Do you find yourself adding time to your grocery trips because you are reading labels and asking yourself, “Is this vegan?”
We’ve all been there. Reading labels can be a pain, but I have created an EASY 5-step system to reading labels like a pro.
And just because I love you, I have put this blog post into graphic form for easy reference below!
Step 1. Does the front label say VEGAN or VEGETARIAN?
If the product has the word “VEGAN” in the name, it’s vegan. If you want to continue to through the rest of the steps to be completely sure, go ahead. I’m not stopping you.
If the product has the word VEGETARIAN in the name, it may actually be vegan. For marketing reasons, many companies may call their product vegetarian, even when it’s vegan, to keep their target audience broad. Some consumers may still not know the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan. (Send them here!)
Step 2. Is there a Ⓥ or Vegan in small print anywhere on the packaging?
You can also look for the Certified Vegan Logo to identify a product as vegan. Similar to a kosher mark, the Certified Vegan Logo can be found on products “that do not contain animal products or byproducts and that have not been tested on animals.” (More info on the standards for approved use of logo.)
A product may also have VEGAN in small print on the front or back of the packaging. Either way, you can be confident in purchasing and consuming these products.
If the packaging does not include any notation that the product is vegan, then the next place to look is the allergen list.
Step 3. Does the allergen list include an animal product?
“The 2004 Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires that products under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), that contain major food allergen, clearly identify the allergen on the label…”
There are eight foods that cause a majority of allergy reactions, including milk, egg, fish, shellfish, peanut, tree nut, wheat, and soy. By law, a food product must list these common allergens on the labeling. If you see the allergen milk, egg, fish, or shellfish on the labeling, that food product is NOT vegan.
If the allergens listed on the packaging does not include one of those four, then you can move on to the next step.
Step 4. Are there animal products listed in the ingredients?
All ingredients used in the formulation of meat, poultry, or egg products must be declared by their common or usual name in the ingredient list. However, there may be some ingredients that are animal-based but, are not listed by a name that is recognizable. Ingredients to watch out for include: gelatin, carmine, casein, honey, isinglass, lactose, and lecithin. For a complete list of animal based ingredients and what products they are used for, click here.
I talk more about these ingredients in beverages, here.
If you find any of these ingredients, that product is NOT vegan. If you do not find any animal ingredients in the product, continue to the next step.
Step 5. Is the product manufactured with possible cross-contamination?
Some products that are made without animal ingredients have the possibility of cross-contamination if the manufacturer uses the same facility and machinery to produce food products with animal ingredients. If the possibility of the cross-contamination includes an allergen ingredient, the packaging must include a statement.
This really goes into what I like to call, “How Vegan Are You?” Here, you can make a personal choice of whether you still want to consume a product with the POSSIBILITY of cross-contamination.
As I further explained in my post, Yes, Vegans Should Eat at Restaurants That Serve Meat, vegans should consider an economic component to the fight to turn the world vegan. In order to show the markets that there is profitability in plant-based foods, I would consider buying the product with possible contamination, instead of not buying the product.
It’s that simple! As time passes, you will end up finding more and more vegan items you love and you won’t need to study every label. Here are a couple of bonus things to look for!
Vitamins – For bonus points, look for vegan products that include or are fortified with nutrients that are hard to consume on a vegan diet, like Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D. You will also find that many plant-based products include nutrients like calcium and protein, despite the myths you may have heard.
Accidentally vegan – The best feeling when it comes to reading labels is to find food products that are accidentally vegan. My favorite: OREOS! Here’s a list of items that are accidentally vegan.
In the comments below:
What are your favorite accidentally vegan food items?
Tell me some of your favorite vegan foods!