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9 Surprisingly Non Vegan Products

Last Updated: April 14, 2024

We’ve all experienced this moment. You're confidently biting into a snack that you thought was vegan.

Then one of your friends points out that it actually contains an animal-derived ingredient that you weren't aware of.

We know that sinking feeling vegans feel when they realize they accidentally ate something derived from animals.

Food brands should be more transparent when it comes to the ingredients in their products, right?

Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. Especially when it comes to processed foods, today's pre-made items contain huge lists of unfamiliar ingredients.

It is very easy to overlook "casein" or "whey" at the end of the long ingredient list on the back of an energy bar.

It can feel like you need a degree in nutrition to decipher the list of ingredients.

From a health perspective, it's best to eat whole foods that keep strange ingredients to a minimum.

But we often find ourselves in need of a bite when we're away from home, and that's when it's important to know the common pitfalls.

So it helps to keep oneself informed and updated on these things.

To help you along, we’ve put together a list of 9 surprisingly non-vegan products that you probably thought were vegan.

Is Worcestershire sauce vegan?


It contains anchovies.

What about marshmallows?

Unless they are specifically marked as vegan, these fluffy treats actually contain gelatin, which is made from animal byproducts. Pesto should be safe, right?

Nope, it usually contains Parmesan cheese, which isn't even vegetarian as it is usually made with animal rennet (stomach lining).

There are a number of surprising "vegan" foods that aren't vegan. We've rounded up 9 of the sneakiest ones for you.

Read on for a list of 9 foods that are surprisingly non-vegan.

Potato Chips

Potato Chips

This is a frustrating revelation - after all, potato chips really should just be made out of potatoes, oil and salt, right?

Unfortunately, many chips out there are actually non vegan foods.

Dairy-flavored chips like Doritos and sour cream and onion varieties are an obvious one, but some chips that you wouldn't expect to be a problem, like lime-flavored tortilla chips, actually contain whey, skim milk, cultured cream, or other animal products.


A lot of mainstream cereal brands like Special K include surprising things like milk as one of their main ingredients.

Meanwhile, whole-wheat and organic cereals usually contain fewer ingredients and no animal-based ones.

Make sure to check the ingredients list before purchasing any cereal, just to be on the safe side.


French Fries

French Fries

French fries can be non-vegan when cooked in animal lard oil, which is how McDonald’s French fries are made.

The good news is that some French fries are cooked in plant-based oils like peanut, coconut or vegetable oil.

It's best to ask the restaurant what type of oil they cook their French fries in before placing your order.

Fruit Snacks

A lot of dried fruit and fruit snacks are highly processed and contain ingredients like gelatin.

Gelatin is a protein reduction of animal body parts such as ligaments, tendons, skin, and bones.

Obviously gelatin is not something you want to put into your body.

Fruit Snacks

In addition, the sugar in fruit snacks (if you have fruit snacks sweetened with sugar and not high fructose corn syrup) is likely not vegan, as most white sugar is processed using animal bone char.

To get real vegan fruit snacks, be sure to purchase them from a local fruit producing farm or organic food shop.

That way, you’ll get a fruit snack that’s made with real fruit without the excess sugar and animal-derived gelatin found in mainstream versions.



Yep. Surprisingly, a lot of bread isn’t vegan because it contain a little-known milk-derived ingredient called casein.

It's easy to make your own bread at home, and this is the best way for vegans to ensure they are not eating animal prod.

As an alternative, opt for Ezekiel bread because it’s organic and doesn’t contain any animal products.

Polaroid Cameras

While Polaroid cameras look cute and cool, they’re not vegan.

The film they use contains gelatin, which, as we’ve mentioned is made from animal bones and other body parts.

This goes for all types of photographic film as well.

The good news is that we no longer have to use film in cameras thanks to the invention of digital cameras.

Polaroid Cameras

Tattoo Ink

Tattoo Ink

While this isn't something that people eat, vegans or otherwise, tattoo ink is another surprisingly non-vegan item.

That's because most tattoo ink contains charcoal that’s made from burnt up animal bones.

However, you can find vegan-friendly tattoo parlous that use vegan ink.

Or you can ask your tattoo artist to source a vegan ink for you.

Alcohol (and Apple Juice)

If I told you that your favorite bottle of red was manufactured using fish bladders, would you believe me?

Well, it's true.

The manufacturing process of alcohol products - and apple juice - often involves a lot of animal ingredients, including fish bladders.

In fact, most wine, beer, and spirits are filtered using a composite of fish gills, fish bladders, gelatin, and even egg.

Alcohol (and Apple Juice)

This is especially prevalent during the clarification stage of the manufacturing process.

Luckily, there are plenty of high quality vegan alcoholic beverages for you to choose from.

You can find them listed on the Barnivore website or go to vegan.com.

The former site has a database of over 40, 000 vegan wines, spirits and beers from producers around the world.



And it's not just what you eat that can pose a problem.

If you've got a green thumb, you might not be aware that even plant soil is often not vegan!

Most plant soil contains animal excrement, ground up animal remains and even blood.

The same goes for fertilizers.

Alternatively, you can buy seeds and look for vegan soil and fertilizers.

Or you can try the “veganic farming” method which doesn't utilize any manure or artificial fertilizers.

In a Nutshell

As you can see from our list of 9 surprising non-vegan foods, animal ingredients are everywhere, even in places where you’d least expect to find them.

Thanks to sneak ingredients like casein, rennet and gelatin, vegans must research brands and be on their toes when shopping.

If you do accidentally make a mistake, don't beat yourself up - these things happen to all of us.

In a Nutshell

Just make sure to check the ingredients list on the food items that you buy.

And don’t be shy to inquire about food ingredients when eating out.

At the end of the day, there’s no such thing as a perfect vegan.

We’re all just doing our best to reduce and eliminate animal cruelty in the world, and that's all you can ask for.

There are lots of things you can do to help the cause. Keep supporting brands that are clearly marked as “vegan and cruelty-free." Support veganic farms and charities that work against animals testing and research.

And support online stores like Leafy Souls that support vegans and vegan artisans from around the world.

About the author, Leafy Souls


This is the staff-writer's account for Leafy Souls' blog.

We aim to make ethical consumerism simple with helpful guides, tips, and recipes to inspire you to make the best decisions.

And, you can trust us to select, test and present to you the most beautiful vegan apparel and accessories, to help you look (and feel) your best.

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