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Food Not Vegetarian Or Vegan: Food And Drinks With Hidden Fish Bladder, Gelatin, And Eggs

Whether you're a diehard vegan, a sometimes-lacto-ovo vegetarian, or simply doing your best to keep kosher or halal, it can be pretty disturbing to find out your favourite food isn't really "meat" free.

Some casual vegetarians may occasionally turn a blind eye to the subtle tasting fish sauce in pad Thai or the egg mixture in a souffle — even if they can taste it — but in many other processed foods, the ingredients are even more subtle.

Last month, the Smithsonian's Food & Think blog published an investigative feature on isinglass, an ingredient made from dried fish bladder, which Guinness has been using since the mid- to late-19th century. It remains largely unknown that the ingredient is actually common in many beers and wines.

And ignorance is not always bliss. Besides the matter of ethics, some people are allergic to animal products, especially lactose and fish.

There are also some well-publicized health benefits from going meatless every day of the week. Studies have shown vegetarian diets can dramatically reduce heart disease risk, and often people who eat plant-based diets live longer than those who don't.

Of course, if you obsessively read nutrition labels, you can tell if your Caesar salad dressing or other grocery items have animal by-products. But if you're eating out or you're just oblivious to fine print and have a hard time decoding the lingo, we've made your job a little easier by rounding up some of the most commonly surprisining food and drinks that aren't vegetarian-friendly.

Surprising Non-Vegetarian Foods

Kraft Singles And Macaroni And Cheese:

WHAT'S IN IT? Enzymes from animals

According to Kraft's website, enzymes used to make Kraft Singles slices and the powdered cheese for Macaroni and Cheese, are both "sourced from both microbial fermentations and animal sources" such as cow, sheep, and goat.

Guinness (And Other Beers):

WHAT'S IN IT? Dried fish bladder

An in-depth report says Guinness beer may have used isinglass (an ingredient made from dried fish bladder) during their brewing process.

Nerds (And Other Red Candies):

WHAT'S IN IT? Insects

Carmine, made from beetles and other insects, is a common type of food colouring. This ingredient is usually found in red coloured candies and strawberry-and-grape flavoured Nerds. And just last year, coffee-giant Starbucks told consumers their Strawberries & Crème Frappuccinos and strawberry-flavoured smoothies all contained cochineal extract — red food colouring made from crushed cochineal beetles.

McDonald's Smoothie:

WHAT'S IN IT? Gelatin is made from the protein of animal by-products such as skin, tendons, ligaments and bones.

If you're a vegetarian or vegan, you probably already know to avoid marshmallows, some jams, jellies and gelatin desserts like JELL-O. But some candies like Peeps, gummy bears and even McDonald's Real Fruit Smoothies also contain gelatin.

Refined White Sugar:

WHAT'S IN IT? Bone char

Some companies use bone char during the processing of refined white sugar. However, not all types of refined sugar contains bone char. PETA notes that bone char can also be found in some brown sugars, and they've even included a list of manufactures who are completely vegan.


WHAT'S IN IT? Rennet — enzymes made from the stomachs of unweaned animals such as calves.

If you love freshly grated Parmesan cheese with your pasta or risotto, we're sorry to deliver the bad news: This type of cheese is almost always made with rennet. Some writers even argue why vegetarian recipes continue to include this cheese as a vegetarian ingredient. Other hard cheese and gorgonzola may also be culprits.

Omega-3 Enriched Food And Drinks:

WHAT'S IN IT? Fish oil

Most Omega-3 enriched drinks or food or drinks such as margarine, olive oil and bread may contain fish rather than plant sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. This Tropicana juice contains tilapia, sardines and anchovy.

Taco Bell Cheese Quesadilla:


This is obviously a no-no for vegans, but any vegetarian who eats dairy, but not eggs, shoud be wary of some breads and tortillas, such as the ones made for this cheesy fast-food dish.


WHAT'S IN IT? Gelatin made from pig and cow hooves

Vegans, you may want to skip out on this one. Many wines and even beers use gelatin as a finishing agent.

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