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Hidden Ingredients

Hidden Ingredients

There are a lot of hidden non-vegetarian ingredients in foods, especially processed foods, and many of these are animal derived.  It can be very difficult to ascertain from a list of chemical names and e-numbers, what’s actually in your food.

NZ Vegetarian Society Approve LogoThis is where the Vegetarian Society Approved symbol  is really helpful – it ensures the product is 100% vegetarian. The trademark is not on every vegetarian item, however, so here’s a list of common foods that often have non-vegetarian or non-vegan items in them.

Vegan Certified NZVS

Similarly, when you see our Vegan Certified Trademark on products, you can be as confident as we are that the product is vegan.

Fats and Oils

Tallow, lard, suet are all animals fats. Beef fat is often found in bought pastry and biscuits.


Margarine may contain whey* (a by-product of cheese-making) and E471 (which may be derived from fish oil or animal fat).


Cheese made from animal rennet is not vegetarian as animal rennet is an enzyme extracted from the stomach of slaughtered calves. Cheese produced with enzymes from plants or micro-organisms (i.e. microbial rennet or vegetable rennilaise) is vegetarian.


Acid whey is vegetarian. Whey from cheese or casein making using animal derived rennet is not.


Eggs are vegetarian but the NZ Vegetarian Society does not consider eggs from caged hens to be ethical. Most free range facilities still do not allow hens to live a natural, happy life and of course, as with most farmed chickens, they are usually culled at 18 months old when their egg production decreases.  Also, half the day old chicks – the males – are killed due to the fact they are not useful to the industry. The most compassionate way to get eggs is to have some chicken friends in your backyard or buy eggs from someone who does. Where this is not possible, choose a certified free-range brand.

Most bought products containing eggs will use caged eggs, unless otherwise stated. Want to avoid eggs completely? Have a look at our guide on how to substitute dairy & eggs.


Gelatine is a slaughter by-product derived from collagen extracted from the skin, bones and connective tissues of animals.  It is used as a gelling and firming agent.  Commonly found in marshmallow, desserts, ice cream, yoghurt, dips, gummy candy and chocolates.

Gravies and Stock

Many liquid, cube and powdered stocks and gravy mixes contain meat, chicken or fish extract. There are some good ones which don’t, so check the labels.  Massels have a good, animal product free ranges of stocks.

Restaurant soups and other dishes often use animal stock as a base, so check when ordering what may appear to be a vegetarian soup, curry, etc.  Gravy will usually have a meat base. Ask about fish and oyster sauces too, especially at asian restaurants.

Worcester Sauce

Often contains anchovies which are a fish.

Fruit Juices

Juices may have been clarified using gelatine.


Slaughterhouse products (eg gelatine, blood) or isinglass (from the swim bladders of fish) can be used in the clarification or filtration process.  Commonly egg or milk is used too.


Vegetarian, but not suitable for vegans.

Non-Vegan E-numbers, ALL allowed in New Zealand

120 – Cochineal (Carmine)  A red dye derived from a crushed scale insect.

433 – Emulsifier Derived from animal fat.

542 – Edible bone phosphate Derived from animal bones.

640 – Glycine Produced from gelatin.

901 – Beeswax Used as a glazing agent.

904 – Shellac, Lac Derived from the Lac insect. Used as a glazing agent.

920 – L-cystein monohydrochloride Derived from animal hair and chicken feathers. Flour treatment agents used in breads.

966 – Lactitol – Derived from whey (milk)

*1105    Lysozyme        Commercially prepared from chicken eggs or bacteria

May be Non-Vegan

153 – Carbon Black or Vegetable Carbon. May be from plant or animal origin. In some countries only the vegetable-derived variety is permitted. If the labelling says “vegetable carbons” it is likely suitable for vegans; if “carbon black” then it probably won’t be.

304 – Ascorbyl palmitate Usually produced from vegetable fat, however there is a possibility animal fat may be used.

470-475 – Usually of plant origin, but fats of animal origin may also be used.

477 – Propylene Glycol mono& diesters or propyle esters of fatty acids. Usually of plant origin, but fats of animal origin may also be used

481/482 – Contains stearic acid, which may be from plant or animal fat, but almost always vegetable oil will be used.

491-492Emulsifiers Produced from a fatty acid of plant or animal origin, although usually vegetable oils are used.

570 – Stearic Acid Commercially produced from plant sources, however may also be produced from animal fat.

627Flavour Enhancer Commercially prepared from yeast extract or sardines

631 – Disodium inosinate -Flavour Enhancer Often prepared from meat or dried sardines. Can also be produced synthetically.

635Disodium 5′-ribonucleotidesFlavour Enhancer – Often prepared from meat or dried sardines. Can also be produced synthetically.

*636,637 –  Maltol and Ethyl Maltol Can be derived from lactose (cows milk)

1100 – Amylase Derived from either mushroom or pig pancreas.

*vegetarian, but not vegan