Ethical Living

Common foods you thought were vegetarian

If you’re a vegetarian and are blindly trusting what you eat just because the ingredient list doesn’t mention any non-veg ingredients, you need a reality check. Many foods, considered vegetarian actually contain traces of non-veg food.  Though there are substitutes available for the vegetarians, they are still not popular or widely used.  So the next time you crave one of these foods, your best bet would be to confirm if they are actually “vegetarian“.


Salad Dressings

Think you’re safe when you ordered that lettuce salad? Think again! You know the vegetables are, well, vegetarian but have you ever wondered about the sauces? What exactly is in those sauces that make your salad so tasty? Most often than not, salad dressings are not completely vegetarian and contain eggs. So the next time you order a salad or are buying your favourite salad dressing, please check the ingredients list thoroughly, especially if it is an imported brand.



We all love Indian Chinese. The tanginess, the spice, heat. But what if we told you your favourite Manchow soup is actually non-vegetarian? Restaurants often add sauces to your soups which are derived from fish or add fish sauces to the mix. Yes. Even in your vegetarian soup! We kid you not. Try asking them about it the next time you are at a restaurant.

Many soups, especially in restaurants, are made with chicken stock, beef stock, or fish stock.  And you’ll find ham stock in most split pea soups.  Even Campbell’s Vegetable soup isn’t so mmm-mmm-chicken-friendly; look for their Vegetarian Vegetable instead.

French onion soup is one that seems so obvious now, but when we were fresh new vegetarians, my wife and I most definitely chowed down on some.

We promise you’ll hear things like, “It’s Tom Yum soup and Tom Yum Sauce contains fish…”



Life just feels incomplete without a pizza, doesn’t it? Indians have taken to cheese like a fish to water and we now add cheese to each and every recipe! So you have cheese pav-bhaji, cheese poha, cheese rajma, cheese dosa and even cheese paratha! But did you know that the cheese you love might contain rennet, which is an enzymes derived from animal guts. And for the love of humanity, we shall not get into how the enzymes are extracted. Unfortunately for you, the cheese packets do not list the actual enzyme used but just a generic “enzyme”.

I was traumatized to learn that Parmigiano-Reggiano, the nuttiest, most flavorful, most classic cheese in the world is made with rennet.  And rennet, for the unenlightened, is a nice way of saying “enzymes from animals’ stomachs.”  And guess how they get those enzymes out?

Parmigiano-Reggiano is actually required by law to be made with rennet, and you’ll find rennet in many other authentic imported cheeses (Pecorino Romano is another one).  While some cheeses list rennet as an ingredient, others simply say “enzymes,” leaving the buyer unsure whether or not any stomachs are being ripped open to get those goodies.


Jelly / Gummy Bears

The very sight of these delectable gummy bears has left you craving one. Admit it! But before you give in and indulge, read this. We all know what the main ingredient of jelly is. That’s right! Gelatin. And gelatin is an animal derivative. However, in recent times, gelatin is being replaced by starch or other similar food products and chemicals but they are specialty range and not common.


Red Candies

Who can take a rainbow, wrap it in a sigh, soak it in the sun and make a strawberry lemon pie? The candyman can, but watch out, because that dude puts crushed beetles in things, too. Red candies – and, as a matter of fact, practically anything that’s colored red – often contain red pigments extracted from the female Dactylopius coccus costa, or cochineal insect. Red bug dye is typically listed as cochineal, carminic acid or carmine in the ingredients, and it’s more pervasive than you might think, found in things like wine, vinegar, juice and colored pasta. Many candies are also coated with shellac, a resin excreted by the lac bug, which is usually listed as ‘confectioner’s glaze’.


BBQ Flavored Lays chips & potato chips

Some people are used to scanning the ingredients list of virtually any food before they’ll consume it, but when you’re vegetarian, it’s easier to let your guard down, assuming that some foods are ‘safe’. Take chips, for example. Would you guess that a bag of BBQ-flavored Baked Lay’s contained chicken fat? Probably not – but they do. The same goes for many other brands of BBQ-flavored chips like KC Masterpiece BBQ Chips and Ruffles The Works chips.

Ever wonder why you can’t just eat a handful of potato chips? I used to think it was the salt, until I discovered that many brands are soaked in tallow (fat from membranous tissue in cattle) before hitting the shelves at the grocery store. And, here you thought you were just chomping on some greasy, deep-fried potatoes. I find this to be incredibly unfair.



Cheers! No, we aren’t drunk writing this. Unfortunately, we aren’t. We’re as sober as a beaver (just coz it rhymes, you know). Beer or wine makers often use isinglass – or fish bladders to clarify their beer. So the colour you keep raving about? It’s all thanks to fish bladder! Sounds ugh? Well, most of the famous beer and wine brands in the world use isinglass. Vodka, here we come!


Ice Cream

Ice cream is the one comfort food that temporarily heals all wounds. Unfortunately, you may be noshing on Bessie under all that chocolate sauce. Many brands of ice cream contain capric acid, a fatty acid that’s obtained from animal fats. Check the label!

I hate to break it to you – I really do – but that chocolate sauce you pour over your sundaes may not be any better than the ice cream underneath it. Emulsifiers are present in chocolate, which may or may not be derived from animal fat. The problem is that most labels don’t specify the difference, so you’re better off sticking to ones that do.



That advertisement for your ‘heart-friendly’ oil? That’s actually not heart-friendly at all! Oils and juices that contain Omega-3 acids, advertised to be good for your heart are derived from fish oil. Also, some juices claim to have Vitamin D which is derived from Lanolin, obtained from sheep! So much for pure veg. Hmpf!



This accompanies every meal! How the hell is naan non-veg?! This is taking things too far. Well, it is not. Many recipes for authentic naan call for use of eggs while kneading the dough to keep it soft and give it good elasticity. That’s absolutely fine if you’re an eggitarian but dear vegetarian, you might want to eat that paneer tikka with chapati now?


White Sugar

Whoa! Did you know that while processing white sugar, to make it precisely as you like it, white, manufacturers send it through a cleansing process. And the cleansing process is done using ‘natural carbon‘. Wondering where that ‘natural’ in carbon comes from? Bone char. Yupps, that’s right. Charred animal bones! The safest way out is to buy unrefined sugar or stick to brown jaggery.


Orange Juice

Who knew that fish lurk in some brands of orange juice? If you want to avoid animal products altogether, skip any juices enhanced with Omega-3’s; some brands like Tropicana’s Heart Healthy Orange Juice get those amino acids from fish oil and gelatin. Also, the vitamin D in some enhanced juices is derived from lanolin, a natural oil in the fiber of sheep’s wool.Coca-Cola juices contain lanolin-derived vitamin D, while Tropicana juices are fortified with synthetic ingredients and Pepsi-Co juices contain no animal products or by-products at all. Typically, vitamin D3 is animal-derived.

So the next time you are out grocery shopping, make sure to include the names of some ingredients from this article on your list to double check upon.  You may just find another alternative that you normally miss out on.

~ Rutu Ladage 


Click here to post a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Loved reading your article. It was definitely an eye opener. So often we tend to rubbish such news but there is truth in these reports.
    Thanks for sharing. U r doing a great service to the vegetarian community.

  • Nice sharing and let it update in me .good knowledge we get .

  • What about gelatin capsules for medicines in chemist shops?

  • Feels so much better that i dont eat 90% of what is mentioned above except for Olive or Avacado oil & i see they are not fortified w Omega 3s or atleast I believe so

    But thanks for the article, finally! Someone makes it official & I have been screaming about these to the roofs, the whole time!!!

  • What about infant milk formula especially similac

  • I have visited sugar factories and even I had thought they use animal bone dust to give that white color to the sugar. But I was wrong and so are you, because they do not use any bone at all. The sugar turns white as the sugarcane syrup is kept on boiled due to crystallization. They just wash it with water and ola, it turns white. Trust me, I saw this with my own eyes. So please stop spreading dangerous messages like these.

  • Good article and eye opener for many. Even we can be careful in purchasing breads as most of the breads contain mono / di glycerides which are generally derived from animals. It is better to check each and every ingredient and understand them before purchasing anything.

  • please provide your information in hindi also so that common people can understand it better. thr are so many interestimg thing u share with us. i would like to share wt ppl who understand only hindi.. i will b happy if u consider my comment n bring some changes..

  • Problem is that due to factory farming, many animal derived ingredients are cheap to produce and subsequently include in foods. As a whole, educating our community about the horrors of factory farming will in turn serve to reduce the abundance and availability of these ingredients.

  • It is better to prepare food in our home with simple ingredients as done by our forefathers.
    we can live without taking all the foods that are given above. Simple food healthy life.

  • Its impossible to go complete vegetarian, in fact the amino acids, the nutrients absorbed by the plants are from the dead and decaying matter only. Even the manure is from animals. Every moment we breath we inhale so many micro organisms. Its better to eat and choose what we prefer or like . Even cow’s milk is an animal derivative. On that discipline we will have to starve to death or form our own food like plants 😀


    • Normally with an attitude like yours, the comment would go down into spam folder but since you are calling this website a rumour filled one, then maybe you need to learn to do a bit of research yourself before ranting away about lies being spread. Anyone with a bit of sense KNOWS that jelly contains GELATIN, which is a derivation of animal byproducts – THAT IS: SKIN, BONES AND CONNECTIVE TISSUES OF ANIMALS such as cows, chicken, pigs and fish! There are many vegan products in the market today which specifically LABEL: NO GELATIN ADDED! Here is a bit of reading for you:

      And next time you want to have a healthy discussion, then LEARN to debate instead of going on a bashing spree! And ask you “friend” whether he adds GELATIN IN THE MIX – which he probably does unless LABELLED OTHERWISE!

  • Even all mithais that come with silver foil? Does anyone know how silver foil is made? A small piece of pure silver is beaten between the stomachs of cow/bull/buffalo and beaten till it is so finely flattened and made in foil.

  • This is really an amazing piece of information.If possible, I shall request you also to write about the benefits of vegetarianism.Of late, I am indeed having a very tough time arguing with my “secular-rationalist” friends that being a vegetarian is really cool….and healthier !!Thank you

  • Can you write an article suggesting why Non-Veg is bad for humans?

  • Sanskriti,
    Thanks for spreading awareness. While you may have a point on being aware of the products that are labeled vegetarian but may not be truly so, I agree to one another person’s comment here that this is a bit of negative propaganda against vegetarianism. I consider myself Vegetarian/eggetarian but wouldn’t want people challenging me all the time on how there’s no such thing as pure vegetarianism.

    If you think about the air we breathe, can you vouch that it’s pure? Will you stop breathing because it’s impure? Where do we draw the line? While on one hand you’re creating awareness, you’re also discouraging vegetarianism and that’s unfortunately not correct.

    Vegetarianism, Veganism are healthy ways of life and if you truly support it, there’s no need to point out flaws in it. It’s like finding flaws with a religion. If you don’t like it, don’t practice it, but don’t preach to the world that it’s flawed. Much like religion, food habits are individual’s choices and should be left that way.

    Quite often, people ask stupid questions like ‘how do you even live on vegetarian food’, etc. which only shows their ignorance. There are other set of non-veg eaters who justify saying that anyone who proclaim to be vegetarians aren’t pure vegetarians either. I would classify both in the ‘ignorance to be ignored’ category. They can keep their ideas and opinions to themselves and not challenge vegetarians/vegans.


  • Dear All,

    I am surprised to read this article and story, I am sure there could be some truth in what is written, but i feel if it was the truth the religious organisation and the govt of India, would not allow the companies .. promoting this products as Veg products.

    If you feel your organisation feels it is a cheating to the veg public, I think you should go to the court and get them all arrested for playing with the sentiments of the people.

    • Please feel free to use Google search if you have any doubts on the topic.

  • I have defined my term “Vegetarian” with extreme diligence for this reason. I am trying to live with that and not into proving anything to
    anyone! so I can live with myself in PEACE! How about that?

  • you might have forgotten to include all the soups that are coming in the market like knorr and chings they contain traces of fish.maggie is another name , infact all nestle products or chinese preparation contains meat…. I dont know what the food regulatory authority ‘fssai’ is doing on this…. Either they want to convert all vegetarians to non veg or they are simply taking money to pass any products or they dont have sufficient labs to test any product….

  • Vaayu BakshaNam.
    Drink water.
    Do yoga
    Eat nothing?
    Fruits have pesticides.
    Veggies have chemicals and gene modification.
    Maya Lokam!

  • i am a vegetarian by choice . However I feel you are stretching the things too far .If we stretch things to the extent of fanaticism ,or become too fussy and fastidious we may not be able to eat any thing ,even medicines . We as ordinary human beings won’t be able to eat ,drink ,even breathe with ease as all our attention will be focussed on identifying ingredients in all the stuffs that come our way .My suggestion is to practise moderation in such matters.

  • This article just proves that you are never going to be able to be “purely vegetarian” anyways. It is practicality impossible to avoid everything that is mentioned in this article. So let’s just move on in life and stay away from the obvious ingredients. By the way I am a vegetarian by choice too.

  • feeling so bad after reading this . naan , cheese , white sugar r v commonly used in a veg diet .
    so much atyachar is done on animals to make food tasty n we say we r veg .

    thats why i trust buying PATANJALI PRODUCTS . its juices, capsules , sugar r 100 % vegetarian .

    so many thanks for sharing this article .

  • Thanks for this article! Not eating these unhealthy foods is actually a blessing- we start to eat more nutritious, fresh, whole food!
    Just wanted to add that even milk of animals is part of the factory farming process. In fact, the cows that are used to produce milk are later used in the beef industry (in the US especially).
    There are many alternatives to dairy products nowadays, so being a happy and healthy vegan is absolutely doable if we are willing to give it a try!

  • What about Amul cheese????..I never eat Permigianno cheese made of rennet….Plz reply…

  • I was eating everything in the list a few years back thinking they are veg. Due to the dawn of truth, Me and my family including small kids had left everything except refined sugar. We all have left eating anything made of refined sugar AFTER READING THIS ARTICLE and doing some research. it was difficult as we are very fond of sweets and stay in Varanasi, place famous for its sweets. now we make our own from desi unrefined ‘shakkar’ . So if your resolve is firm….nothing is impossible. thanks Sanskriti !

  • Thank you for publishing these valuable information. Regarding sugar, how to find out which brands/types are really raw = unprocessed with bone char and therefore cruelty free? It is known that many marketed “brown sugars” are actually ordinary white sugars coloured by caramel?

  • Regarding the salad dressing, if it’s Caesar dressing, it has anchovies, which are fish, so that is definitely not vegetarian!

  • Its a wonderful piece of article…thanks for the information!!any articles regarding toothpaste contents and cosmetics???

  • If the product has green ag mark is there still a need to check for gelatin and others things which are non – veg cause I believed that if there is a green ag mark then the product is pure veg

  • some salad dressings like caesar salad dressing contains anchovies which are small fish. Clarify that before ordering.

  • Freak u man!!!! U broke it………. shit…. Now I am depressed.

  • I always reach out for brown jaggery and now I know Ive been doing the right thing. 🙂

  • Great information, as some said we got to be moderate and a vegetarian by choice..well i choose to be vegan, because I want to. I will do my best to avoid any non vegan staffs..I believe this is our religion so if we like it we follow or else just be a normal occasion vegetarian on particular days…just follow your heart asking why are you a vegan/vegetarian? me personally simple..non cruelty again animal, non violence, fight for global warming…remember we forget vegetarian is just not food and’s on how we also going help the world…if you believe in God let God believe in you the world..sorry it’s just my views not hurting anyone…

  • Best thing to be pure vegetarian is to have minimum simple food and some local available fresh fruits as well as natural cow milk.

  • Thank God we never use the products or foods mentioned, we hardly know most of them, not because we are ignorant or backward, but because our traditional food habits are superior and more reliable.