Non-Vegetarian Ingredients and Foods

Non-Vegetarian Ingredients and Foods There are many vegetarians worldwide. However, not many know that what they normally eat (e.g. Poptarts) may contain animal flesh and other animal products. That is why it is extremely important for vegetarians to read the ingredients on their food packages. Reading the ingredients list on the label can be harder than understanding a legal paper. However, if you know what at least some of the ingredients mean on the label, you should be able to figure out whether the food you are eating is vegetarian or not.

Some ingredients listed on the label that may not be vegetarian include:

Gelatin - Gelatin is made of the connective tissue and other tissues from cow bones. This ingredient is never vegetarian. This is found in Jell-o, marshmallows, the icing on Poptarts, candy corn, and much more.
Alternate Spellings: Gelatine

Glycerin - Glycerin is often animal-based, and when it’s not completely animal-based, it may be blended with animal materials. Usually, the only way to find out whether it is vegetarian or not is to contact the food company. However, once in a while, usually on vegan products, it says in parenthesis, “vegetable sources” or something similar.
Alternate Spellings: Glycerine

Rennet - Rennet comes from the enzymes in a cow’s fourth stomach. Rennet is often used in cheese and may not be labeled correctly, because the FDA only mandates it to be listed as an enzyme. However, not all enzymes in cheese are rennet. They can instead be from microbes and are sometimes listed as so in parenthesis.

Carmine - Red dye made from the cochineal beetle.
Alternate Spellings: Cochineal, Carminic Acid

Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate - This one can come from animal sources, both flesh and milk, but it can also come from vegetable sources. If you eat anything with this in, be sure to contact the company. It is the "stearoyl" that might not be vegetarian, so watch out if another ingredient says "stearoyl." Also watch for "stearic."

Enzymes - Enzymes can be just about anything approved for food production. Watch out, especially for enzymes in cheese, which can be rennet. They can also be from microbial sources, however, and are often labeled as so. Enzymes made from bread-making are usually fungal.

Mono - and diglycerides - These can both come from animal sources as well as plant.

Stearic Acid - This is yet another one that may come from both plants and animals. Be careful.

L-Cysteine - L-cysteine often comes from duck feathers but can also come from human hair and pigs’ bristles and hooves. It is sometimes produced synthetically, but that is a rarity.
Alternate Spellings: cystine, cysteine

There are even more ingredients to watch out for if you’re a vegan. More here. That webpage is also my source of information for the ingredients section of this article.

Non-vegetarian foods thought to be vegetarian:

  • McDonald’s fries (contain beef feet)
  • Many other fast food fries, which are fried in animal fat.
  • Jell-o and other brands of dessert gelatin (gelatin)
  • Marshmallows (gelatin)
  • Candy corn and other candies (gelatin and other non-veg ingredients)
  • Poptarts (gelatin)
  • Some vegetable soups (may contain chicken broth)
  • Some frostings, which may contain gelatin. Donut frosting sometimes contains gelatin.
  • Many, but not all, yogurts (gelatin)

All types of food might not be vegetarian; check all food labels for non-vegetarian ingredients.

Common Myths about the Vegetarian Diet

There are many myth about what a vegetarian can consume. One of the most common ones is that vegetarians can eat fish or chicken. This is definitely not true. Someone who eats no red meat or chicken but still consumes fish is labeled as a "pescetarian."

There is no special name for someone who eats no red meat but still eats chicken. That is because dead chickens still count as meat.

Merriam-Webster's definition of vegetarian is "consisting wholly of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and sometimes eggs or dairy products a vegetarian diet."

Notice that the definition does NOT include fish or chicken.

Another misunderstanding about vegetarians is whether they can consume gelatin or not. Since gelatin is still animal flesh, gelatin would not be in a true vegetarian's diet. If you consume gelatin, please don't call yourself a vegetarian.

Latest articles