11 Foods that you think are Vegan, but shockingly are not!

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Trigger Warning: Some gory details. (how’s that for a sensationalized headline?) But seriously, when I started my “Vegan August Experiment” I thought the whole procedure would be fairly straightforward. Just go to the grocers and buy some fruit and Veggies avoid any meat and dairy and “Bob’s your Uncle”. Sadly, it isn’t that simple.

yellow banana fruit
What? Bananas aren’t Vegan? Not Necessarily.  Read on if you’re brave enough


We live in a world full of processed food. The food industry is just that, an industry. They have found every loophole to keep food preserved, tasty looking, and colorful. That usually means additives. There’s the rub. Many seeming Vegan foods end up not, once they are processed. So here are 15 foods that you would think should be Vegan, but in many cases just aren’t.

Juice  (Apple, Orange, and Grapefruit)

Several brands of orange juice advertise themselves as “Heart Healthy”. The reason they can say that is because they add Omega3 and Vitamin D (both known to be health-supporting for your heart) Omega3 is made from fish oil and Vitamin D comes from lanolin which is derived from Sheep’s Wool.

Apple Juice often contains Isinglass. Isinglass sounds so much better than what it actually is, Fish Bladder. This bladder is used as a clarifying agent. Isinglass is also used in many beers and wines. Especially in those imported from Europe.

Grapefruit Juice This is usually just in the “Ruby Red” variety. Part of what gives the juice its uniform pinkish color is a red dye called Carmine. This dye is from the Cochineal Beetle that is ground up and turned in to a dye. This dye can also be found in most red-colored candies, sodas and will also make another unfortunate appearance further on the list.

two glass jars
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Hard Candies

Not only do most red hard candies contain Cochineal, but hard candies also contain Shellac. This is a secretion from an insect called the Lac Bug, a red beetle that is found in the Jungle areas of South America and India. This bug juice has found another home in…

Non-Organic Fruit

The Lac Bug and the Cochineal Beetle are both prominent in non-organic Apples.  When harvested, Apples have a natural wax that helps protect the fruit. While they are washed and processed, the natural wax comes off. Apple Producers replace the lost wax with Shellac also many farmers will spray the Apples with Cochineal to make the apples uniform red color.

Bananas are also sprayed with a Non-Vegan material this time the culprit is Chitosan an anti-fungal agent made from Shellfish. Just the peel is sprayed, but the chemical does often seep into the actual fruit.

food red yellow colorful
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This one gets around. Anything with the word “Gummy” in front of it, Jello, a lot of Jams and Jellies, Marshmallows, The casing for a lot of medicines and Vitamins, and even salted peanuts all contain gelatin. Gelatin is derived from the protein and cartilage material of Cows and Pigs. This includes bones and hooves. The reason salted nuts have them is the gelatin is sprayed on the nuts to allow the salt to stick.

Vitamins D3 and B12

There are Vegan alternatives such as Lecithin but a lot of Vitamin D supplements contain Lanolin from Sheep’s Wool. B12 is only found in living Organic material. Vegans usually take a supplement. B12 can be made from Microorganisms but it appears it has to be some form of living material. All the research I have found seems to back this up. I am totally open to correction if I am in error.

Pastries and Bread

Aside from being loaded with Trans-fats.  many prepackaged pastries are sweetened with Suet. Suet is made from the Kidneys and Pancreas of cattle. You tend to especially see this in sweetbreads that advertise themselves as “Sugar-Free”. Many loaves of bread are also made with L-Cysteine a protein made from collagen derived from cattle, pork, and birds. (i.e. hair and feathers). Most sandwich chains such as Subway and Jimmie Johns have this in their bread. Also, some bread such as Sourdough also contains milk and eggs. “Frosted” breakfast cereals also contain Gelatin and sometimes are sweetened by Suet.

Vegetable Soup

Many times Vegetable soup is flavored with Beef Stock. This happens a lot in restaurants and even canned soup. There are brands of “Vegetarian vegetable soup” (sounds redundant, no?) and that leads us to…

Refried Beans

Another item you would think wouldn’t be meat oriented. But many times, the beans are refried in lard usually pork lard. There are vegetarian refried beans you can buy at the store. Fast Food places like Taco Bell, claim their beans are vegan-friendly.  “Caveat Emptor”  (let the buyer beware).

six white ceramic mugs
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Non-Dairy Creamer

Like Vegetable Soup and refried beans, the name can be misleading. Most Non-dairy creamers contain Casein a milk derivative. The amount is around 2% so it is minimal. Soy or Almond Milk is what I use.

Potato Chips

Often cooked in Beef Tallow a kind of fat for flavoring. BBQ flavoring is made flavored with chicken powder. Doritos (even if they aren’t Cheese flavored) contain Casein as a binding agent.

White Sugar

Part of what makes Sugar uniformly white is Bone-char. made from as the name implies. Animal Bones.

In the United States due to deregulation of the Food and Drug Agency, many manufacturers can hide these additives through such ambiguous terms as “Natural Flavoring” certainly animal hair and bones are “natural’ but not something many vegans or others might care to consume. This is not an attempt to discourage veganism, in fact just the opposite. We should all try to avoid processed foods regardless of our eating choices. We need to carefully read labels and challenge food manufacturers on any vague or misleading descriptions they employ. Also, eat as much fresh and more importantly whole foods whenever possible. 

I would REALLY love your feedback. Agree or Disagree let’s discuss this.  




18 Replies to “11 Foods that you think are Vegan, but shockingly are not!”

  1. Wow, a lot of good information that is new to me. It is worth noting that honey is also not vegan because bees produce it in their stomachs. Many if not most vegans choose their diets for ethical reasons (besides health concerns), and point out that honey is made by bees for bees to eat — and the sugar substitutes that honey gatherers provide to bees is lacking in nutrients.

    1. I had read about honey and debated whether to include it. Honey is one that made me sad to learn because I really like it. But i worry about the dwindling bee population so I am willing to forgo.

  2. I’m not a vegan but I do keep animal products to a minimum – especially red meat and dairy – you’ve highlighted some very interesting information. Beef stock in vegetable soup……that’s pretty deceptive/unethical when you know the reason people often opt for veg’ soup is because the don’t want any animal product 😦👎

  3. Good list, and also incredibly American. It wasn’t until I was reading an ingredient list from an American cookbook that said not all sugar is vegan that I found out about the bones. I was like, lol wut? Luckily all of our sugar in the UK is vegan, and our vegetable soups unless they add milk in. Sounds like more of a struggle over there! Great PST though, super informative.

    1. Thanks. We do have some issues with the Food and Drug Administration caving to big business and allowing them to sneak additives into processing that aren’t healthy. Who knew bananas and apples could not be vegan once chemicals were included. I’m glad the UK does a better job

  4. Yes, it’s pretty bad out there in the diseased, pesticide, processed world! I’m an omnivore, it makes life easier! I’m pretty healthy, my weight is stable, no meds and I enjoy some kind of exercise everyday (outside, no gym for me). Now that I’m retired I have even more time to food shop, cook and I also bake. It takes a lot of time to stay healthy! I finally bought a blender (Ninja brand) so I am enjoying fruit smoothies, I haven’t tackled veg versions, that’s next! Good luck in your efforts to regain your health!

    1. Thanks, Leslie. Those juicers are the bomb. I don’t know if you like Kale, but I’ve noticed when making juice you can “sneak” Kale or Spinach in and you can’t really taste it. Glad to read about your health, It truly is a gift.

      1. Thanks for the tip, l’ll try sneaking in the kale or spinach next time I make a smoothie! Health is tricky, not all is under our control, I try my best! It’s so much easier now that I don’t have to work for a living!

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