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12 Foods You Always Thought Were Vegan—But Aren’t

With manufacturers looking out for cheaper ingredients, animal products are increasingly finding their way into foods you thought were safe.

Red wine pouring into a wine glass.sama_ja/Shutterstock


“Vegan friendly” isn’t just a label that some wine companies slap on their bottles to appeal to animal lovers—most vino is actually hiding some sneaky animal products. Wine tends to look murky unless it’s had a lot of time for the sediment to settle, so winemakers speed up the process by adding ingredients called “fining agents” to make reds and whites as clear as the crystal they’re poured in. Companies usually use egg whites, milk proteins, gelatin, or substances called isinglass, derived from fish swim bladders according to Wine Enthusiast. Vegan winemakers either skip the fining agents altogether or substitute bentonite clay for the animal products.

Two Glasses of Beer on a bar table. Beer Tap on backgroundAleksandar Karanov/Shutterstock


More of a beer person? Most beers are vegan-friendly, but not all make the cut. Like wines, beers need fining agents to make the product shelf-ready. Most breweries have good enough filters that they can skip the weird ingredients, but some still use the traditional route, using gelatin and isinglass. Search for your favorite beer on to make sure yours doesn’t contain animal products. Classic Guinness gets the green light, for instance, while Guinness Porter isn’t confirmed vegan (yet). If you’re overwhelmed by the rules, read these 12 expert tips for becoming vegan.

Homemade Refried Pinto Beans with Chiips and LimeBrent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Refried beans

Refried beans aren’t necessarily a vegan-friendly protein for your Mexican dinner. Some brands, like Old El Paso Traditional Refried Beans, contain hydrogenated lard. And as a quick refresher, lard is just another word for pig fat.

Homemade chicken vegetable soup, overhead, close up view on an old wood backgroundJeniFoto/Shutterstock

Vegetable soup

Just because it’s veggie-heavy doesn’t mean it’s nothing but plants. Check the label closely before chucking a can of soup in your cart. Campbell’s Old Fashioned Vegetable and Healthy Request Vegetable are both made in beef broth (and say so clearly on the label), and Progresso Vegetable soup contains egg whites in its noodles. Both brands have vegetarian versions, too, so just make sure you’re grabbing the right one.

Butter and bread for breakfast, with knife over rustic wooden background, top viewOksana Mizina/Shutterstock


The butter alternative was introduced as a way of saving money and later gained traction as a potentially healthier spread—it never claimed to keep dairy out of refrigerators. Some products, like Land O’Lakes margarine sticks and Becel Original, contain buttermilk and/or the milk protein whey, so scan the ingredients list before you buy.

Vegetarian Sausage - Bubble and squeak sausages with salad and chili sauce.Paul_Brighton/Shutterstock

Veggie “sausage”

Meat-free patties are a staple in many vegetarian households, so you might be surprised to learn they aren’t always suitable for a vegan table. MorningStar Farms Original Sausage Patties, for instance, announce that they’re 100 percent vegetarian, but a quick scan of the ingredients shows they also contain egg whites and whey. The brand’s Veggie Lovers Vegan Burger is (as you would assume) vegan, as are plenty of other meat alternatives. Find out why veggie patties are one of the 17 “healthy” foods you should actually avoid.

glass jar of fresh orange juice with fresh fruits on wooden tableNitr/Shutterstock

Orange juice

OJ made of nothing but oranges is, of course, vegan, but fortified juices aren’t guaranteed to be animal-free, because those health boosts might have come from animal products. When your orange juice label boasts omega-3s, be aware that they often come from oily fish (the nutrition label should tell you if it contains fish), and vitamin D is sometimes derived from a substance in sheep’s wool called lanolin, according to Eat This, Not That. Learn more about how to tell if your orange juice is vegan.

marshmallow on a stick roasted over a camping fireElena Shashkina/Shutterstock


If you thought marshmallows were “basically pure sugar,” you’re not totally off, but they do need something to give them that spongy texture. The ingredient in question: gelatin, which is made from animal bones, cartilage, and skin. If you’re a strict vegan, hunt down an animal-free option like Dandies. Don’t miss these other 11 essential items every vegan should have on their shopping list.

Norman, OK November 11, 2017 Individually wrapped starburst fruit chew candies on a white backgroundJennifer Wallace/Shutterstock


Take a hard look at a Starburst ingredients list. Like many other chewy candies, they include gelatin to help create that texture. But there is hope for vegans who want some “unexplainably juicy” candy. The company says it’s working on a new formula that will remove animal products without sacrificing quality. Given the facts that Wrigley’s successfully removed gelatin from Skittles in 2009 and that U.K. Starbursts don’t contain the ingredient in question, we might one day see vegan-friendly Starbursts in our candy jars.

Above view of Halloween candy corn spilling from a burlap bag on rustic wood board background with room or space for copy, text, your words. Horizontal that works vertical with Moody, dark vignetteCandus Camera/Shutterstock

Candy corn

Love it or hate it, candy corn isn’t vegan. For one thing, it contains gelatin, but its crunchy coating is also a no-go for strict vegans. Candy corn contains confectioner’s glaze, also known as shellac, which is also known as beetlejuice. You see where this is going. The glaze is made of resin secreted by Kerria lacca bugs. Not only is it an animal byproduct itself, but dead insects inevitably end up in the mix. Check out these 13 things that could happen to your body if you start a vegan diet.

Barbeque sauce with a basting brush in a jarElena Veselova/Shutterstock

Barbecue sauce

Some barbecue sauces get the green light, but be sure to double check the ingredients list before you start drowning your bean burger with it. For instance, some specialty Heinz sauces such as Texas Style Bold & Spicy BBQ Sauce use anchovies for flavor.

Paper mint pills in iron boxGIPP24/Shutterstock


The curiously strong mints are curiously non-vegan. Altoids contain gelatin in their short list of ingredients, so you might want to consider switching brands if you’re strict about animal products. Next, find out which essential nutrients you could miss if you eat a vegan diet.

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.