Is sugar a vegan food? I mean, why wouldn’t it be? What a startling fact: not all sugars on the supermarket shelf are vegan. Even though sugar is derived from the sugarcane plant and does not contain animal products, the manufacturing process for some refined sugars may involve bone char—cow bones. You may be wondering why companies need to use bone char at this point. Is the sugar in your cupboard vegan? If not, where can you get vegan-friendly sugar? We’re here to answer any questions you may have. Via Green Gueen.
Why is bone char used in the production of sugar?
one char, also known as “natural carbon,” is a product made from cattle bones from Afghanistan, Argentina, India, and Pakistan. Cow bones are then traded and sold as bone char to sugar factories around the world to be processed into sugar. Sugar producers use bone char in sugar processing and refining because it acts as a decolorizing filter for sugarcane, resulting in white sugar. This means that many products on the market containing this type of sugar, ranging from cosmetics to food, may not be vegan-friendly. Take, for example, Lush’s Lip Scrub, which recently revealed that the sugar used to supply its Japanese factory was refined using bone char, rendering it unsuitable for vegans (the product was eventually recalled).
Because it requires companies to voluntarily release information, determining how much bone char is used in the sugar industry is difficult. However, a single commercial sugar filter requires approximately 7,800 cows, according to the Maryland-based nonprofit Vegetarian Resource Group, which compiled feedback from sugar industry officials.
What kinds of sugar aren’t vegan?
Most refined sugars made from sugarcane are unsuitable for vegans because they require bone char to achieve a clear white color. Some types of brown sugar, such as those made by adding molasses to refined cane sugar to achieve the brown color, also use bone char. Confectioner’s sugar, which is made by combining cornstarch and refined cane sugar, is another non-vegan product.
Is vegan refined sugar available?
Some brands now produce white refined cane sugar without the use of bone char, instead opting for granular carbon or an ion-exchange system. Most of these brands will state that they are free of bone char or are vegan-certified.
Refined beet sugar is another option. Beet sugar is never made with bone char because sugar beet juice is far easier to refine and process than cane juice, making it a vegan option.
What about various types of sugar?
Raw sugar is usually safe for vegans to consume. Despite the fact that sugarcane is commonly used in raw sugar, filtration is skipped during the manufacturing process to make it “raw,” so no bone char is involved. Demerara sugar, muscovado sugar, and non-white golden caster sugar, on the other hand, do not go through the bone char filtration process, making them vegan-friendly options.
Another option is to avoid all refined sugars, which are typically vegan and frequently have more nutritional value than processed sugar. Unrefined sugars include coconut sugar, fruit sugar, and date sugar.
There are also vegan-friendly unrefined sweeteners, such as maple syrup, agave nectar, unsulfured molasses, and brown rice syrup – but keep in mind that not all natural unrefined sweeteners are vegan, such as honey, which is not vegan-friendly for a variety of reasons.