The standard definition of an item being vegan would be anything that doesn't contain ingredients of animal origin. This definition seems pretty straightforward, right?
However, problems arise when you come across products that contain ambiguous ingredients with weird names.
As a new vegan, this makes it difficult to distinguish between vegan and non-vegan items. Sometimes even the package labeling itself can be quite deceptive, leaving with you with the question: How to tell if a product is vegan? If only there were a vegan checker app that would do this for you!
Of course, there are certain products and food groups that are easy to identify as vegan. These items include fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts, beans, and legumes. For everything else, feel free to use the following guide to options that will help you figure out whether or not an item is vegan.
Almost everything you buy has some labeling to show manufacturing information and standards. Vegan or vegan-friendly products usually feature labelling that says "suitable for vegans" or "certified vegan."
If you are a vegetarian, this is also useful, because all vegan food is also vegetarian.
This badge should be on the front of the packaging to show that the production process utilized no animal ingredients or parts.
These kinds of labels make it easier for vegans like you and me to find vegan items at the store. These labels are starting to appear on a lot of products in grocery stores thanks to the increasing popularity of vegan diets.
If you read the label and still can't tell whether the product is vegan, check the back of the package for "allergen information." This information is usually written in bold print and placed at the bottom of the ingredients list.
If the food contains dairy or eggs, the manufacturer has to include the ingredient on the list. It gives you a good indication of what ingredients make up the product.
Some manufacturers will even list the components linked to possible exposure during the manufacturing process. That's because just because strict vegans don't consider something vegan if the processing facilities also manufacture animal products.
For example, the allergen information section might say, "may contain traces of milk or eggs," or "processed in a facility that also processes eggs."
Brands don't necessarily include this information to establish the vegan status of their product, but it's a useful resource for vegans nonetheless.
Now, this is where things get murky. The ingredients list should ideally provide clarity on what the product contains within it.
But when was the last time you could even pronounce all of the ingredients on a package?
With the proliferation of processed foods, it has become more challenging to know what is actually in your food.
Most people find it confusing due to the marketing jargon used to describe some of the ingredients.
For example, ingredients like gelatin, casein, or whey powder don't reveal much about their origin. None of these ingredients are vegan, though - gelatin comes from animal bones, casein, and whey derived from milk.
But you wouldn't know this from their names, would you? That's why it's so important to research all the potential animal-derived ingredients hidden within your food.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals PETA website usually maintains an A to Z list of confusingly named animal ingredients that you may not be aware of, but that you need to be familiar with if you care about animal rights.
According to PETA, a product must be cruelty-free to qualify as fully vegan. That's because there are a lot of products that don't contain animal-derived ingredients but may include animal testing. Animal tests are not something they advertise on the packaging.
PETA notes that this is especially prevalent in the cosmetics industry, which conducts animal testing for makeup and skincare products.
It's important to note that some manufacturers may falsely label their products as "cruelty-free" or "not tested on animals." Unfortunately, misleading labels are a common practice, leaving most consumers unaware.
To make sure that the product you're buying is genuinely cruelty-free, look for the cruelty-free bunny icon. This icon is usually accompanied by a logo from PETA or Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC) to show that it is "certified cruelty-free."
Furthermore, be careful not to confuse a "cruelty-free" label as a blanket term for "vegan." Many products are labeled cruelty free but still use animal-derived ingredients like honey, beeswax, or gelatine.
There is an international Vegan Society which has branches all around the world. Part of its job is to trademark products that are vegan so that it's easier for consumers to purchase without having to check the ingredients list.
Products that have The Vegan Society label undergo rigorous testing. This testing includes verifying all the ingredients that make up the product, and those potentially exposed to the product during the manufacturing process.
They'll also look into whether or not it underwent animal testing. Once a product passes these criteria, it may then receive the Vegan Society trademark.
The default 21st century way to learn any information, if you want to know something, Google has tips for you. If you come across an ingredient that you're not familiar with, search for it on Google.
The search results should provide you with a fair amount of information on the origins of the ingredient, including the manufacturing process. A lot of this information comes from posts people share on their blogs.
There are certain items which, although vegan, may be processed with animal-derived ingredients. Take wine, for example. Before the filtering process, most wine is entirely vegan and cruelty-free.
But then it goes through a process called "fining" where it's filtered through egg whites, skim milk, or fish bladder protein. The added processing with parts from animals makes the wine non-vegan.
Now, it's difficult to tell if a wine is vegan or not because most wine companies don't include fining ingredients in their labeling. So your best bet in situations like this is to ask Google.
Or better yet, visit the Barnivore website for a comprehensive list of vegan wines, spirits, and beer.
Choosing a vegan diet is not the only concern we have as elevated humans. We don't just eat vegan; we live vegan too. When shopping for clothing, shoes, backpacks or other accessories, we should choose establishments that only source from manufacturers conscious of animals.
We don't want to eat an ingredient that comes from animals, so we shouldn't wear them either.
Fortunately, Leafy Souls has a wide selection of cruelty-free vegan faux-leather products that are stylish and affordable in our shop. For example, check out this vintage vegan shoulder bag. It's made with all vegan materials and is stylish to boot!
Your vegan friends or associates are another great source of information on vegan products and animal rights.
If you don't have vegan friends yet, then join your local town or city's Vegan Society chapter or search any vegan group that you can find on social media. It may take some time to find the right group, but it's worth it.
Enthusiastic and passionate individuals usually fill these groups. They care about animal rights and are always ready to help you make sound choices along your vegan journey.
Wait - you mean there is an app to check that food is vegan? Well, yes. There are quite a few vegan apps you can download to your phone that will tell you whether or not an ingredient is vegan. Looking for an iOS app?
Speaking of which, if you ever find yourself looking for a vegan restaurant in a new city or country, try apps like VeganGogo, VeganXpress, and Happy Cow. I know supporting vegan-friendly establishments can be difficult if you don't know how to search for you. Now you can save tons of time with these apps while you travel. You're welcome!
Most of these are easy to use and require that you scan the item's barcode or input its name onto the app's search field.
Well, there you have it; 9 ways to check if an item is vegan. Hopefully, the tips we've listed here will help you out when you're grocery shopping or just eating out.
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A vegan freelance web designer and blog writer based out of Austin, Texas USA.
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