Non-Vegan Ingredients to Watch Out For!

I’m sure you’ll have experienced the disappointment of reading an ingredients list, it’s all going well and then BOOM — milk powder. Seems to be in everything unnecessarily, right? Or when even the most seemingly dairy, meat and egg free foods such as Rice Krispies, aren't vegan approved due to animal derived Vitamin D3?

It can be a minefield before you know what to look out for, whether you’re just starting your plant based journey or have been vegan for years. To help, we’ve made a list of some non vegan ingredients to watch out for, that may not be obvious at first!

Not all Vitamin D3 is animal derived, but a lot of the time, it can be. Animal based Vitamin D3 is sourced from ‘lanolin’, which is found in sheep’s wool. A vegan alternative to this is ‘lichen’.

Vitamin D3 is commonly found in cereals. Instagram page @Accidentallyveganuk recently shared a vegan cereal guide by @raelikesfroot, to help you find vegan cereals more easily.*

It’s also important to note that if you’re taking Vitamin D3 supplements, check for the vegan certification stamp, or look for specifically branded vegan versions.

*This guide is not exhaustive, but is really helpful! Use an vegan barcode scanner app to double check other products if you’re unsure.

vegan cereals

Whey, Casein, Lactose and Lactic acid

All of these ingredients are dairy products, and seem to make their way into everything? For us, crisps are the most annoying!

Whey is a by-product of cheese production (the liquid left once milk has curdled) and is added to an abundance of protein snacks, or even cheese flavoured crackers and crisps.

Casein is the protein found in milk, and Lactose is a sugar present in it. Beware of ‘lactose free’ branded dairy products, as its easy to assume that this means it is vegan (it doesn't, they’ve just removed the lactose from cows milk.)

Lactic acid can be both vegan or non vegan. Lactic acid naturally occurs in the fermentation of plants, but can also be derived from animals. Packaging should state ‘animal derived lactic acid’, but it may not, so watch out for it! It’s used as a preservative, found mostly in processed foods.

Despite there being a wealth of accidentally vegan and non vegan labelled products out there, our advice would be to be strict with the certification stamp on products containing lactic acid, to be sure that it is not animal derived.



Gelatin is is the reason that most chewy sweets, marshmallows and jelly aren’t vegan. It’s also found in the coating of some vitamins/supplements and even some cosmetics.

Gelatin is usually obtained through boiling the skin, tendons and bones of cows or pigs, and used as a thickening agent. We’re lucky today because there are tons of vegan versions of these foods, which use agar-agar or pectin, instead of gelatin. Just watch out for it, as it won’t be highlighted in bold on an ingredients list.

Here’s a list of some accidentally vegan or vegan labelled UK sweets:

There are also loads of independent vegan sweet brands that you can get delivered, such as The Conscious Candy Company, Veg Gummies and Innocent Sweets Co.

conscious candy co


Isinglass is a type gelatin obtained from the dried swim bladders of fish and is commonly added to beer & wine. You may not have considered that alcohol may not be vegan, but many aren’t. Due to alcohol ingredient labelling not being a requirement in the UK, it’s important to look for ‘suitable for vegans’ or vegan certified stamps to be sure.

Heres a list of some of the best that are suitable, but there are loads more if you just check the label!

vegan wine


Beeswax ends up in everything, and despite not being dairy or an actual animal, like honey, beeswax isn’t vegan! Is’s produced by worker bees in the hive, and therefore is an animal derived product. Beeswax is sometimes found on waxed apples or lemons to preserve and give them shine. So, make sure to buy unwaxed fruits and vegetables. It can also be found in some sweets, and very commonly in beauty products. Beeswax is sometimes listed as ‘E901’.


Shellac is a glazing agent from the secretion of a ‘lac bug’ or beetle. Like beeswax, it’s used to glaze fruit and is found in some sweets, marzipan, chocolate, and nail polishes/cosmetics. It’s another ingredient that won’t be in bold on an ingredients list, since it isn’t a common allergen. It may also be listed as ‘E904’. You can find a full list of the confusing E numbers you should watch out for here. You can avoid shellac by looking for the vegan certification and buying unwaxed/glazed fruits.

shellac bug


L-Cysteine is used as a flour improver in some bakery products, and is found in around 5% of bread. It’s not vegan because it can be derived from animal feathers/hairs, and even though there’s a synthetic version of it, it can be expensive to make. Wholemeal bread is most unlikely to contain L-Cysteine. Again, look for vegan suitable labels!



If you’re in the process of, or considering going plant based but need some support, Plantli can help! We’re your affordable plant based nutritionist on subscription — giving you meal recommendations based on both your nutrient levels, and carbon footprint scores, so you can make choices that are better for both you and the environment. 🌱



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