Vegetarian and vegan drinkers, rejoice: By the end of this year, Guinness has said it will no longer use fish bladders to make its 256-year-old stout.
At issue is isinglass, a gelatin-like substance derived from the fish that helps filter the beer.
Guinness is certainly not alone in using animals in its product line, though.
Countless other companies rely on a dizzying variety of animal ingredients to manufacture their foods and beverages.
Here’s a list of the most common — and surprising — classes of products to watch out for, and the non-vegetarian-friendly ingredients they might contain or rely on.
Isinglass is one of several kinds of ingredients called finings, which are added to beer and wine toward the end brewing process to help filter out solid particles and yeast cells, according to Smithsonian.com.
Other traditional finings used in both beer and wine include honey, egg whites, blood, milk, bone marrow, pulverized crustacean shells, and gelatin.
Finings are generally filtered out before the glass reaches your hand but trace amounts still end up in the final product.
Some sodas use ester gum to keep oils suspended in water for flavor or mouthfeel.
Ester gum is also known as “glycerol ester of wood rosin” — the key word there is “glycerol,” which is chemically derived from animal fats.
Pink lemonades and grapefruit juices
Look for “carmine” in the ingredients of pink lemonades and grapefruit juices. Why? It’s made from the ground-up shells of cochineal bugs.
If eating bugs doesn’t concern you, maybe the fact that the dyes can cause allergic reactions in some people will. Since 2009, the FDA has required carmine and similarly derived dyes to be explicitly labeled on packaging.
Fans of Starbucks’ pink drinks, however, are safe: The company moved to using tomato-based red dyes in 2012 after their use of cochineal was outed by a vegan blog.
If your OJ of choice proudly declares that it’s chock-full of “omega-3 fatty acids,” it’s probably not veggie-friendly.
Omega-3s are usually derived from fish, anchovies in particular. Tropicana Healthy Heart orange juice, for example, lists tilapia, sardine, and anchovy in the ingredients.
If you’re avoiding fish products, you’ll have to keep a sharp eye out: Wonder Headstart bread also includes anchovy-derived omega-3s.
Marshmallows, gummy bears, and Jell-O all use gelatin as a thickener.
Gelatin is made from boiling animal products, like leftover skin and bones from meat processing. You can also find it in some pill coatings, jellies, yogurts, and beauty products.
Several brands of sugar filter their product with bone char — basically burned-up animal bones — to whiten sugar cane during processing.
And just because sugar isn’t white doesn’t mean it’s vegetarian. Some commercial brown sugar is white sugar, just with added molasses. Beet and other unrefined sugars, however, are typically vegetarian.
The unpronounceable British condiment includes anchovies. If you’re a brunching vegetarian, you might ask the bartender to keep it out of your Bloody Mary.
It pains me deeply to say this, but several cheeses are not truly vegetarian. Animal rennet is traditionally used to separate the milk solids from the whey during cheesemaking.
What’s worse, this kind of rennet can only come from the stomach of a newborn calf. This may sound like some witchy nonsense, but it’s true — the enzymes help the calf digest milk (and help make fine cheeses).
The good news is that most cheeses are now made with cheaper vegetable rennet. But look out for certain French and Italian cheeses, like Camembert or Parmaggiano Reggiano (the original Parmesan), which need to meet strict standards to earn their designations — standards that include newborn calf stomach extract.
What’s a vegetarian or vegan to do?
Many other foods and drinks out there contain animal products outright, or rely on them during processing.
If you’re worried consuming them, check out the Vegetarian Resource Group’s Guide to Food Ingredients. By reading through the list, you can more easily identify non-vegetarian or non-vegan ingredients listed on a food label.
And for drinkers, there’s Barnivore.com: a web search for booze site that keeps tabs on nearly 25,000 beers, wines, and liquors for any use of non-veggie-friendly ingredients or processes.
Finally, we’ll note that more and more companies are starting to make veggie-friendly versions of their products, including Worcestershire sauce and marshmallows. No surprise there: The vegetarian and vegan market demand is only getting bigger and bigger each year.