/ Food & Drink

Pork in my cereal bar – why didn’t you tell me?

When we investigated the nutritional content of cereal bars, we were surprised to see gelatine listed in the ingredients of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Squares. Are animal products lurking in your food?

As far as Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Squares go, the pork gelatine was in the marshmallows that form part of the bar.

However, at a glance this wasn’t clear to see as it wasn’t obviously labelled on the packaging (it was just listed in the ingredients of the marshmallow).

If I were to buy a cereal bar it wouldn’t occur to me that it might not be suitable for vegetarians.

Is that packet of crisps really vegetarian?

It got me thinking about the ingredients that you might not expect to see in foods. For example, Muller Light yoghurts contain gelatine as do Kellogg’s Frosted Wheats. And a Which? member got in touch to tell us about some cheese and onion crisps that contained rennet and so aren’t suitable for veggies… yes, that’s cheese and onion crisps.

In fact many cheeses, such as Parmesan, aren’t suitable for vegetarians as they contain rennet, used to coagulate the milk, which is from the stomach of calves.

It seems rennet and gelatine are the main ingredients that might trip up unsuspecting veggies. But many manufacturers have removed them from their products – Mars and Snickers no longer contain rennet and Polo mints removed gelatine from their ingredients years back. If some manufacturers can do it, why can’t others?

Of course, there are also the many foods that contain cochineal or carmine, a red food colouring derived from crushed beetles and labelled as E120, a natural additive on food labels.

So, do you know of any other products that you’d expect to be vegetarian, or even vegan, which aren’t because of ingredients used in the manufacturing process?

Longley Shopper says:
9 September 2012

I’m afraid this issue is very widespread and has been for decades if not centuries, but as we are getting “fussier” about our food – i.e. making sure that we cater for Halal or Kosher diets, dealing with vegetarians who are vegetarian on principle and won’t eat animal products, rather than just who don’t like and don’t eat meat in it’s unadulterated form, etc., we are discovering more and more of them.

Don’t get me wrong – we should cater for all diets and all dietary requirements and I my self am a vegetarian (though only the non-meat eating sort as I hate it, not the avoid all animal products at any cost sort), but it’s because we are being careful to cater for all these needs that we are finding all these issues.

However, moving strictly back to the question posed, the answer is reasonably simple: all products which really are vegetarian have the Vegetarian Society symbol on them. If that symbol isn’t shown then you should check very carefully to see what is in the product before you buy it.

Morag says:
9 September 2012

I’ve been a vegetarian for over 30 years. I never expect anything to be veggie and always check. Most veggies know what sorts of things are typically booby trapped with gelatine, rennet, animal fat etc. and avoid them. It’s not really a surprise but it can be annoying at events where people and even caterers have put little thought into the food they are providing. My BIL recently got married and despite 8 of us being veggie, he failed miserably at providing anything we could eat at all at the reception and the only reason we ate at the wedding breakfast was because I phoned the caterers and organised our food with the head chef myself. *sigh*

Morag says:
9 September 2012

Although, the hotel thought Parmesan was veggie and had it in every single one of their “vegetarian” menu options!!

Sainsburys gooseberry fool yoghurts contain pork gelatine – OK it is listed in the ingredients list but honestly it never occurred to me to look when I bought it. Pork in a yoghurt? Yuk!

Great stuff, I’ll now have a cereal bar instead of a sausage sandwich for breakfast

🙂 I’ll second that!

Being a vegetarian for years, I was shocked to see that (a few years ago) Lea & Perrins stated their Worcestershire Sauce was vegetatian, despite having fish juice in it!!! Needless to say I wrote to them, along with many other vegeratians I told, furious. After a bitter, protracted argument, we were successful and they removed this statement. I would like to think it was down to us complaining, however I have a feeling it could also have been down to the Food Standards Agency and Advertising Standards Authority.

Faith Carpenter says:
10 September 2012

Are some people confusing veganism with vegetarianism? Vegans eat no meat, fish, eggs or dairy. Vegetarians are perfectly happy to eat cheese, milk, eggs etc but no meat or fish and should be called Lacto-ovo-vegetarians. The rubbish that is in processed food should concern us all.

Hi Faith, the problems with the foods we mention is that they have animal products in them that aren’t milk/eggs. That is, rennet is from the stomach of calves, and gelatine is from bones, hooves, horns, tissues etc of animals. That means they’re not suitable for vegetarians.

Sweets is a big issue, shops who sell steamed puddings often put beef suet in them,. This is also an issue with restaurants, when selling sweets, as nowhere on the menu does it state they are not vegetarian. Jelly is another one, with vegegel, or other around, why use gelatine??

I check everything (if possible) and if I am still unsure, I will not buy it.

Sorry, as you can tell, I am quite passionate about this, so I will get off my soapbox.

Upon discovery many of my vegetarian drinkers where shocked to discover that the following beers: ‘Fosters’, ‘Estrella’, ‘Sol’, ‘Red Stripe’ and ‘Carling Black Label’, and the ciders ‘Strongbow’ and ‘Bulmers Original’ all use animal products.

Unfortunately this is something that can’t be easily found or stated at a bar.

I don’t care either way – The only thing I worry about is if they were poisonous – and they are not.

Why even read the article then?

What is the alternative?

We remove an animal derived product for a synthetic replacement

Devil, deep-blue-sea?

Agar-agar (a plant) and carregan (another plant) are meant to be good alternatives: http://www.peta.org/living/vegetarian-living/gelatin-alternatives.aspx. Though as Shefalee says, if Mars, Snickers and Polo can do it, why can’t the others?

Ah so that’s why Mars stopped tasting so nice, cheers for the info Patrick!

MetalSamurai says:
10 September 2012

The slightly baffling thing here is Kellogg’s – a company started by a vegetarian using unnecessarily non-vegetarian (also non Kosher or Halal) pork gelatine.

I dislike all red meat except minimal-fat Gammon and that has to be very well cooked (most would say burned) before I’ll eat it. That’s purely a choice of taste issue, nothing to do with dietary requirements or religion or p;political beliefs.

I do however eat fish – indeed I could not possibly cope without it – and eggs, including duck eggs.

I was astounded, though, at work when I recently say that fishcakes were on offer – very rare in our place – so looked up the price on the menu board only to find that the were the “VEGETARIAN dish of the day”. I approached the catering manager who could not understand why fish-cakes were not vegetarian.

I should not have been surprised at her level of ignorance as last year a Muslim member fo staff complained that the Halal sticker had been placed on all Ham sandwiches. The catering manager’s response was to say that she would make sure she bought Halal Ham in future!!!!!

With levels of ignorance such as these and those reported by other contributors above around it is hardly surprising that some vegetarians don’t think to check ingredients lists on products that at first glance don’t appear to be meat products.

All that said, in many cases there is no need for the meat product to be within items such as cereal bars – it’s purely to make it cheaper to make and increase the profit margin.

Some items, however, have always been made with meat content since they were invented – for example suet pudding. I know we have vegetable suet these days and I use that a lot, but suet is, by definition, grated beef fat and traditional recipe suet pudding will de facto have beef suet in it.

Regular readers who have seen my posts on other convo’s will be aware that my favourite saying is “Caveat Emptor” [buyer beware] – and this is simple another example of where buyers need to be savvy to avoid making a mistake. (Whether the buyer SHOULD HAVE to beware is quite another debate!)

I suggest looking at this from another perspective. The condemned product has a list of ingredients and anyone who wants to avoid any of these ingredients simply has to look at the list.

I am more concerned about products such as wines and ‘home-made’ foods where there is no list of ingredients. That gives plenty of opportunity to add all sorts of unexpected ingredients.

This doesn’t surprise me either, I once found fish as an ingredient in light coffee whitener (It wasn’t in the full-fat version).

What baffles me is, who is it that sits down and tastes a Rice Crispy bar and thinks “Hmmm… Needs pork”?

The gelatin is probably there to stick the bits together so that the bar does not crumble and leave sticky bits on your car seats, or whatever.

I really can’t believe in this day and age that people buy food items without looking at the ingredients. As a veggie I’m extra observant. Might sound anoraky but I once decided to check out an E number on a packet of garlic bread. It was derived from feathers and hair 🙁

I’m a non-vegetarian food anorak, but not as bad as I used to be when I could identify the names of most of the commonly used colours and preservatives from their E-numbers.

…and sugar is often whitened with bone char from cattle. Eek.

Diane harrison says:
11 July 2015

I m not a veggie,but my partner is, I like to watch my weight,health etc,and it really really annoyse when you go and buy a pudding,mousse,cereal bar etc and its got bloody gelatine in,Why??Cant they use something else??I do eat meat occasipnakky and certainly do not want animal bones in my chocolate afters!!

Sophie says:
6 March 2020

It’s 2020 and I can confirm that Mueller lights do NOT contain animal gelatine any longer !! I only had to wait 40 years to eat one and I have a great freezer bowl called a Zuko ,top some frozen berries in it plus a Mueller light and stir ..?Dave for 3 minutes stir vigorously and it makes the most delicious alternative to ice cream I have ever eaten! Doing Slimming World and have lost 1 stone in 4 seems eating a giant bowl of ice cream after an enormous SYN FREE curry or as much pasta and homemade sauce …weight falling off .If only I knew this stuff years ago