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A Note About Small Amounts of Animal Products in Foods

Some packaged foods have a long list of ingredients. The farther an ingredient is down the list, the less of that ingredient is in the food. People who have made the compassionate decision to stop eating animal flesh, eggs, and dairy products may wonder if they need to read every ingredient to check for tiny amounts of obscure animal products. Our general advice is not to worry too much about doing this. The goal of sticking to a vegetarian or vegan diet is to help animals and reduce suffering; this is done by choosing a bean burrito or a veggie burger over chicken flesh, or choosing tofu scramble over eggs, not by refusing to eat an otherwise vegan food because it has 0.001 grams of monoglycerides that may possibly be animal-derived.

We discourage vegetarians from grilling waiters at restaurants about micro-ingredients in vegetarian foods (e.g., a tiny bit of a dairy product in the bun of a veggie burger). Doing so makes sticking to a vegetarian diet seem difficult and dogmatic to your friends and to restaurant staff, thus discouraging them from giving a vegetarian diet a try (which really hurts animals). And we urge vegetarians not to insist that their food be cooked on equipment separate from that used to cook meat; doing so doesn’t help any additional animals, and it only makes restaurants less inclined to offer vegetarian choices (which, again, hurts animals).

Remember that every vegetarian saves more than 100 animals a year from horrific cruelty—and by encouraging people around you to follow your lead, you can save many more.

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  • sweelin says:

    An excellent article. At 54 I’ve just made a commitment to go vegetarian on compassionate grounds. It will be hard going having spent most of my life training and eating tons of chicken breast! Similar to someone that has been addicted to ‘drugs’, I need as much help as possible, especially good advice, that will help me focus on ‘kicking the habit’ of meat eating. For people just starting out we need to be encouraged to give up the main things first –chicken breast etc. Getting caught up in ‘0.001 grams of something’ will no doubt cause many of us newbies to fall at the first hurdle!

  • lavajin says:

    With all due respect, this was written by an idiot.

  • Cynthia says:

    “Grill” the waiter? Seriously? So people with dairy allergies, are they “grilling” the waiter too? I have never been rude to a waiter, I politely ask, does this have egg/dairy in it? They go ask, they come back. People who aren’t vegan ask things all the time as well. This is ridiculous!
    Oh and B12 is found in nutritional yeast, cereal, almond milk, fortified foods, etc. Your doctor was lying to you and has probably received some sort of free good from an agriculture/dairy company. Ie. the laughable ‘food guides’ sponsored by Big Agriculture they distribute to schools and doctor’s offices.

  • wryan says:

    If you are concerned about your food having even the slightest connection to animals you should avoid anything “organic.” The restaurant staff will likely not be able to tell you if it was fertilized with blood, bone and fish meal. These are very common ‘organic’ fertilizers. Some might feel that even using manure is supporting the meat industries. So called “chemical” fertilizers are made by mining or taking elements out of the air but possibly at cost to the environment. Choose your battle I guess

  • Veganarchist says:

    By refusing to eliminate as many forms of animal exploitation as possible we could also be turning people off as inconsistent or simply being perceived as a “diet”. Most of the world is inconsistent with their treatment and actions towards animals. Vegans should be an example in showing that no compromise is necessary.

  • rellen says:

    Marmite or vegemite is an excellent source of vitamin B12. And many things are fortified with it these days, including some flavors of vitamin water and sobe’s life water.

  • Elaine Vigneault says:

    ” Doing so makes sticking to a vegetarian diet seem difficult and dogmatic to your friends and to restaurant staff, thus discouraging them from giving a vegetarian diet a try (which really hurts animals).”

    That may or may not be true. I’d like to see the evidence that there are tons of nonvegans who would just go vegan if the “vegan police” were less strict. Somehow I don’t see that happening.

    I think a better reason to stop worrying about trace animal ingredients is that it makes being vegan easier for you and it frees up your mind to get creative about other, better ways to help animals!

    Our brains can only hold so much info. The long list of animal ingredients takes up valuable space! It’s better to reserve that space for memorizing resources about vegan nutrition so you can help your friends and family make smart, compassionate choices!!!

  • Nicole says:

    I am outraged that PETA would even suggest this to vegans, or anyone of compassionate mind for that matter. I will NEVER accept “small traces” of animal products in my food. That to me is proving that being 100% vegan is “too hard”. It isn’t hard, or dogmatic. It is a choice, a very smart one at that. There is a kind way of asking your server what is in what you are ordering or how it is prepared. If you had an allergy would you accept small traces of your allergen as to not seem “too difficult”? I am seriously disgusted that this has been written by a group who boasts compassion.

  • Jackie says:

    Awww PETA, I’m so disappointed. I didn’t think this was true when some friends told me, but now that I’m reading it myself, I guess it is. I get the point that you are making, but there are ways to find out ingredients in food without making a big deal about it. I would never knowingly ingest animal products. It goes against everything I believe in and frankly, it grosses me out. I am always sticking up for PETA and think you guys are an amazing organization, but this article is ridiculous. Maybe it should have been written differently? I assume you are talking about trace amounts, but this article reads as if we should just go ahead a have milk in our coffee so we dont make a big deal over at Starbucks. Sorry, that’s not going to happen. To be honest, I don’t know any vegans who would be ok eating small amounts of animal products, even my friends over at PETA.

  • Ashley-P says:

    This essential vitamin once occurred naturally on the surfaces of potatoes, beets, and other root vegetables, but the move away from natural fertilizers has caused it to disappear from our soil. Nutritionists recommend that vegans take a commercially available multivitamin or vitamin B12 supplement or eat foods that are fortified with vitamin B12, such as many breakfast cereals, fortified orange juice or soy milk, or nutritional yeast.

  • vitamin B12? says:

    How many of you vegans have vitamin B12 Deficiencies?
    I talked to my doctor about going vegan and he said that I can’t become fully vegan because my b12 levels are already dangerously low.
    Do any of yous know where to get 100% vegan b12 supplements?

  • Mike J Mathis says:

    I searched your list of vegan snacks for the purpose of finding a snack for my college class that my insructor could also eat. His veganism has nothing to do with saving animals. He has a liver condition after reading your article I have no idea whether or not he can eat these snacks. Is your list true vegan or not?

  • VeganPerson says:

    I can’t eat something knowing it has even the smallest traces of animal product in it. It is NOT ok to call yourself a vegan and knowingly cause even the smallest amount of suffering just to “save yourself the trouble” of paying a little closer attention to the ingredients in your food

  • hannah Finucane says:

    I’m vegan, and I think this is a great resource for beginning veg*ns, but once you figure out how to eat without animal products, you should have better ethics. Not eating food that isn’t vegan isn’t about other people. You didn’t go vegan to make your waitress happy, you did it because you know how animals are mistreated.

  • Kartik says:

    I find it amazing how cult minded people are about their dietary choice. It seems that people are more focused on their personal ego, rather than focusing on the cause. The idea should be to teach and enlighten people, and the best way is to lead by example.

  • Candaceb77 says:

    Guys, I began reading some of the comments about this article, and I have to say that I find them ridiculous. This is why most people think that vegans are crazy. Does everyone understand the point of this PETA article? It basically is saying that no one should spend their lives obsessing about consuming a insignificant portion of an animal product. Nobody can live their lives 100% vegan. How many of you chose only to wear vegan clothes or only eat exclusively from vegan places. The point of being vegan is dedicating yourself to a great cause of protesting animal cruelty. I’m just making it clear how crazy some of these comments sound. I am saying this as someone who is thinking about vegetarianism.

  • Laura says:

    I´m not vegan but I am very concerned with the preservation of nature & animals and against cruelty and my daughter is vegetarian. I´m trying to take care of my environment the much of possible. I agree the point of view of PETA but I would say that if restaurant could make some efforts because some of them take care about allergies (a very restricted list of them does that), they also can be careful to cook separately the meat and for example tofu burger. For vegans people, they have also to show some understanding and be wiser also with clothes and shoes because you made the choice to avoid any animal products who includes wool and leather but is it the good choice if you use shoes made with petrol derivatives? So, better to encourages alternatives who don´t destroy environment and not use pesticides.
    Everybody is responsible in the preservation of animal species, environment and against cruelty but also in the respect of each others. It called: logic

  • Luna says:

    As a vegan i don’t want the food i choose to have any contact with meat, dairy, egg or soya as i am intolerant and risk severe illness! Telling people not to worry too much is insane people need to worry about what their putting into their body to maintain good health. Here’s an interesting read Egg n cholesterol associated with Gestational Diabetes risk http://pcrm.org/news/archive110412.html

  • Colin Donoghue says:

    I’m with those that disagree with the message of this article, it’s not hard to choose 100% vegan foods and vegetarian is really not “close” to true ethical treatment of animals, the dairy industry is more cruel to cows than if they were just killed for their muscle alone.
    The only way that food suppliers are going to make significant changes is if we demand and only accept 100% vegan foods and products, no exceptions. Would you be okay with tofu that had 1% human muscle in it? Either you are against animal slavery/exploitation/mass-murder or you’re not, there’s no middle ground or grey area.

  • Dani says:

    I disagree. As others have said, being vegan is about not supporting animal cruelty at all, no matter how minimal the ingredient. I’d rather have a server annoyed with me than contribute to the abuse of an animals in any form. I’m allergic to soy when it hasn’t been cooked to a high enough temperature; asking for my edamame to be steamed for a few minutes longer to prevent a reaction isn’t any different than asking if the bun of a veggie burger contains any animal products. I find asking those kinds of questions or having those kinds of preferences educates people; it’s not always just a hassle. Most folks don’t even really know what a vegan is. Asking them about ingredients in the veggie burger bun lets them know we’re serious and passionate about the ethical treatment of animals. If they get a bad attitude about it, they probably aren’t worth trying to talk to about veganism anyway. I get more hostility and debates from folks like that, and they always have a closed mind and are just out to make vegans wrong.

  • Myera says:

    I appreciate this article as I am newly vegetarian. At first, I was very excited about my decision, yet as I searched for more information, I found a lot of criticism not from my carnivorous family but from vegetarians! People were telling me that, despite giving up meat, dairy, and eggs, I wasn’t vegetarian enough. I am glad that all my meals don’t have to be protests or battles. Like karaleigh said, this doesn’t have to be a militant and joyless way of living.

  • Maria says:

    Part of being a vegan or vegetarian is the ability to decide and choose what’s right not only for animals, but for them. If someone doesn’t want to eat their food if it’s been cooked on a meat-tinged grill, then so be it. If a restaurant sees this as being difficult, their loss. Don’t compromise your own beliefs. People with small minds won’t care, because they just don’t get it!

    If someone had a severe allergy to dairy or something similar, this article would be completely different. So if you’re not allergic, but simply don’t want that product in your body, how on earth is it different?! I understand why PETA have said what they do here, but it’s your body, and therefore your choice.

  • Alex Wassner says:

    i completely disagree with peta on this one. as a vegan i dont want any animal derived ingredients in my food at all! I dont care how little the percent of that food has an animal derived ingriedent im not going to eat it. And if someone doesnt want to try being a vegan or a vegetarian because they think “its to hard” then that just means they dont care about animal suffering and not wanting to contribute to putting an end to it all. Also, if you really care about animals at all and want to save lifes, the least you can do is become vegan. You might think that vegetarians save 100 lives a year but they are also contributing to 100’s of other animal deaths ever year as well. because when a cow cant produce enough milk it gets slaughtered and when a chicken cant produce enough eggs its slaughtered to. what it all comes down to its not about health its about living cruelty free and if you can live with yourself knowing that part of what you are eating came from a cruel mistreated animal then fine, but i cant. At all. Vegan is the only compassionate choice!

  • Julia says:

    This article is exactly what I have been looking for. I am so happy to find that I am not the only one who thinks this, especially when eating out. When I cook for myself I cook as vegan as possible.
    When I first changed I was getting so stressed out and hungry worrying about every little ingredient, I am so much happier now I am not fussing over every minuet Ingredient.
    The main way to make others take the change is to show that it is not hard and its positive and easy to live a (mostly) cruelty free life, which in turn will save more animals.
    An example of this is a friend of mine was telling me how one of his friends is vegan, she makes her friends go to 5 different restaurants if necessary to find a restaurant that will cater for totally 100% vegan. Obviously her meat eating friends see this as a hassle and annoying and it makes the night not as good. Where as when I eat out with my friends I order vegetarian meals with no egg, cheese, cream etc.. but I don’t worry about extra little things, my friends and I always have a pleasant night out.
    In my case when my friends and I order for the whole table I used to just say don’t worry I’ll order my own, but by showing my friends its really not hard and not making a huge fuss my friends now say no don’t worry we’ll order together, so they end up ordering 2 or 3 of their dishes (which would have been meat) and make it vegan (mostly) – which I think is making a much bigger impact and getting my friends to try vegan foods rather then the girl who is so strict she turns all her friends off vegans.
    Once the main demand stops for meat, cheese, cream, eggs etc.. then all the minute ingredients will change too.
    We need to focus and show the world the positives not the negatives.

  • Elle says:

    I actually disagree with PETA on this and I am speaking as someone who has worked in two kitchens (both high end Italian restaurants). At the places I worked at, we took it quite seriously when we received allergy alerts or vegan/vegetarian alteration requests. As annoying as it sometimes gets to rewash all utensils every minute, especially during the evening rush, I always respected anything my customers’ asked for. As a vegan, I would want someone to do the same for me if I go to their restaurant :).

  • Mae says:

    I, also, do not want any animal product at all no matter how small that may be. I don’t make a fuss about it, I just read labels and do my thing

  • raya says:

    don’t you know what chef’s and waiters do to people who demand things like their vegetarian food to be made sterilised away from the equipment already being used for meat???? not only would you end up with your meal being soaked in meat juices but otwould also arrive soaked in bodily juices of some sort or another as well!!

  • Maggie says:

    Well, I am a vegan and do agree with this article. I became vegan because of animal rights, and because I was just disgusted by eating a dead animal. So I understand where PETA is coming from, because PETA is against animal rights, one of the big reasons why I became vegan. So worrying about if their is a possible chance of a little microscopic animal product in your food is just…a bit too much. And, nobody is 100% vegan.

  • K Ramsey says:

    I appreciate how this article was written as pertaining to those who are new to Veganism, which includes me. I totally understand all of the previous concerns mentioned, but that’s where we can all act according to our own beliefs. I appreciate the article.

  • althea james says:

    I agree. It is not easy to eat in most restaurants as a vegan.
    In my state, there are maybe a handful of vegan restaurants. Either stay home and do not eat out, or, get off the soapbox, because yes, if vegans or vegetarians become too pesty, they will
    throw out the baby with the bathwater and there will be no more veg options. So stay home and eat your sprouts in your own home

  • linda says:

    What had happened to peta?! I don’t want any animal products at all no matter how small…peta you are really starting to be creepy!!!

  • Garrett says:

    I understand not getting intricate with the sugar in other things but I still will ask to get things made separately and have knives wiped down prior to cutting my items. I don’t want debris in my food making me sick to my stomach and not enjoying my meal. Just saying.

  • Meghan Downie says:

    I am surprised at those of you who feel so strongly about getting 100% vegan/vegetarian food from restaurants that don’t specifically cater to vegans/vegetarians. Even if you do manage to get something without a trace of animal product/meat in it, you support an establishment that churns through animals as part of its daily operation. Go through ingredients at the supermarket if you like, and either eat at home or at a restaurant that “gets it.” Have to agree with PETA here – greater good is more important than personal purity, and you catch more flies with ho… oh, never mind.

  • Kiley says:

    My first goal for sticking to a vegetarian diet is that I am totally repulsed by the thought of ANY amount of dead animal in my food (of course I also care about the animals and the environment). If something is being touted by a manufacturer or restaurant as being vegetarian then it should live up to that definition. There is no grey area here – just black and white. PETA needs to rewrite this article pronto.

  • Amber says:

    Admittedly I like meat, and if I could raise the animals myself and do it “quick and clean” I would, so I don’t have a problem with having veggie stuff cooked on the same equipment as meat, but I can totally sympathise with people who want it cooked separately. If it’s had a corpse cooked on it, you can’t expect them to eat food from it for the sake of the restaurant staff. I agree what’s important is keeping the veggie option on the menu, so if you can avoid putting them off it then you should, but personally I wouldn’t be annoyed were it my restaurant and I hope people would be more sympathetic. Maybe if they can’t afford the extra space/equipment you could write/call them and arrange a little fund raiser or something, if it didn’t seem too pushy. Could work out in the animals’ favour

  • Torry says:

    Sorry, my money is going to support those companies that are actually vegan, are interested in animal welfare and the environment, and are not only out to make a buck. The companies that continue to use animal ingredients, no matter how “insignificant” you consider the amount, are part of the whole animal exploitation process. They neither know nor care that vegans are buying their products because they are “mostly” vegan; they only know that they are using the least expensive ingredients available. Where do you draw the line? At what point does an “insignificant” amount become significant? And given that we are not generally privy to ingredient quantities in products, at what point down the list do you draw the line at what you do or don’t consider important in an item being “vegan”? If a sweet doesn’t have tallow but has “a bit” of gelatin, why not eat it? If food doesn’t have milk but does have casein, does that make it okay? If it doesn’t have beef but has “just a touch” of egg white, should we go ahead and eat it? Once you start making compromises with eating foods that contain “some” animal products there is really no way to decide how much is “okay” and how much is not, and the whole definition of what is or isn’t vegan becomes meaningless. Of course each person must decide for themselves what they find acceptable but to say that you can eat “a little” animal product and still be vegan is incorrect. There are enough truly vegan options out there that opting for non-vegan food is taking the lazy road. Yes, sometimes finding completely vegan food can be a challenge, but educating oneself and being prepared for different situations is NOT that hard. The thought of eating food prepared where meat is prepared may not bother some but I find it nauseating, and I’m not prepared to compromise my feelings just to “fit in” with a meat eating world. My refusal to do so is not likely to change some waiter’s mind who would otherwise have gone vegan! But compromising my beliefs for the sake of convenience might send the message that animal suffering isn’t that important.

  • saywhat? says:

    I realize that this article was probably written by PETA for PETA, but it completely ignores the fact that there are many, many vegans and vegitarians throughout the world who have spiritual or metaphysical reasons for their diet/lifestyle, not just animal rights. This article brings up revulsion for me against PETA or any other political group trying to stand as the authority on what it is to be a vegan or vegetarian. I also find it revolting to think of my food being cooked on a surface where meat has been cooked, unless that surface has been thoroughly cleaned.

  • Heather says:

    My first reaction…really, WTF, are you kidding me? What is PETA going to be lax on next? Why or how could any person who is a vegan for ethical reasons knowingly consume an animal product simply to avoid ruffling the feathers of restaurant staff. Eat your veggie burger without the dairy tainted bun and ask for extra veggies instead. It’s not that hard to take a stand and it doesn’t have to be “militant”. You know many of us live in abundance and overindulgence to begin with. Ask yourself next time you rationalize eating any kind of animal product..Do I need this? The answer will be NO, I do not need this. That’s not militant it’s wise, compassionate and UNSELFISH. The best way to “educate” others is to be a good person, be grateful and graceful when declining food products due to contamination. There are some vegans/vegetarians who put themselves on a pedestal and have excessive pride about their choice and cause a scene at every opportunity. Why make a scene? It’s not about them. Being vegan is about compassionate living for every living being human, animal and plant. Seriously, PETA you are way off base here. Everyone just simplify. Don’t compromise..it’s selfish not militant. When in question… eat more produce.

  • connor wallace says:

    I completely dissagree with this entire article! /by being willing to eat foods with “just a little” animal in it, we’re giving completely the wrong message to everyone. Its like saying we’re not that bothered! By compromising like this, we’re never going to be taken seriously. Whats the point in pretending to avoid animal products, but at the same time be willing to eat them? People will never take our diet seriously unless we do it first. I am a vegan, i do not want anything from an animal in my food. If i start to allow small amounts, then people are gonna think its ok if theres animal in my food, and it is not. It might start with a trace amount of milk, but it will lead to a trace amount of bacon, until it becomes a bacon sarnie! Because it only has ” a bit” of bacon in it.

    PETA, its YOU thats not thinking of the bigger picture this time!

  • karaleigh says:

    I have always said, (to the disagreement of some of my vegan pals)
    In a perfect world, I would never, under any circumstances, use an animal product, in food, products, clothing, etc…
    But this is not a perfect world, and I am not a perfect person. I am, however, constantly striving, on a daily basis, to do everything I can to lessen the needless suffering in the world. And THAT is what being a vegan is… trying, and educating others to try, to end the pain of the voiceless every single day…. NOT being a “perfect vegan,” thereby making veganism appear to be a militant, intolerant, unappealing, and joyless lifestyle choice to the family, acquaintances, and restaurant employees that surround us.
    Thank you, PETA, for making me feel my efforts and opinions are shared, appreciated, and NOT “wrong.”

  • Dave Stein says:

    I’ve made a commitment not to support animal suffering; I can’t see that I’m fulfilling what I consider my ethical obligation by buying a product that contains animal ingredients. I don’t see how buying shampoo that’s got stearate as the 10th ingredient or cookies with trace dairy is somehow going to HELP animals or send a message to a manufacture that clearly doesn’t care about animals. This is especially so as I found the link here on a page about accidentally vegan (http://www.peta.org/living/vegetarian-living/accidentally-vegan.aspx) where it is clear that those manufacturers are not catering to the vegan crowd; if they are not trying to be vegan, and, in fact, they are not vegan, how can a vegan feel it is appropriate to buy/consume such products? I certainly can’t and am embarrassed for PETA that you’d think otherwise.

  • Mary says:

    I think this is a helpful article! As many of you have experienced, I’m sure, people seem to find it fun to point out asinine inconsistencies or imperfections in vegetarian/vegan lifestyles and then try to use them as a reason to invalidate the whole choice. This article provides some good talking points to refute those comments.

  • Claudia says:

    what about english muffins are those vegan or not? Is this a list of vegan things or non-vegan things?

  • Shirley says:

    I don’t really agree with this … I think that if you are vegetarian then be 100% – same as if you are vegan – then do it 100%. I find the comment that it’s okay to have your veggie meal cooked on the same equipment as meat or fish disgusting – I would rather go hungry.

  • Essie says:

    LUSH has amazing smelling bath products and most of them are vegan :)

  • PETA says:

    Re: Martin. For a list of brands that make cruelty-free bathing soaps, please visit: http://www.peta.org/living/beauty-and-personal-care/companies/search.aspx?Product=3. – PETA

  • Martin says:

    The problem I find is knowing where to buy the products such as soap, shower gel toileteries that are based on the vegan’s list of no stearate, glycerine etc and finding these at a sensible price. Many of the products such as soap and the like are three to four times the price and of small quantities and do not last more than a couple of weeks.
    I am new vegetarian and bought soap for 2 euros 50 which was very small and lasted only 2 weeks at most.
    Any ideas as to cheap places in the city, towns where I can buy these.

  • Geekymba says:

    I disagree. Ignoring label ingredients sends the wrong message to manufacturers that it’s okay to hide animal derived products in their foods, and tells manufacturers that they can label their foods however they like without regard for standards. Saving animals is absolutely the goal and therefore I refuse to support companies that knowingly contribute to animal death in any way.

  • Jennifer Martins says:

    Good points, thanks for the insight. I often find myself being a little too militant in checking ingredients. The most important thing is that I’m not contributing overall to the meat industry and needless suffering of animals. I’ll definitely remember the “bigger picture” when I find myself thinking this way in the future.

  • danielle roline-dilbert says:

    thanks for the information.

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