Sunday, December 9, 2012

Vegan and Non-Vegan Microingredients

So I've finally taken that picture of Christofer Drew off the sidebar. It's about time, admittedly!
This week I'm finally getting around to writing my post about microingredients and hidden ingredients, which are both a concern for vegans. Here's a quick description of the two terms. When I say...
  1. microingredients, I mean those obscure-sounding ingredients listed at the bottom of the ingredients label of a food product (such as calcium chloride, sulfites, etc.)
  2. hidden ingredients, I mean the ingredients used in processing a product (which may or may not be in the final product) that (gasp) aren't listed on the label at all (yes, it does happen!).
Which of these should you care about, and how can you figure out whether or not your food really is vegan, then? This is the question that I hope to answer in this post.

When it comes to microingredients, I recommend being as diligently vegan as possible. If you don't know where an ingredient comes from, for example, look it up! I am by no means an Internet worshipper, but I have got to admit that the Internet is a great tool for this. You can use Vegan Peace's Ingredients List as a resource, which is a great website that lists a great deal of ingredients and states where they come from, as well as whether they are suitable for vegans. I have found this an incredibly helpful website over the years.

Hidden Ingredients
Hidden ingredients can be found in flour and sugar among other things.
Flour may be sometimes treated with a "treatment agent" called L-Cysteine, which can come from animal feathers and human hair. This may or may not be true; it's hard to tell. You can learn more about L-Cysteine in a forum at (Read the fourth post down to find the part on L-Cysteine-- apparently it isn't listed in the ingredients list because it isn't actually present in the finished product.) Now, you might decide that this is not a big deal, and eat flour anyway. After all, it is hard to avoid flour in your foods, and I don't know whether or not "flour" includes all the kinds of flour, including gluten-free ones. However, I find it repulsive that people might be putting derivatives from feathers in my food. Because of this, I don't eat flour. (This is the reason why The Great International Vegan Soup Competition is a soup contest, as opposed to a sandwich contest.) If you feel uncomfortable with eating possible animal products but you don't want to stop eating flour and bread, contact the bread and/or flour company to ask them. Also keep in mind that enriched flour may contain nutrients that are animal-derived.
Sugar sometimes is refined using animal bone char. In Canada, the sugar companies Redpath and Lantic do not do this, however. (My mom contacted the company and asked them.) I suggest avoiding other brands of sugar until you get a chance to contact the company. Again, though, when it comes to this sort of thing, there is more of an ambiguous grey area where you can decide what's important and what isn't. For interest's sake, I do avoid sugar that may be processed with animal products.
Don't become too obsessive over hidden ingredients. True, some company may use a bunch of weird chemicals and ingredients behind the scenes and then not tell you. This could, indeed, be happening with more products than just flour and sugar, but you can't stop eating for the sake of complete personal purity. Veganism is a lifestyle, not a death-style.

My best advice is to read the ingredients label, look up ingredients if you don't know what they are, and contact the company for flour and sugar. This isn't supposed to be extremely hard. If you go out to a vegan restaurant and they tell you it's vegan, you should just beleive them, and the same goes for when you buy a food that says that its vegan on the label.

Speaking of food, The Great International Vegan Soup Competition soups are being made in my kitchen over the week! I've already made one, and it was delicious, but I won't tell you which one it was... yet. I've got to make them all first, and then rate them.

Come back soon for the winners of the contest!

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