For everyone wanting to know more about hidden non-vegan food and ingredients in your food

Being vegan for over 6 years now, I had a couple of ‘accidents’ by not knowing what’s actually in the food I bought.

The ingredients like Gelatin, Casein, and Shellac are just some of the non-vegan ingredients that are derived from animals.

I thought it would be helpful to actually make a list of the most popular non-vegan food ingredients that you can find in your goods.

NON-vegan/animal-derived ingredients list:

  • Gelatin
  • Collagen
  • Shellac and Carmine (E120)
  • Beeswax (E901)
  • Whey and Casein
  • Lactic Acid
  • Vitamin D3
  • Oleic Acid
  • Lard
  • Isinglass

1. Gelatin

What is it?

Gelatin is a type of protein made from cows’ or pigs’ connective tissues such as bones, skin, tendons, ligaments etc. It’s obtained by boiling the parts with water.

It’s used as a gelling agent, stabilizer, thickener, or texturizer in many food sources.

Where can you find gelatin?

You can usually find gelatin in sweets such as gummy bears, marshmallows, jelly beans, cakes, puddings, and ice creams. Except for food, gelatin can be found in shampoos, face masks and other beauty products.

2. Collagen

What is Collagen?

Collagen is also a protein found in animal bodily tissues. Usually, it comes from beef or fish. Previously mentioned gelatin comes from collagen. When you heat collagen, it turns into gelatin. The major difference is that gelatin solidifies in water while collagen doesn’t. Hope that makes sense.

Where can you find Collagen?

Collagen can be found in popular dietary supplements for skin, hair, some protein or superfood powders.

Hidden non-vegan ingredients in food

3. Shellac and Carmine (E120)

What are Shellac and Carmine?

Shellac is another well hidden non-vegan ingredient. It is a red colour pigment made from a resin excreted by the female lac beetle. (say what?!) The beetle produces a resin to cocoon the eggs she lays. When the eggs hatch they eat the female (which dies naturally after laying eggs). Once the newly hatched insects leave the cocoon, it is then harvested to produce shellac.

It’s used as a glazing agent to make food look more shiny, or as a wood finish.

Carmine (E120) is a red colour pigment made from beetle shells. The pigment is produced by drying, crushing, and then boiling the bodies of cochineal beetles to extract carminic acid.

Where can you find Carmine and Shellac?

They can be found in chocolates, chewing gum, coffee beans, sweets, jelly beans, red-coloured pasta, juices, wine etc.

Shellac is also popular in cosmetics and nail polishes and it is used as a coating on drug tablets.

Fun fact: Before 2009, Skittles used to create the red colour of the strawberry-flavoured ones using Carmine.

Hidden non-vegan ingredients in food

4. Beeswax (E901)

What is Beeswax?

As the name says, beeswax is a natural wax produced by honey bees. Bees are using beeswax for building their hives and contain honey.

It’s used as a glazing agent.

Where can you find beeswax in food?

Beeswax (E901) is usually found in sweets, gummy bears, and chocolate.

Hidden non-vegan ingredients in food

5. Whey

What is Whey?

Whey is derived from milk. It is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained. It is a byproduct of the manufacture of cheese or casein.

Where can you find Whey in food?

The most popular product that contains whey is Whey protein which you probably heard of.

Other foods that contain whey are: sweets, ready meals, instant drinks, baked goods, some spice blends, supplements, and even non-foods such as medications, cosmetics and personal care products

Hidden non-vegan ingredients in food

6. Casein

What is Casein?

Casein is sometimes referred to as the younger sibling of whey protein. It is a protein derived from animal milk.

Where can you find Casein?

Mostly in food supplements, but can also be found in sherbets, chocolate, ice cream, creamed soups and sauces, puddings etc.

7. Vitamin D3 supplements

As you probably know, your skin makes vitamin D3 when it’s exposed to sunlight. But during those winter months and if you spend most of your time indoors you should be taking vitamin D3 supplements. There are two types of Vitamin D – Vitamin D2 which is suitable for vegans as it’s derived from plants, and Vitamin D3 which is usually made from cholecalciferol derived from lanolin (wool fat), which is extracted from sheep’s wool.

There is a vegan version of Vitamin D3 which is derived from lichen – a symbiotic organism composed of fungi and algae/cyanobacteria.

Read more about what to eat on a vegan diet

Hidden non-vegan ingredients in food

Have you checked my “Essential Foods for a Vegan Diet: What to Eat” post?

8. Oleic Acid

What is Oleic acid?

Oleic acid is a type of monounsaturated fatty acid, specifically an omega-9 fatty acid. It is a colourless or pale yellow liquid that is odourless and tasteless.

Where can you find Oleic acid?

While it is predominantly found in plant-based oils such as canola oil, sunflower oil, and peanut oil, as well as in avocados, nuts, and seed, there are certain animal-derived products, such as tallow or lard, that contain significant amounts of oleic acid.

9. Lard

What is Lard?

Lard is a semi-solid fat derived from the fatty tissues of pigs. It is obtained by rendering or melting the fat, separating it from the other components. It is used in traditional cooking and baking in many cultures. It imparts a unique flavour and texture to dishes.

Where can you find Lard?

You can find lard in pastries, some bread, biscuits, pie crusts, Mexican, Chinese and European cuisine even though many modern recipes have replaced it with alternative options.

10. Isinglass

What is Isinglass?

Isinglass is a substance derived from the swim bladders of fish, primarily sturgeon. It is commonly used as a fining agent in the clarification process of alcoholic beverages, particularly in the production of beer and wine.

Where can you find Isinglass?

Beer and wine

Most beers and wines are labelled nowadays but you can also check this website to see if your drink is suitable for vegans –

This should give you a good insight into what to check at the back of certain products in the ingredients list. Most modern foods use alternatives but you should still double-check if there are any hidden non-vegan ingredients in your food.

Did you know most of these ingredients weren’t vegan? Let me know in the comments below which hidden non-vegan food ingredient surprised you the most.

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1 Comment

  1. Audrey August 9, 2023 at 2:19 pm

    This is so good to know!


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