A Whole Bunch of Foods You Thought Were Vegan but Aren't

As a vegan, It can be a nightmare finding out what’s safe to eat. With the food industry always trying to reduce costs it’s becoming increasingly shocking the variety of animal products finding their way in to foods we thought were cruelty free. Surely fruit and vegetables are safe? Fruit juice must be safe? Well, I can tell you now, nothing is safe. To make things easy for you, here are a whole bunch of things you thought were vegan but are not. 

“Shit, so there are even more things I can’t eat!?!?”

There will always be things we can’t eat so it’s best to know about them. It takes commitment, planning and A LOT of ingredient checking to be completely free of animal products. This list was put together so you know and are aware of what to look out for. For a long-term, healthy vegan lifestyle we believe you need to WANT to be vegan. It’s hard to make things work long term if you feel you HAVE to do them. For this reason, if all of the items listed below are staples of your diet, don’t cut them all out straight away. It is a great time to be vegan and we are surrounding by ethical products, so take your time and find alternatives one by one.

A Whole Bunch of Foods You Thought Were Vegan But Aren’t

Dairy Free Foods

What’s in it?
Animal additives, E-numbers or just plain meat

Don’t be fooled by that dairy free stamp! This one may seem obvious but although things marked with ‘dairy free’ don’t contain dairy they may contain other animal products. A chicken breast is dairy free, so is a prawn, they’re still not vegan. Check for the vegan stamp!

A Whole Bunch of Things You Thought Were Vegan but Aren't
All these amazing vegan alternatives used in one of our recipes


What’s in it?
Dead bees

A lot of people don’t realise but honey is not vegan. Although there are many reasons for this, the key points are that many many bees are killed during honey production, the honey we take is actually the bee’s food and beekeepers often kill the queen bee to keep production levels high. If you want to know more, here’s some interesting information from a beekeeper. 

A Whole Bunch of Things You Thought Were Vegan but Aren't
A brilliant honey alternative, or try agave syrup!


What’s in it?
Casein or lactose 

Although a lot of margarine is vegan, it’s not always the case. Some brands use casein or lactose so make sure you check their ingredients or look for a vegan stamp. Your daily Vegan has a very comprehensive list of vegan butters in the UK and USA which is great. Ingredients are constantly changing, so make sure you regularly check your shopping basket in case they’ve added some nasties.


What’s in it?
Egg whites, milk products, crustacean shell, bone and connective tissue, fish bladders

This one was a killer for me. Alcohol can contain a whole variety of different animal products that you’d never expect. Cider and wine can use gelatine (cow and pig bone and connective tissue), albumin (derived from egg whites) and casein (milk based protein) in the filtration process. Wines use crustacean shells for fining and ales commonly use Isinglass to filter yeast which is taken from fish bladders (you’ve gotta be taking the piss, fish bladders?). To find out if your favourite booze is meat-free then check out Barnivore.

A Whole Bunch of Things You Thought Were Vegan but Aren't
What a cracking vintage

Red coloured foods

What’s in it?
Crushed insects

How do they even think of these things? Red food colouring or carmine is made from the cochineal insect which is crushed to produce the colour. Reportedly 70,000 beetles must be crushed to produce 1 pound of the dye. It’s used in many red sweets and foods along with cosmetics and household items. Find out more here.

Fruit juices

What’s in it?
Fish oil, sheep’s wool, crushed insects or animal bones

How have they managed to put animal products in juice? To seem extra healthy many companies add extra nutrients and vitamins like omega-3 oils which are derived from fish and vitamin D which can be sourced from sheep’s wool. Not only this but some juices use gelatine for thickness (animal bone and skin) and use carmine (crushed insects) for red colouring.

A Whole Bunch of Things You Thought Were Vegan but Aren't
Fresh is best!


What’s in it?
Meat stock

Many soups which may seem vegan actually use meat stock for flavouring. This is very common in traditional restaurants throughout Europe, so have a word with the waiter before you order that vegetable soup.

A Whole Bunch of Things You Thought Were Vegan but Aren't
Our cruelty free Caldo Verde, mmm

Marshmallows and Haribo style soft sweets

What’s in it?
Crushed insects, bone and connective tissue

Most marshmallows and Haribo style soft sweets contain gelatine and many red ones also use carmine. If you felt left out not being able to eat sweets with the rest of your friends when you were younger, now there’s a huge variety of vegan sweets so you can have fillings like the rest of your friends!

A Whole Bunch of Foods You Thought Were Vegan but Aren't
Now everyone can have fillings!

Roast vegetables and Mash

What’s in it?
Goose fat, butter, milk or cream

Whether it’s ready made from the shops or from a restaurant, be careful as roast vegetables may have butter or goose fat used for baking. Mash is regularly cooked with cream, butter or milk (or all three) so keep an eye out!

A Whole Bunch of Things You Thought Were Vegan but Aren't
100% Plant Based

White sugar

What’s in it?
Cow bone

Whilst this is less common in the UK, many sugar companies use bone char (charred bones) to whiten their sugar. This also applies to brown sugar as it goes through the same process as white sugar and then has molasses added. A huge amount of products have added sugar, so there may be a lot of products you think are safe which might not be.

Dark chocolate

What’s in it?

I was eternally grateful when I found out that a lot of dark chocolates don’t use any dairy. Beware though, this tends to be better quality chocolates with a higher percentage of cocoa. Other dark chocolate brands may still use milk products so check the ingredients list or look for a vegan stamp!

A Whole Bunch of Things You Thought Were Vegan but Aren't
Vegan chocolate

Worcestershire sauce

What’s in it?

Yup, one of Britain’s favourites is not vegan or vegetarian, it contains anchovies. Instead, go for the proud Sheffield staple, Henderson’s Relish, it’s cruelty free!


What’s in it?
Animal stomach

Not only are many types of pesto not vegan, many are not vegetarian either. Most traditional types contain Parmesan cheese which will use rennet. Rennet is taken from the stomach lining of mammals, most commonly young calves. Find out more here.

A Whole Bunch of Things You Thought Were Vegan but Aren't
This one’s safe!

And something interesting for you….


What’s in it?
Dead wasps

Hard to believe but completely true, for all figs to be pollinated it requires a female wasp to die inside! The wasp enters to lay her eggs, is then unable to escape and is broken down by enzymes in the fig. Figs would be unable to pollinate without the female wasps but wasps also need the figs to lay their eggs, so they both need each other to survive. As this is a completely natural process and no animals were exploited figs are still considered vegan. It seems crazy but it’s true folks. If you want to read more about it, check out this article.

Crushed insects, fish bladders, stomach lining, how do they even think of using that. It baffles me.

If this is all new information to you then I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. You should know though, right now we are experiencing the Vegan Revolution and every day more and more vegan items are going on the shelves. Our numbers are growing and we’re putting pressure on companies to get meat off the menu and out of our products. If you’re reading this and need more inspiration to either continue or switch to a vegan diet then check out this article.

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Are there any other food you thought were vegan but weren’t? Let us know in the comments box bellow!

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