Reliable sources for "Is X Vegan" searches?
May 15, 2018 3:23 PM   Subscribe

I eat primarily vegan*. The internet is full of nonsense when it comes to food ingredients. Beyond contacting a company and my own knowledge, is there a reliable source of some kind for checking this stuff?

*For example, I'm fine with honey and bug-derived ingredients. Therefore a flat yes/no for vegan may not be helpful. There are also animal products in my medications that are unavoidable.

A big issue I've seen is people speculating where the enrichments like vitamin D come from or that the off-the-shelf food doesn't even qualify as "food" so don't eat it. Or that sugar can be processed with bone char so no sugar EVER!

Basically, I don't want to directly eat dead animals, dairy, or egg products.

Is there any sort of reliable source for this stuff beyond doing my best to search or just read ingredients for gelatin and such? A better search term? Hidden non-vegan stuff to add to my ingredient-reading list? Good lists of "accidentally" vegan foods?
posted by Crystalinne to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
[insert caveat about my negative feelings towards the organization]

Peta keeps a list of vegan food options, with specific brands and products and whatnot, that I have repeatedly seen reference to as being reliable. It's definitely a place to start!
posted by brainmouse at 3:37 PM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

A big problem with this is that companies change ingredients. Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips were vegan for a long time, but now they aren’t. I would have kept buying them without checking, but there were complaints on vegan Twitter. I also remember when Oreos weren’t vegan. So some online lists might be out of date.

PETA is probably good about updating its list. Trader Joe’s keeps a running list of vegan items that’s probably reliable.
posted by FencingGal at 3:45 PM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

This Trader Joe's list of vegan products came up in another thread.
posted by lalex at 3:48 PM on May 15, 2018

I guess I should slightly clarify. The PETA list only shows "yes it's vegan" but there are likely a TON of products that AREN'T listed that have honey, which I'm fine eating. The reason for this question is I did a search for Fruity Pebbles Cereal. Which apparently the vitamin D may be derived from lanolin. But that's still vegetarian. My ethical compass at the moment is fine with using and consuming lanolin and wool for my survival. But it took like a ton of digging to get to that AND I'm not even sure if it's accurate. Is there anything with some sort of a vegan/vegetarian ingredient breakdown? Like, "Not vegan: contains honey"?
posted by Crystalinne at 3:58 PM on May 15, 2018

I have done extensive searching for the same thing and my opinion is no, there is no definitive list of things that ARE, because it's too hard to keep up. I'm only cooking for vegans sometimes, and they have additional allergies (and similar sensibilities to you regarding derivation so there is no rabbitholing on vitamin sources and bone char) so we go by the ingredients label and allergen warnings and that's the only way I've found to do it.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:16 PM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

IMO the most reliable and comprehensive source of information is the product label.

But to really be reliable at that, I think you'd have to spent a bit of time poring over a list of animal-derived products and decide which ones you do want to avoid. It's not complete - for instance, you won't know if vitamin A is from vegan sources unless it's labeled as such, but it's a start. That list says "food" in the URL, but it looks to me like it's got stuff on it that's only used in shampoo and cosmetics too.

It would be neat if someone built and maintained a giant searchable registry of commercial food product ingredient lists, AND let you create your own list of ingredients you were trying to avoid, but I'd think getting the product ingredients involves enough automated processes that it would end up not super reliable, with misspellings and variant names eroding the usefulness. But maybe I'm wrong and someone will chime in with a perfect answer!
posted by aubilenon at 4:26 PM on May 15, 2018 [6 favorites]

I use the “is it vegan?” app that allows you to scan barcodes or input them manually if you have access to a product’s packaging.
posted by MoonOrb at 5:46 PM on May 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Is it not sufficient to read product labels? It sounds like you *don't* care whether the vitamin A is from a vegan source, for example. I read product labels religiously because I'm very sensitive to lactose, and I can skim an ingredients label in about 2 seconds.

One shortcut, suitable for vegan*, is to check the "Contains" allergens list on the label. If it only says "May contain milk" or doesn't list milk/egg as an allergen, then you've ruled out all of the possible non-vegan ingredients that you care about.
posted by serelliya at 6:42 PM on May 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

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