A guide to reading Vegan food labels.

One of the hardest things I found when I first became a vegan was understanding food labels. There are so many different names for animal-derived ingredients. I was so afraid that what I was buying and consuming could possibly contain non-vegan ingredients.

Maybe before your transition into veganism, you have never taken much notice of ingredient labels on food packaging. Being coeliac and vegetarian I have been reading food labels for years but I was totally in the dark when it came to some of the less known hidden animal-based ingredients.

A starting point

The easiest way is obviously the well-known vegan logo. Once these were found on foods bought in health food shops, now more mainstream supermarkets such as Lidl, Tesco and Sainsbury’s are now using the vegan logo.

Another clue is if they marked with the vegetarian logo instead, then you need to check whether they contain ingredients such as eggs, dairy, honey. If the product is vegetarian and does not contain any animal derivatives then normally it is then safe to say that the product is vegan and safe to eat. Sometimes a product will say that it may contain a product not listed in the ingredients, such as some pasta may contain eggs. This is possible because there is a risk of cross-contamination from an item not listed in the ingredients.

This has to be put on the package because of people who have food allergies where a small amount of this item could cause harm or even a fatality. It is then down to personal preference whether as a vegan you wish to eat that food. Often that non-vegan item is not in the product at all and is 100% vegan. Obviously, if you have an allergy to the item it may contain you would just avoid it.

Occasionally you will come across an ingredient in which you are really unsure whether or not it is vegan. Below are a few that you may come across.

I hope this helps a little. It really is a minefield when at first you begin your journey into veganism. I think the big thing is to your research before you start. I am nearly 2 1/2 years now a vegan as well as being a vegetarian for most of my adult life. I feel I am still learning.


GelatineUsually from cow or pigs and obtained
by boiling up bones, skin, tendons
and ligaments.
LactoseA milk sugar
Elastinesimilar to collagen and found in

the aorta and neck ligaments of cows
Caseina milk protein
E966a sweetener derived from lactose in milk
E120Carmine, a food colouring is also known

as cochineal from crushed beetles
Aspicgelatine alternative made from clarified
meat, fish or vegetable stocks

Lard or TallowMade from animal fat
ShellacUsed in nail products and obtained
from the bodies of the female scale insect

Honeymade by bees for their food
IsinglassUsed for the clarification of wine and
beer it is a substance obtained dried
bladders of fish.
Vitamin D3from sheep’s wool or fish liver oil
E441animal gelatine
E542used to keep food moist it is made from
ground-up animal bone and skin, often
found in confectionary
Cod liver oilFound in lotions, supplements and
Wheya milk by-product
Royal jellyOften found in beauty products and
obtained from the throat gland of the
Albumenfrom egg white
Propolisfound in products to help in the
healing of wounds which the bees use in
their hive construction
E901Beeswax, a wax made by bees
E904Glazing agent from the lac bug
E910, E920, E921Made from animal hair and feathers
and often used as a proving agent in
some bread.


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