label reading is very important
Today’s maze of food labelling can be confusing. Even more for vegetarian foods, which may contain animal based ingredients. There are many ingredient names that are not easily recognised and are included in foods that are labelled ‘suitable for vegetarians.’ This is a major problem for communities from South Asia who are usually on religious or cultural grounds strict consumers of foods that are not derived from meat, fish or eggs.
There are two key kinds of vegetarians. People who do not eat meat, fish, shellfish or animal flesh of any kind, but do eat eggs and dairy products are lacto-ovo vegetarians (“lacto” comes from the Latin for milk, and “ovo” for egg). Whereas, lacto-vegetarian is used to describe a vegetarian who does not eat eggs, but does eat dairy products; which are mostly the kind of vegetarians from South Asian communities.
Most of the companies catering for vegetarian diets include fish or egg derivatives as acceptable ingredients. Therefore, label reading is very important for lacto-vegetarians. In many cases there are examples of ingredients not popularly known to be non-vegetarian and therefore, consciously ignored by the consumer.
Some of the non-vegetarian ingredients include the following. Therefore, always look out for these on food labels before you buy or consume, if you are strictly avoiding any foods with kind of animal content.
What it is
How or where it is used
|Albumin||The protein component of egg whites. Albumin is also found in animal blood, milk, plants, and seeds.||To thicken or add texture to processed foods.|
|Anchovies||Small, silvery fish of herring family.||Worcestershire sauce, Caesar salad dressing, pizza topping, Greek salads.|
|Butter, suet, lard (see lard below).||Packaged cookies and crackers, refried beans, flour tortillas, ready-made pie crusts.|
|Mineral typically derived from cows or hogs||Garlic salt, vanilla, meat tenderizers, salad-dressing mixes.|
|Capric acid (decanoic acid)||Animal fats||Added to ice cream, candy, baked goods, chewing gum, liquor and often not specified on ingredients lists.|
|Clarifying agent||Derived from any number of animal sources.||Used to filter wine, vinegar, beer, fruit juice, soft drinks.|
|Gelatin, Gelatine||Protein from bones, cartilage, tendons, and skin of animals, Much of the commercial gelatin is a by-product of pig skin.||Marshmallows, yoghurt, frosted cereals, gelatin-containing desserts, moulded salads..|
|Isinglass||Gelatin from air bladder of sturgeon and other freshwater fish.||Clarify alcoholic beverages and in some jellied desserts. Rarely used now.|
|Lactic acid||Acid formed by bacteria acting on the milk sugar lactose. Imparts a tart flavour.||Cheese, yoghurt, pickles, olives, sauerkraut, candy, frozen desserts, chewing gum, fruit preserves, dyeing and textile printing.|
|Lactylic stearate||Salt of stearic acid (see stearic acid below).||Dough conditioner.|
|Lanolin||Waxy fat from sheep’s wool.||Chewing gum, ointments, cosmetics, waterproof coatings.|
|Lard||Rendered and clarified pork fat. Often fat from abdomens of pigs or the fat around the animal’s kidneys.||Baked goods.|
|Lutein||Deep yellow colouring from marigolds or egg yolks.||Commercial food colouring.|
|Myristic acid (tetradecanoic acid)||Animal fats.||Chocolate, ice cream, candy, jelled desserts, baked goods.|
|Pancreatin (pancreatic extract)||Cows or hogs||Digestive aids.|
|Pepsin||Enzyme from pigs’ stomachs||With rennet to make cheese.|
|A coagulating enzyme obtained from a young animal’s stomach, usually a calf’s stomach||Rennin is used to curdle milk in foods such as cheese and junket – a soft pudding like dessert.|
|Stearic acid (octadecenoic acid)||Tallow, other animal fats and oils||Vanilla flavouring, chewing gum, baked goods, beverages and candy|
|Suet||Hard white fat around kidneys and loins of animals||Margarine, mincemeat, pastries, bird feed, tallow.|
|Whey||By-products of the cheese making process which mainly uses animal rennet||Cheeses and by-products made from Whey|
The ingredients in packaged foods change regularly. When in doubt, read the label for the most up-to-date manufacturing information.
Most of the hidden animal products you are likely to encounter are ingredients that pop up in every day foodstuffs.
We took a look at some of the foods and drink that most people would think are vegetarian and safe to consume, but are in fact are not; due to some of these ‘hidden’ ingredients. Here are some examples.
Drinks and Beverages
Here are some popular drinks and beverages that contain non-vegetarian ingredients.
- Fanta – Orange (and Orange Light), Apple Spash (Low Sugar) – contains minute traces of fish gelatine.
- Lilt – Pineapple & Grapefruit (and Light) – contains minute traces of fish gelatine.
- Kia Ora – Orange Squash (and No Added Sugar), Orange & Pineapple (and No Added Sugar) – contains minute traces of fish gelatine.
- Schweppes – Malvern Water (Sparkling), Slimline Orange Crush, Deuce Orange & Guava – contains minute traces of fish gelatine.
- Ocean Spray -White Cranberry Peach – contains canthaxanthin which is found in fish.
Here are some sauces usually added to dishes for flavouring or added as accompaniments with other foods or drinks.
- Worcestershire Sauce – Lea & Perrins – contains anchovies (small, silvery fish).
- Apple Sauce – certain brands contains carmine which is a red food colouring made from ground up cochineal beetles.
- Cesar Salad Dressing – contains egg and Worcestershire sauce.
Here are some popular dairy products that contain non-vegetarian ingredients.
- Müller Light Yoghurts – contain gelatine and fish oils.
- Yoplait – contains gelatine.
Sweets and Savoury Snacks
Here are some popular sweets and savoury snacks that contain non-vegetarian ingredients.
- Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts, Jelly Babies – contain gelatine.
- Rowentrees Fruit Pastilles – contain gelatine.
- Trident Sugar Free Gum contains gelatine, unlike 99 per cent of other gums.
- Mars – Milky Way, Snickers – contain egg whites.
- Marshmallows – contain gelatine.
- Frito Lay – Doritos, Cheetos, Cheese Curls – enzymes used to make their cheese flavoured products are from animals.
Along with the ingredient names, there are many ‘E’ numbers that are not vegetarian. E Numbers are codes for food additives. Therefore, once again labels should be observed in detail to ensure the food does not contain animal content.
E numbers that are definitely based from animal content include: E120 (Cochineal – colouring that makes many foods red), E441/E485 (gelatine), E542 (bone phosphate), E631 (Disodium inosinate – flavour enhancer), E635 (Disodium 5′-ribonucleotides – flavour enhancer), E1105 (Lysozyme – made from eggs), E913 (Lanoline – A wax from sheep), E904 (Shellac-a glazing agent which is derived from the lac insect) and E570 (Stearic acid).
Keeping track of ingredients in food requires vigilance and understanding, therefore, we hope that this has alerted you to read labels more carefully, if you are a vegetarian, following a strict animal free diet. There are lots of useful resources on the Internet like the vegetarian society website to help you find out more.