the internet websites specializing in this field. You can find a tonne of information updated regularly to guide you about their vegan status. Many companies publish the full list of the ingredients on their websites.
5. Use mobile apps
There are also some apps available on your smartphones to guide you about the vegan friendliness status. After you download and install these apps, they tell you about the ingredients in detail. These are ready-made solutions for researching you. These apps are really very easy to use. You can simply scan the barcode of the product, and these apps will instantly provide the vegan status along with the detailed ingredient listing. They also give the option of typing the name of the product in the search field of these apps.
6. Be extra cautious
You need to be more vigilant to protect yourself. Just as the way you have the habit of checking the expiry date of products, it is equally important to check the ingredients when in doubt or as a habit. These non-vegan ingredients may have caused a lot of suffering to different species due to their exploitation by mass production technologies. These products may also affect your health severely, and only your awareness can save yourself, your near and dear ones, and the environment. You may be surprised to find out that animal-based ingredients are finding a way in many daily use products.
Labels like “Certified Vegan” or “contains no animal ingredients” etc. can be misleading, and you need to check the full ingredient list and do your research before the final buy decision.
7. Join local communities
You can also join a vegan community in your city. You can share ideas and experiences related to vegan-friendly products. You may also like to support the vegan-friendly restaurants. Your friends may also help you in exploring many facts which are not readily available elsewhere.
8. Use E-Number
Food additives have been code-named into specific E-numbers. E.g., E120 is an e-number for carminic acid used in food coloring products. E-numbers are a more natural way of finding which products to be avoided and why.
Some says that a product is vegan only if it is cruelty-free. Animal testing is quite common in the cosmetics industry. It is a common practice among manufacturers to label their products as cruelty-free to mislead the consumers. You must check the bunny icon for cruelty-free products. The logo is mostly shown along with the PETA logo to indicate that it is officially tested product that is certified as cruelty-free and never tested on animals.
10. When in doubt, avoid it
If all the strategies fail and you are still confused, it is better to avoid the product for the time being. You may note down the product details, keep the images, and can do the research by taking your time. After all, it is your life, and you should stick to your principles no matter what. Sooner or later, sense prevails, and you may be more enlightened in terms of the vegan status of the product. It is better to avoid a product for some time than to consume it now and stay with guilt for years to come.
Some common Non-Vegan Ingredients
Vegans do not consume products derived from animals. It is tricky to find if some ingredients are vegan or not because it is not easy to detect the details of the actual manufacturing process.
Here are some of the common ingredients which are not vegan and sometimes not even vegetarian.
- Honey and Wax as a sweetener or in Tea – A strict vegan will not use products that are cruel to animals or insects. Beeswax is obtained from the honeycombs, which is created by worker bees. Honey is also derived from beehives and is added to increase the sweetness of many products, including tea. As a strict vegan, all products using beeswax and Honey should not be consumed.
- Casein in Milk proteins for cheese – It is a protein obtained from the milk of cow, sheep, etc. It is mentioned as casein, calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate, etc. and is mostly used in the preparation of cheese.
- Candy Glaze in candies and confectionary – It is a resin type of substance derived from an insect called lac and is obtained from the trees where these insects live. The ingredient is used in candies to give them shine or glaze, often termed as confectioner’s glaze. It is also known as Shellac, natural, resinous, or pure food glaze.
- The Gelatin in candies and Jelliesor Gel products – Gelatin is obtained from animal collagen. It is usually found in the candies or marshmallows as a gelling agent and has no color or odor. There are alternatives available in the plant kingdom — E.G., Agar-agar from algae and Carrageenan from a seaweed, etc.
- Isinglass in beer and wine – It is a clarifying agent obtained from fish bladders and used in making wine and beer. There is no way of finding if it is used or not, and some manufacturers mention it on the products or their websites. The filtering process uses egg whites, fish bladder protein, and skimmed milk, etc.
- L. Cysteine in bread – It is obtained from human hair or feathers. It is used in the bread products and baked items as a dough conditioner.
- Whey in sweets and Bread products – It is a by-product of cheese making process and used in candies, sweets, bread, etc. It is the liquid left after milk is curdled, churned, and strained. It is often used in nutrition supplements, and protein shakes.
The technique of Speed Reading
Here, we will teach you the method to find if a product is vegan or not. It is not a hundred percent correct technique but is a type of filter to narrow down the vegan status of a product. Only the highly doubtful cases will remain in the end, and most of the usual vegan suspects will be caught on the way.
Here is how it works:
1. Certified Logo
For an accredited vegan logo from authorized agencies like PETA, Vegan Society, V logo, Bunny logo, etc. They have strong backing against those logos and are printed on product labels only when they are fully satisfied. Vegan society has already categorized more than 20K products and shortlisted another 12k for inclusion. The logo is a guarantee of the actual vegan status of the product that it is free from animal cruelty, and no animal-derived ingredients have been used, and these products have not been tested on animals. Be careful with logos or keywords which are not issued by certified and reputed agencies. By merely printing the words, “a vegan product” does not guarantee the status as a strict vegan product. In many countries, the regulations are a little weak, and manufacturers make use of these lenient laws to misguide gullible consumers.
You do not see any such certified logo on the product, move to the next step.
2. Look for Allergen words in BOLD.
It is mandatory by law to mention the allergen information in bold, italics, highlighted, or to be discussed separately at the bottom of the ingredient list. You can easily pick such words and instantly decide if the product is vegan or not. You need to train your eye to ignore the details of the list and only read the highlighted ingredients. If no such words are there, skip to the bottom of the list. If the product does contain any allergen, it will be mentioned there, if not on the list. Most of the manufacturers use very small and delicate to read font sizes, especially small packs. So, you must keep your glasses handy if you are short-sighted.
You come across usual allergens like eggs, milk, whey, and casein, the product is not vegan. If none of these are found in the list, the product may be vegan or non-vegan, and you move to the next step.
3. Read the detailed ingredients list.
You need to read every ingredient carefully and look for ingredients with any of the following names. If you see even a single such ingredient in the list, then the product is non-vegan for sure.
Here goes the list:
Lactose, Collagen, Elastin, Keratin, Gelatine or Gelatin, Aspic, Lard or tallow, Shellac, Honey, Propolis, Royal Jelly, Vitamin D3, Albumen or albumin, Isinglass, Cod liver oil, Pepsin.
The list does not contain these words, go to the next step
- E Number
For specific E numbers, as already explained.
- Use the App
Your smartphone and scan the bar code of the product after starting the relevant apps, which instantly determine if a product is vegan or not.
You can also write to the manufacturer, and if still in doubt, you should avoid the product for now. If you follow the above method, the vegan status of more than 95% of products can be found within minutes. For balance 5%, you need to wait and do the research using different tips mentioned earlier.
Finally, at the cost of repetition, I would say that you need to increase your awareness to identify vegan from non-vegan, and it is an ongoing battle.