reading food labels

One of the most overwhelming things about becoming Vegan is having the responsibility to check labels and ingredients for anything non-Vegan. Even though a lot of artificial preservatives and additives are derived from plant sources, they have hard-to-pronounce names, so can scare people away from buying anything processed.

The following is a list of common e-numbers and ingredients that are not Vegan


may contain

Labels that say things like “May Contain Milk” cause a lot of confusion for new Vegans. Just to give some context to the concept of may contain until the 1980’s products could contain allergens like nuts, but as long as they were made of less than 5% of the product the company could hide them without stating on the packaging. By the 1990’s, regulators made food companies declare the presence of peanuts and then all other allergens. Following this the may contain labelling was introduced for products that were at risk of cross contamination. As an example, a processing line might produce both chocolate-coated peanuts and chocolate-coated raisins. While it will be cleaned between making the different products, there is a possibility of traces of peanut material being present in the packs of chocolate coated raisins. Due to situations where people have had severe allergic reactions to traces of certain allergens, resulting in companies getting sued, the may contain label has become vague and overused. The reason why most processed products have a number of may contain ingredients is because manufacturers are just covering themselves legally. In most cases, may contain means produced in a facility also handling, or produced on equipment also handing something like milk or eggs or fish. For a lot of Vegans, the idea of their food touching dead flesh, salmonella-laden eggs and pus-filled cow secretion is disgusting and would discourage them from eating it, but the machinery is usually thoroughly washed before making the Vegan products and these products are very unlikely to contain any milk, eggs or fish at all. But when you put it into perspective, these products are still Vegan. When you see it from the animals’ point of view, being fussy about possible traces doesn’t help end the injustice. You’re not supporting the dairy industry when you buy something that may contain milk so there should never be an ethical objection. If you have a sever allergy to ingredients like dairy and eggs, be mindful of the cross contamination, but for the majority of Vegans: may is ok.