How do you know if a product is vegan or not?

As relatively new vegans, I can confidently say that you have spent a large proportion of your shopping trips reading labels, trying to decipher whether a product is suitable for vegans or not. This is an unfortunate part of going vegan, but after a short while you will start to build up a mental list of which products are vegan-friendly and which aren’t – so eventually you won’t need to check labels quite so often. Obvious ingredients like meat, fish, crustaceans, milk and eggs are to be avoided, but you will also need to watch out for whey, honey, vitamin D3 (sometimes simply listed at ‘vitamin D’), lanolin (from wool), gelatine, cochineal (E120 – otherwise known as crushed-up insects), lactose and shellac, to name the most common ones. A full list can be found on pages 21 and 22 of Animal Aid’s‘Your Guide to Going Vegan’ booklet which can be downloaded for free here. Some confusion may have arisen from products that appear vegan, but say ‘may contain traces or eggs and milk’ – should you avoid those too? Well, no. As per EU law, any product manufactured in a factory that also handles these ingredients, or other common allergens must state this on their labels. This is largely to protect those who are severely allergic to milk and eggs – but in reality the product itself doesn’t contain these products, and thus is vegan. A good example of this is Oreos; their manufacturers state that Oreos aren’t vegan, yet no animal products are listed in the ingredients. So providing you are not severely allergic to milk or eggs, you are perfectly fine to eat them. Boycotting such products does not help reduce animal suffering, and you will not be consuming animal ingredients, therefore eat away! Many companies – and a growing number of supermarkets – now mark their products as ‘suitable for vegans’, some even including the Vegan Society trademark, making things so much easier. In recent times, Animal Aid has convinced supermarket giants Asda, Tesco, Aldi, Waitrose, M&S and Morrisons to label all of their own-brand vegan, through our #MarkItVegan campaign – thus making shopping for those of us who do not wish to contribute to animal suffering so much easier. Other well-known brands that label their vegan products include Blue Dragon, Pringles, Tyrrells, Kettle Chips, Hovis, and supermarkets Co-Op and Sainsbury’s.