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Animal Ingredients Hidden in Your Food

Animal Ingredients Hidden in Your FoodFollowing a diet or lifestyle that minimizes or eliminates animal cruelty is not always easy when it comes to prepared food, whether that food is packaged or made in a kitchen. While we can usually find dishes not centered around animals when eating out, the terms vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian are so commonly confused, it's difficult to know whether or not our food has been contaminated. It's always a risk anyone who is a veg/an must take is we want to eat at restaurants, but something we can control is knowing what animal ingredients are common additives in our food.

Even if you don't follow an animal-restricted diet, you might be interested to know whether you're eating bugs or animal stomachs, so you can be aware and choose whether or not to eat them.

Here are some animal-based ingredients, under other names, that are commonly found in food:

Carmine (or Carminic Acid)

Sometimes also found under cochineal extract, this red food coloring is made by crushing the sun-dried bodies of cochineal scale insects. It's found in a variety of red or pink colored foods from bottled juice to candy to yogurt. 

Casein (or Caseinogen)

Ironically, this milk protein is commonly found in "dairy-free" cheeses. While this generally makes these cheeses safe for the lactose-intolerant, it is disappointing for vegans and other who are dairy-free. Casein may also be found in other foods, and sometimes in household items like paints and adhesives.


A protein extracted from the collagen of animal bones and by-products from slaughterhouses (generally big boned animals like cows and pigs), gelatin helps food stick together and gives food a chewy consistency. Gelatin is found in things like marshmallows, gummy candies, and gel-caps. Kosher gelatin is usually made from kosher fish, but may come from specially processed cows, so it is not safe for pescatarians. Vegetarian gelatin, also called agar, is a gel-like substance found in red seaweed.

Isinglass (or Fish Gelatin)

Extracted from fish bladders, this collagen is used in the processing of some wine and beers. Although it doesn't remain in the final product, its use in production makes it suitable for pescatarians, but not for vegetarians or vegans.

Good news for Guinness lovers. The stout will soon be veg/an friendly.


Lanolin is excreted from the oil glands of sheep (it's what makes sheep feel greasy), and is extracted from the wool after shearing. Lanolin is a common ingredient in commercial natural lip balms, and is used in other lip balms, skincare, hair care, and cosmetics.

Rennet (or Animal Rennet)

Made from the stomach of young mammals (usually calves), rennet is used in cheesemaking. Many cheeses contain animal rennet, but some use vegetarian rennet, from vegetable sources, or microbial rennet, from bacteria or fungus. Some cheeses are just labeled with enzymes, which can be either animal-based or non-animal-based.


Shellac (as well as gum lac and lac dye) is made from "lac resin", a substance secreted by the female lac beetle. It is commonly used as a coating for candy and pills, as well as other items from glue to furniture polish to lipstick. 

White Sugar 

Although refined sugars themselves are vegan, they are sometimes processed with bone char, used to "bleach" (lighten) the sugar. Bone char isn't in the final product, so it won't be on the label. Unbleached sugars are not processed with bone char.