Hidden Animal Products

Important considerations when you are a vegetarian or hosting a vegetarian, is to understand where some animal products hide. These products and ingredients that are derived from animals have many different names, so it is important to know where these ingredients come from and how to recognize these ingredients on food labels.

Our app, Now Find Vegetarian, can help you find safe vegetarian products in your local grocery store.

Below is a list of products that use animal products that may not be easily recognized and may not be covered by FDA labeling laws. This is not an exhaustive list, but only the products that we have come across. If you find a product or ingredient that you are not familiar with and cannot verify as free from animal derived ingredients, always contact the manufacturer for verification.



Gelatin is derived from boiling the bones and hides of animals processed for meat and can be found in:

  • There is a brand called Bakol which is suitable for vegetarians.
  • Around Easter time it becomes easy to find kosher or vegan marshmallows that are suitable for vegetarians. Stores like Trader Joe’s will carry them around Thanksgiving, so vegetarians can enjoy traditional sweet potatoes with marshmallows.
  • Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts. Gelatin is used to help the salt stick to the peanuts.
  • Altoids, gummy candies and Starburst chews.


Shellac is a shiny coating or glaze that is derived secretions of the female lac bug. Food grade shellac is used on fruit and vegetables as a coating and to add shine to other food products such as cake sprinkles and decorations, jelly beans and coffee beans. It is always used to cover some vitamins and pharmaceuticals to make them easier to swallow and mask any unpleasant odors. Shellac can also be listed as lac resin, resin, confectioner’s glaze, and confectioner’s resin.


Caesar Salad Dressing

Many Caesar salad dressings contain anchovy paste, so check the label to assure it’s vegetarian or make your own at home.


Non-Dairy Creamers

While most would assume non-dairy means no milk, a lot of non-dairy creamers contain casein which is a protein derived from milk. Califia Farms and So Delicious brands are Vegan friendly. Same goes for non-dairy cheese. Check the labels to assure there is no casein.


Omega 3 products

These products often contain fish, so check labels when buying foods that are advertised as having Omega 3. For instance, Tropicana’s Heart Healthy orange juice lists tilapia, sardine and anchovies among its ingredients.



Many vitamins contain animal ingredients.


Refried Beans

Many types of refried beans are made with lard, so check labels to be sure you are buying vegetarian beans.


Worcestershire sauce

Some brands contain anchovies. Annie’s and Edward & Sons are vegan.



Some cheeses are made with animal rennet. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods distinguish between animal rennet and vegetable rennet on their labels. You can easily make ricotta and soft mozzarella cheeses at home using vegetable rennet and they are delicious.


Food Coloring

Strawberry or other ‘red’ yogurts – You may assume the color comes from berries, but often times, the color comes from insects called cochineals which are ground up to make the red color. Food ingredient labels will list this coloring as cochineal, carmine or carminic acid. Dannon and Yoplait yogurt use cochineals. Go for an organic brand such as Stoneyfield that uses real fruit. Also be aware that Strawberry nerds, Oceanspray Ruby Red Grapefruit juice and Mango Snapple get their coloring from cochineals.


Vanilla Ice Cream 

Be sure to select ice cream that uses real vanilla, not a vanilla substitute; otherwise, you might be consuming castoreum, which is a substance secreted by beavers that smells like vanilla and used in ice cream. Breyers does not use castoreum and is safe for dairy consuming vegetarians.


BBQ Flavored Potato Chips

Products such as Baked Lay’s, contain chicken. Ironically regular BBQ flavored Lay’s do not contain chicken.


Non-Organic Bananas

Non-organic bananas are often sprayed with a preservative that contains shrimp and crab shells which infiltrate the fruit. Buy organic bananas if you are not a pescatarian or have a shellfish sensitivity.

Vegetable soups – If you are eating out, you may assume that vegetable soups are made with vegetable stock, but often times, they are made with chicken stock. Some store brands also use animal or beef stock for vegetable soup. Ask your server and read labels or make soup at home to be sure you are getting a truly vegetarian soup.