Vegan Sugar

wholesome foods sugarWe 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:

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:

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.


  1. That is the clearest, finest, most thorough explanation of anything I have ever gotten in my life! lol

    And I really appreciate the list of companies which sell Vegan sugar.
    I was finding it very hard, at times, to get to the bottom of some companies ways and finally just threw up my hands in defeat.

    Thank you

  2. PETA was charged with animal cruelty in 2005 when two of their employees lied to people about finding homes for their dogs and cats. PETA employees then euthanized the animals, including kittens and puppies, put the bodies in trashbags, and threw them into dumpsters behind groceries stores. I wouldn’t believe anything they say.

    I avoid all so called products that come from the death of the animal just as I would if these “slaughterhouse by products” were composed of humans who had suffered a horrible death.

  3. The bi-product argument is interesting and I had not thought about it much before, but it seems to miss a major point.

    The bi-product of a horrible, horrible life is nothing that feels, to me, okay to use. The cotton that slaves provided, would be sold and much more, no matter what, so buying that cotton did not make for more slaves, Holocaust victims were killed no matter what, would you want one of the lampshades made out of the skin of the murdered from a German Camp?

    –I am not saying I am right, just how I feel about bone char and the idea of bi-products, from what I can figure out, so don’t yell at me B)


  4. Hi Tristan,
    Thanks for the info on PETA. Personally, I’m not a supporter of their methods. More often than not I think their advertising has the adverse effect of their intent. But I still think their list of foods that are vegan is a valuable resource.
    As I said in my post, we do our best to avoid animal byproducts. But I know that even if I ask my waitress, I’m not likely to find out if the products I’m ordering at a restaurant are truly vegan or otherwise. So I do my best, but I don’t make myself crazy.

  5. Hi Addie,
    First, we don’t yell here. You are entitled to your opinions. And you can even tell me I’m wrong…

    Re by-products: Cotton was the primary crop, so reducing your consumption ultimately reduces the total consumption of the product. You vote with your wallet. I believe that by not eating meat, I am saving x amount of animals from death, simply because the demand is reduced. (I believe in the laws of supply and demand.) So buying cotton at that time would have kept up demand.
    The holocaust victim lampshades are an extreme example of by-product, since those people were being slaughtered regardless of the quality of their skin, and most of the skins wound up being “thrown away.” And no, I would not by that, but I don’t buy leather either (not a byproduct). Perhaps over time I will feel differently about animal byproducts. Since it is taboo, and a crime to kill a human, but it is not to kill an animal, I can’t equate the two. I know plenty of people who can and do, and will tell me this doesn’t make me a true vegan. As I stated in my post, I believe that byproducts are used primarily because they are so inexpensive. Once animals are no longer slaughtered for food, those cheap by-products will become much more expensive and manufacturers will look to other, less expensive alternatives.

  6. Lane–
    When I first became Vegan I ate very little because I was afraid of making any mistakes. Very little. lol
    I’m slowly learning to be more like you – not making myself nuts over every bite or byproducts. After all a person has to eat, right?

    addie B)

  7. Thanks for taking the time to post this. I had no idea there were all these kinds of sweeteners.
    I’m printing the list for my next trip to Whole Foods.

    Much appreciated!!

  8. RE: PETA and the animals left in dumpsters – my understanding is these were animals pulled from kill shelters in South Carolina that were too ill to adopt out, and would have been killed by gas or gunshot. These workers were trying to provide them a more peaceful death. There has never been any evidence presented to the contrary.

    Was it wrong to leave the bodies in a dumpster? Yes. Should PETA be involved personally with making these decisions about euthanasia and carrying it out themselves? I prefer they didn’t, since it provides fodder for such rhetoric as was posted here, and all around the net, that is used to discredit animal advocacy in general.

    My anger doesn’t lie with PETA, but with the breeders who keep producing more animals for profit while animals are being killed every second in shelters and “owners” who don’t take responsibility for the animals in their care – disposing of them like garbage.

    I don’t concern myself much with sugar. If I eat something processed and sweetened it’s generally of a better quality that doesn’t use recfined sugar anyway. Sugar in general should be avoided, although I know that’s hard!

  9. Hi Addie,
    Yes, first you’re so overly cautious about things. Once you get the hang of it, it seems that most people relax a bit.

    Hi Marija,
    Glad this was of use to you.

  10. Hi Kim,
    thanks for providing that info on PETA.
    Yes, sometimes their methodology seems to be at odds with their mission!

    Interesting info on PF Changs… It points to Jane’s continuing comment that if you are not preparing the food, you don’t really have much control. People either don’t know, are misinformed, or don’t care.

    We try to be very specific when ordering, and hope for the best.

  11. Actually PETA’s list is not reliable… if a food item contains less than 2.5% animal product or bi-product, PETA will in fact list it as being vegan. Conscious vegans need to look to a better and more honest source for vegan and cruelty-free food.

    Like the whole Oreo debate… who cares if the ingredients in there are vegan or not.. for one they’re toxic, containing preservatives, secondly they are produced by the Nabisco Division of Kraft foods, which is certainly not a cruelty-free company…which in my book makes anything they make (animal ingredients or not) non-vegan.

    I play it safe, if I don’t need it, I don’t eat it… who needs cookies and all that, really? If it doesn’t provide some sort of benefit why consume it? And if you really have a sweets craving, make it yourself so you know without any doubt what’s actually in it.

    Everyone gets a choco-craving every once in a while.. nothing a few Vegan chocolate morsels can’t solve! And pure chocolate actually does have benefits! ^___^

    Also something to consider, is food labeling legislation. In the United States, a company is not required to list an ingredient if it falls under 1% or 1g. Using Skim Milk as an example (no I don’t drink Skim Milk in the US says “Fat. 0g” or “Fat Free”, but in other countries where it is the law to list all ingredients and nutritional information, down to the last micron.. you’ll see it listed has having 0.5g of fat. Guess what… 0.5g is not a gram, so under US law, it doesn’t have to be included in the nutritional facts label.

    Just something to consider. ^__^

  12. Thanks for great post. Excellent commentary and info. I’m going to share with my readers. Just wrote post about JetBlue’s animal crackers. They used to offer ones that are seemingly vegan (Stauffer’s original animal crackers) if we assume that the sugar they use is vegan…an assumption really can’t make. They now offer Stauffer’s iced animal crackers which contain gelatin…clearly not vegan.

  13. Hey Everyone,
    I am a vegetarian (and have been for about 3 years) but recently made the discovery about some types of sugar, cheese, candy, and other foods that contain ingredients such as gelatin and rennet. Does anyone know of a reliable list that has products that are 100% vegetarian? Also, any good organic brands that are not owned by companies such as Kraft and Kellogg’s?
    Additionally, I also highly disagree with the United States’ law that you only have to list an ingredient if more than 1% of the ingredient is in the product. We are likely eating these animal products in foods that we aren’t even aware of.

  14. Kate–
    What do YOU mean by 100% vegetarian food?

    Here are four sites with food lists.

    ——–————–————the second site has eggs on its list, but off course that is meat————–——————-

  15. Actually, I have read that all organic sugar is vegan/vegetarian. Check out this EXCELLENT multi-page article on the subject:;col1

    It’s called “Is Your Sugar Vegan?” and it was published in the Vegetarian Journal.


    “The increasing popularity of organic foods in the United States has bolstered the production of the organic sugar industry. In fact, The VRG is happy to report that there is a large market niche for organic sweeteners.

    To maintain its organic integrity, organic sugar is only minimally processed or not refined at all. Since bone char is not on the National Organic Program’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, certified USDA organic sugar cannot be filtered through bone char. In fact, the technical directors of both Imperial Sugar and American Sugar Refining told us that organic sugars are only milled and never go to the refinery where the bone char filters are located.”

    As far as I am concerned, this makes things a LOT more simple! Let me know if anyone has heard anything contrary to this.

  16. @ Kate
    You are free to disagree. However, you would still be mistaken. (Also you misread what I said.. I didn’t say that US Law in regards to the 1%, I said that in regards to the PETA “Vegan List”) I in fact have a family member who works for the FDA, so I know the regulations on percentage inclusion and exclusion in foods in the United States.

    And most items if it’s under 0.5 grams (0.5 does not equal 1% as percentage in food, it is not measured that way at all, percent only comes up when it’s that percentage of the food in it’s entirety, not the percentage of fat, sugar, etc by itself.), it does not have to be listed. The law is NOT saying they have to exclude it, the law says that they are allowed to exclude it.. some companies will put a fine print notice.. but it’s so small even someone like me with perfect vision needs to put the package pretty close to my face to see it.

    In some cases you may see “* adds a negligible amount of…” on packages that they label as fat free, sugar free, etc.

    Also I’ve been a vegan for 33 years (all my life), I know about hidden ingredients, be it their typical name or their scientific names. Besides, I rarely, if ever buy pre-made foods.. I was raised with my traditional Japanese culture, and women, we cook from ingredients, not boxes.. ^__^ Last pre-made food item I bought was some steamed cabbage buns made by monks from a local Buddhist temple where I live in the US. ^__^

  17. I’m sorry to spoil the fun but Oreos are not vegan. It’s time we stopped referring to them as such. Yes, their ingredients may not contain animal sources but it does contain palm oil. Palm oil is responsible for more orangutan destruction than any other human industry. An average of 20 per day are killed because they get in the way of harvesting. Veganism isn’t a diet; it’s a lifestyle–one of compassionate responsibility towards avoiding consumer products that directly harm animals. For more info, please visit saynotopalmoil dot com.

  18. Thanks Adrian for your info! I have been a strict (obsessive compulsive 🙂 ) vegan for over 3 years now. I needed a biscuit-type vegan cookie for the base of a vegan recipe I wanted to make, but couldn’t find anything that remotely acted as a sugar biscuit that was vegan. So, I broke down and bought some Oreos. I never buy processed foods so this was a splurge for me and I am usually very good about reading the entire label but obviously missed this. However, I will never buy them again. I am opposed to the use of palm oil, and what worries me greatly is the fact it is hidden in so many products under different names (like dehydrogenated oil). I am sickened by what it is doing in the way of deforestation and killing the orangutangs. Thanks for the reminder!

  19. I have in fact spoke with a representative from nabisco and oreo and they have replied to my emails ages ago. They said oreos do not have animal products, as far as bi products they could. But their sugar is NOT vegan, they do not claim oreos to be vegan and never have. She also stated that the oreos are made in a facility on equipment/machines that are also used to produce other products with animals.
    besides oreos are not good for you anyway, they are processed junk food. eat whole natural foods and you will be more safe and healthy.
    I would also recommend not eating kraft or nabisco as they use a corportation called symentex spelled incorrectly here, but those are the companies that use 14 week old male fetuses for taste enhancing properties. I dont know about you, but to me vegan is also NON-CANNIBAL.
    well, at least for me it is. choose wisely, my dear friends. and keep up the good work.
    God Bless!!!

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