Remember when you didn’t have to worry about reading food labels? All you really needed know about a product could easily be found on the front of the packaging. Then people started questioning what was in their food and began paying a little more attention to labels. The large amounts of sugar, fat, sodium, and other unhealthy ingredients listed on those labels quickly gathered attention. Genetically modified foods, also known as GMO’s, are also something that should be disclosed on a label. Recently, a large part of the U.S. population has created a movement to pass laws making labeling of GMO’s (genetically modified organics) a requirement.
Labels on the foods we consume and products we use help us make choices that are in line with the type of lifestyles we want to live. Food labels are especially useful to people with food allergies, vegetarians, vegans, and people with dietary restrictions. However, there are still a variety of loopholes many corporations use that have even avid label readers fooled. Many corporations leave out some ingredients altogether or change the name of off-putting ingredients to trick consumers.
Animal bones used to process sugar
Did you know bones from cows and horses are used to filter sugar? White sugar is filtered through bone char as part of a bleaching process to make it white. Even packed brown sugar is filtered this way. Packed brown sugar is just white sugar with molasses added for color. It’s strange to think that sugar has to be filtered through horse and cow bones just to make it white. Why does sugar have to be white? What’s wrong with off-white colored sugar? This manufacturing process is a topic of debate among some vegans. Sugar does not come from animals so it should be ok for vegans to eat right? Due to this manufacturing process some vegans disagree and opt for other forms of sugar. Some fructose, though not most, is also manufactured using this practice. If you want to avoid sugar processed with bone char filters, click here for a list of companies that do not use bone char filters. If you want to avoid refined sugar altogether, turbinado sugar, such as the brand Sugar in the Raw, is a great option. Another great brand of turbinado sugar is Sucanat, a product of raw cane juice. Click here for a list of companies that use bone char filters.
Animal fat in fabric softener and plastic bags
Animal fat, particularly sheep and horse fat, is the ingredient in fabric softeners like Downy that make your clothes incredibly soft. The fat molecules, also known as dehydrogenated tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride, coat fabric to give it a super soft feel. Animal fat is also an ingredient in plastic grocery bags. The animal fat is used as a ‘slip agent’, this reduces the friction in the material. Plastic bags are just the tip of the iceberg. Animal fat as well as other animal components are commonly used to improve some plastics or aid in processing raw polymers from which plastic materials are made. These polymers are used to create a wide variety of plastic materials including fluid-handling products. This is a cause of concern for some due to the possibility of prion contamination. Prions are abnormal, pathogenic agents that cause specific normal cellular proteins to fold in abnormal patterns. The abnormal folding of prion proteins leads to rapidly progressive, fatal neurodegenerative diseases. The use of animal brain tissue or spinal chord fluid in slip agents can contaminate plastics with prions.
Animal fat in soap
Also known as tallow, animal fat is used in many commercial soap bars. The fat is rendered down into separate components such as: stearic, oleic, myristic, palmitic, palmitoleic, and linoleic acid. Although these ingredients are not always sourced from tallow, they typically are. If you see these ingredients listed on your soap and are concerned they may come from animal fat, the best thing to do is to contact the company directly and ask.
Here is a list of common bar soaps that contain derivatives of animal fat:
- Irish Spring
Shampoo and conditioner
Over 20 components from animals are used to make shampoo and conditioner. It can be hard to tell what’s in your shampoo and other beauty products since ingredients such as “vitamin B”. “panthenol”, or “amino acids” can be animal or plant-derived. Animal-derived components are extremely common in beauty and skin scare items. The best way to know if there are an animal-sourced ingredients in your shampoo or beauty products is to contact the company and ask. Many companies will not list the word ‘animal’ anymore to prevent putting off consumers. Other beauty products such as anti-wrinkle creams, body lotions, foundation, and lipstick, to name a few, also contain animal-derived ingredients from pigs, cows, fish or other animals.
Pig hair, chicken feathers, and human hair in bread
L-cysteine is an amino acid added to dough to speed up processing and extend the shelf life of the finished product. Some sources of this amino acid include pig hair, chicken feathers, cow horns, duck feathers, and human hair. The majority of L-cysteine is synthesized from human hair, from salons in China, to be specific. The hair is dissolved in acid and the amino acid is isolated through a chemical process. Once isolated, the amino acid is packed and sent to bread manufacturers to be used in the dough. Chances are, if you’re buying commercial bread, there is human hair in it. Sourcing this amino acid from human hair is cheaper which is primarily why it’s done. Technically, your bread does not contain actual human hair, just parts of it. Additionally, if we’re being technical, using L-cysteine synthesized from human hair or animal parts, can be labeled “natural”. So watch out for sneaky loopholes utilized by food manufacturers to sell you food that is labeled “all natural”.
Here are various commonly used products that also contain animal ingredients including parts from pigs, cows, fish, and chicken.
- chewing gum
- sour strip
- energy bar
- candy heart
- ice cream
- dessert mousse
- low fat butter
- cream cheese
- whipped cream
- nail polish
- injectable collagen
- beauty masks
- fabric softener
- soft gel capsules
Click here to see a single pig turned into 185 non-pork products.