National Vegetarian Week: Hidden pitfalls revealed

Being a strict vegetarian is not simply as straightforward as avoiding meat and fish.

There are many products on the market which would appear to be veggie-friendly but in fact contain animal products of various descriptions.

Two of the most common “hidden dangers” are whey and whey powder, which can be by-products of cheese making, a process which uses animal rennet, an enzyme from the stomach of calves.

Vegetarian rennet is available but is not always used.
Vegetarian dish
Other pitfalls include Guinness and many other beers, plus some wines, which are clarified using isinglass, an ingredient derived from the swim bladders of certain tropical fish.

The food colouring E120 contains cochineal, which is made from crushed insects.

Many sweets, especially jellies, contain gelatine, which is a gelling agent made from animal parts.

If you are incredibly strict and want to delve deeper than what appears on the labels, there are even more pitfalls.

Very low fat yoghurts, orange coloured soft drinks and squashes may contain beta carotene, which is carried in a fish gelatine carrier that doesn’t have to be labelled.

The Vegetarian Society publishes numerous leaflets on vegetarian food and offers a searchable database of food which is given its official approval.

For more information, visit

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