Serving the strict vegan
Is it or Isn't It?
The following can help as you attempt to decipher if particular processed foods are suitable for vegan menus:
Agar and Guar Gum
Both are very traditional, vegan thickening agents. Agar (also known as agar-agar) is a vegetable gum obtained from seaweeds used to thicken foods. Guar gum is also a vegetable gum.
Calcium lactate is generally fermented from corn starch or beets, and thus generally vegan.
Casein is a milk derivative. It is sometimes used to improve texture in soy and rice cheeses, yogurt and sour cream. This means that some soy and rice products may be vegetarian, but not vegan.
Some red food coloring is made from the shell of the cochineal beetle. This can be labeled as cochineal, carmine, or carminic acid. You can find cochineal in red-colored beverages, candy, salad dressing or spice blends. FD & C Red #40, the most popular red food dye, is made from coal tar derivatives and is considered vegan.
Enzymes are proteins added to foods to enhance flavor or improve texture. They can be animal-, vegetable-, bacterial- or plant-based. Those used in cheese-making are often animal-derived, so a vegetarian who eats cheese may still not eat brands of cheese made with animal-based enzymes. Examples of enzymes are: lactase (animal-based), lipase (animal or plant), papain (vegetable), pectinase (fruit), protease (animal, vegetable, bacterial, or plant), rennet (animal) and trypsin (animal).
Most commercial french fries are blanched prior to freezing. Blanching may be done in animal fat.
Gluten is a mixture of proteins from wheat flour, and is a vegan product. It may also be called wheat gluten or seitan.
Kosher gelatin can be made with fish or beef bones, thus not vegetarian.
Lecithin is naturally found in egg yolks, dairy products and meat, and some vegetables such as soybeans, peanuts and corn. Lecithin is commonly used in foods that require emulsification or blending. Most manufacturers use soy or corn as a basis for lecithin product, so it can be considered vegan.
Mono- and Diglycerides
These are common food additives used as emulsifiers and/or preservatives. The commercial source may be either animal (cow- or pork-derived) or vegetable, or they may be synthesized in a food laboratory. They are often found in bakery products, beverages, ice cream, chewing gum, shortening, whipped toppings, margarine and confections.
“Natural” does not equal “ vegetarian,” only that ingredients are derived from unprocessed products, such as vegan-allowable produce, herbs or spices or non-vegan eggs, dairy, meat or fish.
Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate
This can be an animal-mineral or vegetable-mineral compound; check with manufacturers. This is a common food additive, used to condition dough or as an emulsifier in salad dressings. You may find stearoyl lactylate in: cheese foods (such as grated Parmesan cheese), sliced cheese, cheese-flavored crackers or snacks; or in premade dairy-based dips.
Stearic is used as a binder or flavor agent in foods. Its source may be either animal or vegetable. It is found in vegetable and animal oils, animal fats, cascarilla bark extract, and in synthetic form. It is used in butter flavoring, vanilla flavoring, chewing gum, candy and fruit waxes, and may not be vegetarian.
Whey is the liquid that remains after most of the protein and fat is removed from milk during the cheese-making process. It is vegetarian, not vegan.