We received a comment from one of our readers (hi Addie) questioning the validity of PETAs list of "I Can't Believe It's Vegan." She says she used to use that site as a reference tool, but has since learned that sugar is absolutely not vegan, and since it is in many of the products on their website, she feels that the list does not give an accurate portrayal of vegan products. "I researched the heck out of sugar to save those white Oreos for myself (an item listed on the site as Vegan), but finally had to just let them go 🙁 ." Well Addie, you can put your Oreos back on your shopping list.
Most refined white sugar is processed over bone char and that rules it out as a vegan product. However, there are sugars that are not. These are the brands of sugar we know to be vegan:
- Wholesome Foods
- Florida Crystals
- Hain Organic Powdered Sugar
- Jack Frost
- Country Cane
- Southern Bell
- 365 (the Whole Foods house brand).
You can use these tidbits to help you navigate through the sugar aisle: Beet sugar is vegan. Raw sugars or turbinado are also vegan. Other acceptable vegan sweetners include:
- date sugar
- rice syrup
- corn syrup
- barley malt
- maple syrup
- agave nectar
C&H refines their sugar over bone char, so they are definitely not a vegan option. And supermarkets buy their private label sugars from a variety of refineries, so it is likely they are not vegan. Brown sugar is usually made from refined white sugar with molasses added. So if you know the manufacturer to use bone char in refining their white sugar, you can bet the brown sugar will not be vegan either.
Since the processing methods are not indicated on the packaging, it is very difficult for consumers to know which sugar is indeed vegan. And it becomes much more difficult to make that determination when buying packaged foods. If the ingredient list contains beet sugar or evaporated cane juice instead of "sugar", you're good to go. If the list says sugar, you have to decide for yourself. You can do the legwork and contact the individual manufacturer, but it's unlikely that you will get an honest answer. Most manufacturers source out sugar that is cheapest at the time, and so they don't even know how it was processed, also the sugar used may vary from batch to batch.
I trust Peta to have actually contacted the manufacturer and done the legwork. If they give a product their seal of approval, that is good enough for me. But then again, I'm not all that concerned with by-products (I do my best to avoid them, but don't make myself crazy about them. I do however strictly avoid milk byproducts especially caseine). Bone char is a cheap throw away. Once animals are no longer slaughtered for food, I would expect the refining of sugar to be done in some other manner. No one is going to raise animals for their bones. It wouldn't be economically viable.