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Hidden Animal Ingredients

Updated on November 7, 2014

Is It Vegetarian?

I have been a vegetarian for 14 years now, and I can still be surprised by "hidden" animal ingredients. As a matter of fact, I just learned today that "gum base" in many gums is not vegetarian. Although, I do try to read lables and ask questions when dining out, I find that it is much easier to just eat whole natural foods that I prepare myself. It's generally healthier, to boot! :)

Hidden Animal Ingredients List

There are many alternative names for things like milk and eggs and other non-vegan food components. These are just a few examples:

  • Casein - a class of milk proteins often found in items marked 'non-dairy'
  • Ghee - a common milk derivative
  • Albumen - protein found in egg whites
  • Cochineal/Carmine - a coloring agent made from ground up beetles
  • Oleic acid - fat from sheep or cattle
  • Rennin/Rennet - enzymes from a calf's stomach
  • Calcium Stearate - a mineral usually derived from hogs and cattle
  • Gelatin - protein from animal bones, cartilage, tendons, and skin
  • Glycerides (mono/di/tri) - glycerol from animal fats
  • Stearic acid - animal fats and oils
  • Lecithin - phospholipids often from animal tissues and eggs
  • Pepsin - enzymes gathered from pigs stomachs

If you're thinking that a trip to the grocery store just got a lot more complicated, don't worry; you'll soon get the hang of it, and your shopping time will decrease. It's a good idea to take along a more complete list of animal ingredients with you on your first few forays to the grocery store as a vegan.

Also check out Hidden Animal Ingredients in Foods - For Dummies & Vegetarian Frequently Asked Questions - Animal Ingredients.

Animal Ingredients A to Z: Third Edition
Animal Ingredients A to Z: Third Edition

Animal Ingredients A to Z is the bible for vegetarians, vegans, and caring consumers. More and more, we find our everyday foods containing peculiar -ingredients—many of which are animal derived. As well as a comprehensive listing of animal ingredients, this easy-to-navigate guide contains supplemental information on vegan nutrition, food alternatives, and contact information for animal advocacy groups. Carol Adams, author of The Sexual Politics of Meat and Bruce Friedrich, director of Vegan Outreach at PETA, offer introductions to this newly expanded edition. Finally, consumers can brave the labels at their local market with confidence.



You've heard it's made of horse hooves, perhaps. But it's actually made from the connective tissues of just about any animal. So it's not meat, per se, it's the stuff boiled down from every part of the animal you wouldn't eat if you did eat meat. So, no more Jell-O, right? Yes, but gelatin pops up all over the place. Here's a list to get you started.

  • Some dairy products such as ice cream, sour cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt.
  • Some frostings and most "frosted" products such as Pop-Tarts.
  • Candies such as gummy products (but not my beloved Jujyfruits), jelly beans, Skittles and Starburts, candy corn, and even Altoids.
  • Marshmallows (but not marshmallow crème) and items that contain marshmallows such as a Southern favorite, Moon Pies and breakfast cereals with "marshmallow bits" or frosting.
  • Jell-O, gelatin and some pudding mixes as well as some jams, jellies, and "fruit snacks."


    Harvest Direct Soy Pudding Mixes Vegan and Vegetarian Cake Mix

    (Banana, Chocolate, French Vanilla, Lemon Creme)

    (Available via Dixie Diners' Club)

    Dr. Oetker Simple Organics

    - Pudding/Pie Filling Mix (Chocolate, Coconut, Mocha, Vanilla)

    (avaialable via Vegan Essentials)

    Lieber's Unflavored Jel

    Vegan and Vegetarian Baking Mixes

    (avaialable via Vegan Essentials)

    Natural Desserts Gluten-Free Vegan Jel Dessert

    (available via Vegan Essentials)

    - Vegan Chocolate Mousse Mix

    - Vegan Custard Mix

  • Many medicines and vitamins, particularly those in capsule or "gelcap" form contain gelatin.
  • Some energy and diet bars (though some may list gelatin as "hydrolyzed collagen") as well as some energy/performance drinks.
  • A few margarines including the fat-free version of "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" (try Earth Balance, instead). Interestingly, the regular version of "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" doesn't have gelatin.
  • Some pre-made guacamole (really, you shouldn't be eating this stuff anyway - it's mostly filler and little avocado).
  • Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts and other roasted nuts (but not all Planters nut products).
  • Some soups and sauces.

- via Almost Vegetarian

Gelatin Alternatives

Accidentally Vegan

iPhone App Scans Ingredient Label for Hidden Animal Products & Ingredients

Check the Vegetarian status of food additives using your iPhone 3GS Camera!

Vegetarian Scanner is a one of kind app that will scan ingredient labels of food products and automatically tell you the vegetarian statuses of the food additives contained in the product.

Vegetarian Scanner takes a photo of the ingredients label on a product, recognizes the food additive numbers using text recognition technology and checks the additives in our vegetarian database to determine whether or not they are vegetarian.

Vegetarian Scanner also lets you browse through and search our database of food additives when you need to look up additives in a hurry or if you are using an iPod Touch, iPhone 2G or 3G.

Vegetarian Scanner for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad on the iTunes App Store

Info on the Quiz Above

Take the quiz before you read this! No cheating :)


Bacos contain no animal products - they're vegan! Bacos Nutiritional Information


Marshmallows contain gelatin. However, there are Vegan Marshmallows.

McDonald's French Fries

McDonald's USA - French Fries Ingredients they contain natural beef flavor.

Dannon (and most other brands) Yogurt

"Gelatin gives consistency and texture to certain varieties of yogurt. DANNON uses kosher gelatin, and DANNON products are made with gelatin derived from cattle hide." via Yogurt Ingredients (pdf)

Stonyfield Yogurt

Stonyfield yogurt is the only widely distributed yogurt with no gelatin, that I know of. All of the products they offer are organic, and the company is committed to healthy food, healthy people, a healthy planet, and healthy business. Stonyfield Farm Products

Marshmallow Fluff

What is Fluff made from? Fluff is vegetarian but not vegan due to egg whites.

Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts

Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts Ingredients they contain gelatin - why?


An email response from J&D's, the makers of Baconnaise: "None of the flavors is sourced from animals or animal by-products. All of our products are vegetarian and some are even vegan to see a full product list and ingredients go to"

Act II Microwave Popcorn

It contains fish.

Which products with hidden animal ingredients surprise you most?

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    • profile image

      SimpleSanity 5 years ago

      Wow! Learned a lot about the foods I've been feeding my family. Very informative.

    • Nilakantha profile image

      Nilakantha 5 years ago

      French fries are just shocking!

    • KatPalmer LM profile image

      KatPalmer LM 5 years ago

      Why do French fries have to taste like beef? If I order fries I want to taste potatoes! And why would popcorn contain fish? I find it safest to avoid processed food altogether.

    • koshertrade profile image

      koshertrade 5 years ago

      To make sure that no meat or any derivative is found in your food products you can of course rely on the kosher symbols.

      Who is looking for Kosher?


      For a variety of reasons vegetarians exclude meat, dairy, and poultry products from their diet. Vegetarian consumers rely on the kosher Pareve symbol when shopping because it is their warranty that the product is totally free of any meat, dairy, or poultry derivatives and is absolutely suitable for vegetarian consumption

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Toothpaste! Plus I didn't realize the amount of foods containing gelatin.

    • koshertrade profile image

      koshertrade 5 years ago

      i like this article..very informative!

    • profile image

      ian_scott 6 years ago

      Interestingly, for those that would want to know, many wines are clarified with animal based ingredients. Now, when the wine arrives in your glass, it is very doubtful that any of those ingredients remain, as the purpose of the clarifying is to "attract" the particles - and then drop to the bottom of the carboy.

      So these clarifying agents are not listed as "ingredients" - but have been in the wine. Isinglass is one that comes to mind... btw.. home wine making is a hobby and that is how I learned about this.

      So depending on what amount of animal "use" you are prepared to accept, it is something to consider.

    • profile image

      merry-c-carey 6 years ago

      Lecithin CAN be from animal sources, and is the major component of eggyolk, but most commonly sold is from soybeans and is a secondary product removed from soy oil used for industrial purposes; it makes soy-oil based paints smear, for instance.

    • JoyfulReviewer profile image

      JoyfulReviewer 6 years ago

      Yikes ... this has been a real eye-opener.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Or how about 'L-cysteine', an ingredient found in items such as bagels. Turns out its derived from duck or chicken feathers. Yikes!!*

      *Correction from previous posts; cysteine is no longer made from human hair but now feathers are being used.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Or how about L-cysteine, an ingredient found in items like bagels. Turns out it's derived from chicken and duck feathers or human hair. Yikes!!!

    • WhimsicalWatters profile image

      WhimsicalWatters 6 years ago

      I was shocked by Act II popcorn. The are two, that shocked me that did not make your list. Castoreum. It is used in artificial vanilla flavoring among other things. It is taken from genitals of mature beavers (the castor sac).

      Also they use dead beetles to make the Carmel color that you see in soda pop.

      I liked your article a lot. I am always reading labels, since I am a vegetarian.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Interesting and informative quiz. Those of you that are vegetarians and care about animals, please do some research into the factory farming of animals for dairy and eggs. The cows and chickens suffer horrific abuses. Dairy calves are slaughtered at birth. Male bulls are masturbated and female cows artifically inseminated. Laying hens also lived confined lives in cages, free range isn't any better -unless it's on a small farm where they really do run free.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      was surprised on a few of the quiz answers, good to know, great article.

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 6 years ago

      Dear hlkljgk,

      Please let me know on my Bio page if you are pleased with my feature of your lens on my newest one:

      (Your feature is a little more than half-way down).



    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 6 years ago

      I will be featuring this lens of yours - with your permission, of course, on my newest one. Will let you know when it is done - hopefully today. Thank you again for educating so many of us who are all new to the vegan lifestyle!



    • sidther lm profile image

      sidther lm 6 years ago

      I visited this lens when goodveg first started and I'm sorry I didn't "like" it back then- I was too grossed out and had to leave the computer. This lens COMPLETELY changed everything about my diet. The day I read this, I went to the grocery store and read all that stuff was in everything we usually buy- even frozen veggies with "seasonings and sauce". Instead of buying groceries that day I bought lots and lots of seeds and have not eaten anything prepackaged since. I have found some plain frozen fruits and veggies, but I just feel better growing my own now. I used to eat gummy snacks every day. I actually feel a lot better now that I don't eat that stuff. Thank you so much for writing this! ~came back to thank you and bless~

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 6 years ago

      @sousababy: Came back to google +1 this gem.

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 6 years ago

      Yeah the marshmallows surprised me too. Featuring this fine lens on my Halloween one (with Rice Krispie's treats). Thank you so much for the education. Take good care, Rose

    • jennabee25 profile image

      Jenn Dixon 6 years ago from PA

      I eat a lot of yogurt. I was shocked to find gelatin in so many of them. I find that a lot of Greek yogurts are safe.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 6 years ago from United States

      This was extremely interesting. Since I am not a vegetarian, but my children are vegetarians, I am often surprised at what they refuse to eat. My daughter reads every label. This will be a helpful resource to me when I am cooking my my children.

    • compugraphd profile image

      compugraphd 6 years ago


      Nice lens. I've been a vegetarian for 34 years, 22 years as a vegan. I don't eat much that I don't know..... Thanks for the lens....

    • pimbels lm profile image

      pimbels lm 6 years ago

      Popcorn and peanuts. Thank you for sharing.

    • ChrissLJ profile image

      ChrissLJ 6 years ago

      Good grief. I'm fairly annal about reading ingredient lists constantly, but one should feel safe with popcorn! My favorite brand of ramen noodles used to be veg... and now contains beef fat. I'm also not fond of making my own french fries, but several have added beef tallow to their ingredients list... even though it wasn't listed before. Others that shock me: ranch dip (some brands), pop tarts and some brands of fruit dip.

    • profile image

      davapava 6 years ago

      Oleic acid, can come from canola and grape seed oil. :)

    • SquidooFanatic profile image

      SquidooFanatic 6 years ago

      Cochineal/Carmine is really disturbing - ground up beetles! ive been a vegetarian for 15 years but would like to become a vegan and am gradually phasing out all traces of animal products but it is so hard. Its so sad to think how much animal products we might unknowingly consume in a day

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      I was shocked the other day to learn that marshmallows weren't vegetarian!

    • joanhall profile image

      Joan Hall 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      I think the one that surprises me most is the Altoids. Doesn't seem like the kind of thing that would have gelatin in it. Even for non-vegetarians, this is a reminder that you never know what you're eating with manufactured foods.

    • CathyLou LM profile image

      CathyLou LM 7 years ago

      I'm surprised about the peanuts. I don't understand why everything seems to have so many additives! Oh and I got 4/10 on the quiz... I guess I need to learn more about this subject.

    • profile image

      goatlover_and_pescetarian 7 years ago

      @goatlover_and_pescetarian: got 90 seconfd time :P

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 7 years ago from Western Mass

      @goatlover_and_pescetarian: if the packaging says it's vegetable derived, then it is. if it doesn't specify, you could contact the manufacturer to find out.

    • profile image

      goatlover_and_pescetarian 7 years ago

      The fatty acids confuse me.., I thought some of them ere veggie and some not... Is the packaging lying to me?

    • profile image

      goatlover_and_pescetarian 7 years ago

      @stacy mcdaniel: Ha - 70!! Same here though ;)

    • profile image

      goatlover_and_pescetarian 7 years ago

      Actually we r fine with starburst and skittle sweets - except red skittles!!! Y not metion some e- numbers : 120 is carmine and 144 is geletine I think. Y is it that no one believes u when u tell them why u don't want a pink sweet? Who's the veggie - us or them?? Oh sorry- I gotta stop ranting on to people I don't even know... Absolutely top lens lifesaver!!

    • Dustbunnyodoom profile image

      Dustbunnyodoom 7 years ago

      Fantastic lens got an 80 on the quiz, thank you so much for sharing the vegetarian safe cheese list! Also I've tried baconnaise's not too bad, not an everyday thing of course.

    • Sammy24 profile image

      Sammy24 7 years ago

      Oh my goodness, and I thought I was being careful! Thanks for he info.

    • profile image

      TWOnline2 7 years ago

      anything processed would not surprise me. if you don't want surprises, grow it or cook it yourself

    • ElizabethSheppard profile image

      Elizabeth Sheppard 7 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      I knew about gelatin and ghee, but nearly everything else surprised me. I have a lot to learn about true vegetarian ingredients and products are. What surprised me most was learning what lecithin really was: "phospholipids often from animal tissues and eggs" - wow. I thought it was just a health food pill, with no animal ingredients. I was way off.

    • stacy mcdaniel profile image

      stacy mcdaniel 8 years ago

      I made 44%. I guess I need to do some studying.

    • SoyCandleLover profile image

      BW Duerr 8 years ago from Henrietta, New York

      I was surprised Bacos is vegetarian and McDonald's Fries aren't. :D Thanks for the education.

    • LoKackl profile image

      LoKackl 8 years ago

      Well I did terrible. It's amazing how many animal ingredients are slipped into foods we eat every day! Very educational quiz and lens. Thanks 5*/fav

    • Alfiesgirl LM profile image

      Alfiesgirl LM 8 years ago

      I was very surprised to find McDonalds french fries on the list.

    • The-Java-Gal profile image

      The-Java-Gal 8 years ago

      Dry roasted peanuts! I am not vegetarian, but like you, I make most everything from scratch. I am tired of disguised ingredients in almost everything packaged. You put together a nice reference list.

    • profile image

      Leanne Chesser 8 years ago

      This is a terrific resource for vegetarians/vegans. Thanks! The video is awesome and the list is very helpful. I didn't do well on the quiz though (I don't eat any of that stuff)!