Surprise– 10 Things You Didn’t Know Weren’t Vegan!

When Dave and I first went vegan, we didn’t realize how many things contained animal products. Sure, there are the obvious non-vegan items, like leather and gelatin, but it’s easy to miss the more hidden ingredients. Animal products can be found in so many things that you normally wouldn’t even think twice about!

So why bother buying vegan* products if it seems so tricky?

The answer is simple: by buying vegan products, you’re able to contribute to companies whose messages you believe in. If more people purchase a product, the company that makes that product will make more of it to keep up with demand. As they say, vote with your dollar! More importantly, by choosing the vegan option, you won’t be contributing to animal suffering nor death. If you’re following a vegan diet for ethical reasons, it’s important to make sure to purchase products that don’t contain animal products or derivatives.

But how? It can sometimes be hard to catch non-vegan ingredients before purchasing, so we’ve found that it’s pretty important to do our research when buying a new product. Here are ten of the most common things you’ll come across that are surprisingly not vegan!

1. Orange juice

Surprisingly, many popular orange juice brands such as Minute Maid and Tropicana use fish oil or lanolin to enrich their products with Omega 3 vitamins and vitamin D.

2. Non-dairy creamer

Many coffee creamers labeled as being “non-dairy” contain caseinate, a milk derivative. Because the casein has been altered, according to the USDA, it’s no longer considered to be a milk product.

3. Some alcohol (mostly white wines) & Diet Pepsi

Some alcohol can contain egg whites, gelatin, or be filtered through isinglass, a fish bladder derivative. Diet Pepsi has been said to be filtered through isinglass, though the company would not confirm what makes the product not vegan.

4. Plastic bags

Sure, new recycling methods are now being used to prevent plastic bags from ending up in landfills, but did you know that they still aren’t vegan? Some manufacturers are adding chicken fat to the outside of the bags to make them more slippery.

5. Red food dye

Carmine, a popular red food dye used in a multitude of capacities, is made from the cochineal beetle. It can be found in everything from candy and Minute Maid juices to clothing and paint.

6. Margarine

It’s just vegetable oil, right? Nope. Some manufacturers will use milk protein or gelatin in their margarine, making it not vegan. Make sure to check the ingredients before buying! Our favorite (and most commonly found) vegan spread is Earth Balance.

7. Gum

Many brands of chewing gum include lanolin, which is what sheep produce to help keep their coats waxy and protected. Basically, think of your hair gets oily to help keep it protected and soft. Imagine stripping that off to mix into chewing gum… yuck! Alternatively, some gum brands use gelatin or stearic acid, which are also animal-derived.

8. Matches

Gelatin is just one ingredient at the end of a match to help light up a flame. Yikes!

9. Shelled peanuts

Some companies use gelatin as an additive to help keep shelled peanuts fresh. To stay on the safe side, shell your own peanuts!

10. Worcestershire sauce

Simply put, it contains anchovies. However, vegan options are available, such as Annie’s Worcestershire Sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos.


*Please note that “vegan” does not always equal “cruelty-free.” For more on this and the distinction between these two terms, click here.

Questions for you:

What have you been surprised by, when you found out it wasn’t vegan?

Do you bring your own bags to the grocery store? I always try to remember, but I collect the plastic bags I inevitably get sometimes for recycling– my local Walmart has a box for it!

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