Going vegan: Label Reading

Posted by Steph Elswood on

What is vegan food?

Vegan food is food that doesn't contain any animal products or by-products, and isn't tested on animals.

Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes are unprocessed, plant-based foods - easy to spot as vegan foods! But for other foods, particularly those in packaging, you might need to read the label to know if they're vegan. Here are some tips for label reading. 

Vegan & vegetarian labelling

Many big brands have caught on to the plant-based movement, and now proudly display "suitable for vegetarians" or "vegan" on their labels, which means there's never been a better time to be vegan!


Food manufacturers must list any ingredients that may cause allergies for people who consume them. Here's a handy list of the less-obvious ones, courtesy of If you see one of these listed then the product is not vegan:

• Casein - from milk (a protein)
• Lactose - from milk (a sugar)
• Whey - from milk. Whey powder is in many products, look out for it in crisps, bread and baked products etc.
• Collagen - from the skin, bones, and connective tissues of animals such as cows, chickens, pigs, and fish – used in cosmetics
• Elastin - found in the neck ligaments and aorta of bovine, similar to collagen
• Keratin - from the skin, bones, and connective tissues of animals such as cows, chickens, pigs, and fish
• Gelatine/gelatin - obtained by boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones and is usually from cows or pigs. Used in jelly, chewy sweets, cakes, and in vitamins; as coating/capsules
• Aspic - industry alternative to gelatine; made from clarified meat, fish or vegetable stocks and gelatine
• Lard/tallow - animal fat
• Shellac - obtained from the bodies of the female scale insect Tachardia lacca
• Honey - food for bees, made by bees
• Propolis - used by bees in the construction of their hives
• Royal Jelly - secretion of the throat gland of the honeybee
• Vitamin D3 - from fish-liver oil; in creams, lotions and other cosmetics
• Albumen/albumin - from egg (typically)
• Isinglass - a substance obtained from the dried swim bladders of fish, and is used mainly for the clarification of wine and beer
• Cod liver oil - in lubricating creams and lotions, vitamins and supplements
• Pepsin - from the stomachs of pigs, a clotting agent used in vitamins

Note that some labels might say "May contain" - but that doesn't mean they're not vegan; it could just mean that the product is made in a factory that also processes non-vegan food; so give it a double check just in case.

E numbers

Some processed foods contain e numbers, which is a shortened way of refering to some ingredients. Some of these are not vegan, and you can find a list of them on the Veganuary website

Helpful apps

There are also a few label reading apps that might help you; which include:

Is it Vegan?

Vegan Pocket (iOS)

Spoon Guru



Source: Veganuary, I Love Vegan

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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