Meat Free Monday: Sneaky Ingredients

I just wanted to talk today briefly about the ingredients in food.  I know most vegans check their food religiously, but recipes change and vegetarians often don’t actually check ingredients (I’ve only ever met one who did, and he doesn’t bother any more).  That’s not a criticism it’s an observation.  We tend to rely on Good Faith, you know, you like to think, “how could fizzy orange juice POSSIBLY contain dead fish?” And they lull you into a false sense of security because you are a reasonable person and don’t want to be paranoid about whether there’s cow in your cake or what not.

So here’s some foods you need to be aware of as a VEGETARIAN (vegans, some of these foods are not for you):

1. Cheese:  A lot of cheese (especially in the US) these days is made using vegetarian rennet.  Some cheese (most traditional stuff) is still made using parts of sheep stomachs.  If it doesn’t say “vegetarian rennet” or “suitable for vegetarians” it almost certainly is not.

2. Marshmallows:  Made with gelatine.  Vegi mallows exist, but they tend to be super-expensive and all the recipes I’ve seen don’t yield the right results (although I’ve had to stop questing for this one in the past couple of months – I’ve cut sugar out to improve my mood stability).

3. Beer and lager:  When I was on a tour of Black Sheep Brewery in Yorkshire, I asked the tour guide, “is it vegetarian?” She said “the fish guts aren’t still in the beer when you drink it, so yes, we would say it is vegetarian.”  Obviously this is a crock of crap, and the fact of the matter is, fish died to make their beer whether they care to accept that this is the case or not.  Many other brands do the same.  Fanta did, too, for a while, but I’m not sure if they still do, as, last time I checked (2011), there were specific types of Fanta that definitely did (post mix syrup) and specific types that probably didn’t (cans).

4. Jelly sweets: Again it’s the gelatine.  Quelle surprise.

5. Anything fortified with “omega 3 and 6”: For example food marketed at children.  Heinz spaghetti shapes used to do it but they have stopped now and it’s 100% vegan again.  omega 3 and 6 can come from veg*an sources but the companies do generally get it from fish, this will always be stated in the ingredients.

6. Thai green curry, Thai red curry, ready made sauces:  Every single brand of Thai curry sauce that’s available in the supermarket in the UK makes it with either shrimp or anchovy paste which means they’re not vegetarian or vegan.  Some of them also contain milk.  They didn’t all used to have fish in them, but standards have clearly gone downhill in the past few years.  If you love Thai curry, get some coconut cream and the Thai curry paste, and make your own, it’s dead easy (I’ll go through it very soon).

7. “Freefrom” rocky road: This contains gelatine in the marshmallows, even though (annoyingly) it’s usually otherwise vegan and always gluten free.  Watch out for this one if someone buys it for you.

8. Refined sugar:  In the United States this is often refined with bone meal.  In the UK I have never come across this.  Tate and Lyle and Silver Spoon both don’t use bone meal, it’s just sugar, so theirs is vegetarian and vegan.  As far as I am aware, all other sugar in the UK is also fine.  I wanted to bring it up though in case you go to the US (or, if you come over here, feel free to stock up on British grown, animal free sugar, I don’t think customs limits export on it so bring a suitcase).

9. Walkers “meaty” crisps (potato chips):  In the past two years, walkers have made a move backwards towards the dark ages (I guess it upset them that they finally made their cheese and onion crisps vegetarian a few years ago).  Obviously they’re not happy if they’re not killing animals for seasonings, so their Smokey Bacon contains pork, their Roast Chicken contains chicken, and the Prawn Cocktail is still completely vegan, as are the Worcester Sauce, Salt and Vinegar (yes they stopped filling them with lactose a couple of years ago) and of course Ready Salted.  I’m not sure about their less “standard” flavours but do check before putting them in your mouth.

Those are the sneakiest ones I’ve found and which I feel don’t really need animals in them to make them tasty or edible or even chemically stable.  It’s just gratuitous.  But now you know.  And the more you know… (add your own to the comments, as long as it’s the most recent ingredients as they change unexpectedly)…

Note: This is prescheduled, I’ll reply to comments when I get back.

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Author: MsAdventure

I am a twentysomething travel, photography and beauty blogger who occasionally writes about other topics. Within travel, I tend to write mostly about Europe because all the other travel bloggers seem to write about South East Asia. As a writer, I have written articles that are published in Offbeat Bride and on Buzzfeed, and as a photographer, I have taken photographs that are published in local and national news outlets in the UK. I have a blog at www.delightandinspire.com

4 thoughts on “Meat Free Monday: Sneaky Ingredients”

  1. Interesting. I was educated about some of this sort of thing when I dated s vegetarian. It wouldn’t have occurred to me that drinks were not vegetarian. I suspect shrimp paste will be in most Thai red curry pastes (it is when I make my own, although I’ve made it without when I had none in). Som tam (papaya salad) also has dried shrimps crushed into the dressing

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    1. No, there is generally not shrimp paste in jars of Thai curry pastes, because as you said afterwards, its sold separately. And it really doesn’t affect the flavour or consistency so it’s not needed. Interesting tip about the Son Tam though, I will keep an eye out for it!

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    1. Cool, I might give that a try at some point! I made mine once from an online recipe, although I find it’s usually cheap, fast and tastes about the same to just buy ready-made paste from the supermarket (my favourite brand is Thai Taste – it says to put sugar and fish sauce in but I leave them both out and prefer it like that. But then I only recently moved out of Bradford and find that all the restaurant curries in York taste far too sweet and are heated with chili instead of the 1001 other spices available so they all taste wrong. The exception being the Nepalese place which makes proper food). I would sub tofu for pork because it goes very well in Thai stuff if you sit the food for long enough before eating.
      As a meat eater last year (briefly in 2014, between being veg*an from 2006-2014), I ate solid pieces of meat rather than any old stuff, and was still very stringent about all those bits of gelatine, isinglass etc, and found that I ate a lot better than before I ever tried veganism. I liked to eat meat when I chose to, for nutrition, not when it was foisted on me by corporations for the sake of their profit margin, and was a lot healthier than when I was younger and didn’t question what I ate in any way, so its definitely worth being aware of random ingredients whatever your dietary configuration!

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