28 foods and ingredients to avoid on a vegan diet

Read Time:   |  3rd October 2016

We all know the obvious foods to avoid on a vegan diet, such as dairy and meat products, but there are many other products that can often, surprisingly, contain non-vegan friendly ingredients too. If you’re new to veganism, take a look at this list of products to be cautious of, as often they can contain ingredients that are not obviously labelled as being derived from animals. 

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Animal foods

Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.

So with this in mind, it goes without saying that vegans obviously will not consume foods of animal origin, such as:

  1. Meat: Beef, lamb, pork, veal, horse, organ meat, wild meat, etc.
  2. Poultry: Chicken, turkey, goose, duck, quail, etc.
  3. Fish and seafood: All types of fish, anchovies, shrimp, squid, scallops, calamari, mussels, crab, lobster and fish sauce.
  4. Dairy: Milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, cream, ice cream, etc.
  5. Eggs: From chickens, quails, ostriches and fish.
  6. Bee products: Honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, etc.
Ingredients or additives derived from animals

Many foods contain animal-derived ingredients or additives that most people don’t know about. For this reason, vegans also avoid consuming foods containing:

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  1. Certain additives: Several food additives can be derived from animal products. Examples include E120, E322, E422, E 471, E542, E631, E901 and E904.
  2. Cochineal or carmine: Ground cochineal scale insects are used to make carmine, a natural dye used to give a red colour to many food products.
  3. Gelatine: This thickening agent comes from the skin, bones and connective tissues of cows and pigs.
  4. Isinglass: This gelatine-like substance is derived from fish bladders. It’s often used in the making of beer or wine.
  5. Natural flavourings: Some of these ingredients are animal-based. One example is castoreum, a food flavouring that comes from the secretions of beavers’ anal scent glands.
  6. Omega-3 fatty acids: Many products that are enriched with omega-3s are not vegan, since most omega-3s come from fish. Omega-3s derived from algae are vegan alternatives.
  7. Shellac: This is a substance secreted by the female lac insect. It’s sometimes used to make a food glaze for sweets or a wax coating for fresh produce.
  8. Vitamin D3: Most vitamin D3 is derived from fish oil or the lanolin found in sheep’s wool, and is often used to fortify foods like cereals. Vitamin D2 and D3 from lichen are vegan alternatives.
  9. Dairy ingredients: Whey, casein and lactose are all derived from dairy.

These ingredients and additives can be found in a wide variety of different processed foods. It is very important that you check ingredients lists carefully.

Foods that often (but don’t always) contain animal ingredients

Some foods you might expect to be 100% vegan sometimes contain one or more animal-derived ingredients.

For this reason, vegans must be cautious, and check the labelling carefully, when deciding whether to consume or avoid the following foods:

Bread: Bread Variety


  1. Bread products: Some bakery products, such as bagels and breads, contain L-cysteine. This amino acid is used as a softening agent and often comes from poultry feathers.
  2. Beer and wine: Some manufacturers use egg white albumen, gelatine or casein in the beer brewing or winemaking process. Others sometimes use isinglass, a substance collected from fish bladders, to clarify their final product.
  3. Sweets and candy: Many varieties of jelly, marshmallows, gummy bears and chewing gum contain gelatine. Others are coated in shellac or contain a red dye called carmine, which is made from cochineal insects.
  4. French fries: Some varieties are fried in animal fat.
  5. Deep-fried foods: The batter used to make deep-fried foods like onion rings or vegetable tempura sometimes contains eggs.
  6. Pesto: Many varieties of store-bought pesto contain Parmesan cheese.
  7. Pasta: Some types of pasta, especially fresh pasta, contain eggs.
  8. Crisps: Some crisps are flavoured with powdered cheese or contain other dairy ingredients such as casein, whey or animal-derived enzymes.
  9. Refined sugar: Whilst most brands sold in the UK are bone-char free, manufacturers sometimes lighten sugar with bone char (often referred to as natural carbon), which is made from the bones of cattle.
  10. Roasted peanuts: Gelatine is sometimes used when manufacturing roasted peanuts in order to help salt and spices stick to the peanuts better.
  11. Some dark chocolate: Dark chocolate is usually vegan. However, some varieties contain animal-derived products such as whey, milk fat, milk solids, clarified butter or nonfat milk powder.
  12. Some produce: Some fresh fruits and veggies are coated with wax. The wax can be petroleum- or palm-based, but may also be made using beeswax or shellac.
  13. Worcestershire sauce: Many varieties contain anchovies.

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