Dealing with food additives, part 2

October 21, 2010

This might just be the most difficult video I’ve made this year (you can tell by how long it takes to get to the point!), but I want to get some of these discussions out in the open so we can all learn.  Here’s an example: when I filmed this yesterday, I said I didn’t think I knew anyone who did something at a certain level, and already there’s a comment on part 1 from someone who does.  Sometimes it’s simpler than knowing how to do something; just knowing that it’s happening is a big deal.

Some of what I said might not be clear, so I’m happy to discuss it further in the comments, and like I said, let’s learn together in a non-judging way, because I really think this is an area that doesn’t get discussed enough.

Related: Dealing with food additives, part 1

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Joshua Matthews October 21, 2010 at 8:42 pm

I tend to avoid anything that I don’t know for sure what the source is. If there’s a product that I am particularly interested in, I’ll get in touch with the manufacturer. If I get a very clear response that it’s non-animal sourced, I’ll buy it. If I get no response or I doubt that the sender really knows what they’re talking about, I avoid it.

The one problem is restaurants. I have to take the word of the waiter.

Joshua Matthews October 21, 2010 at 8:48 pm

There’s another point I’ve heard debated about:

If a food item is ‘technically vegan’ but has an allergy warning ‘May contain’, should you eat it? Some say, “If it ‘may contain milk’, then it’s not vegan.” Others argue that, “A ‘may contain’ allergy warning means that there may be minute amounts of the ingredient and it’s not going to increase animal use if you purchase it.”

Jason October 21, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Thanks Joshua – after I shot the video I realized it was more restaurants and social events that I tended to run into, but to be honest I haven’t re-checked any bread companies lately.

As for “may contain,” I view that as a statement on the realities of manufacturing using shared equipment and figure it’s the lawyers going overboard (plus, after watching sugar get unloaded from a huge ship a few times I realized there’s a lot of “may contain” out there that doesn’t even get listed on the label,) but this is one of those things that will improve as recipes get more vegan (which I believe is happening,) and hopefully this doesn’t sound too over-rationalizing, but if we duplicated every piece of equipment for vegan foods there’d be a lot less of it and/or a lot more waste, so I’m not losing sleep over it.

James October 22, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Let’s say there’s a speck of milk on a conveyor belt in a factory. It’s a few dried up grams, about to be wiped off and forgotten.

Now let’s say I go up to that conveyor belt and lick it.

Then it’s disinfected just as it would have been, the only difference being that those few milk molecules are in me instead of the dumpster.

Have I done anything immoral? It’s hard to say so, seeing as I haven’t harmed any conscious creatures or supported anyone who does, even in an indirect way.

And since buying a “may contain milk” item is just a milder, more uncertain version of the above, then I’m super 100% fine with it.

Erin October 23, 2010 at 1:07 am

In addition to the “shared equipment” situation, what do others do when you go out to a restaurant. I only go to restaurants that have easy to find vegan options that don’t need much modification (no mayo, without cheese, etc). The last two times I’ve ordered something cooked on a grill though, I just had this feeling like I could taste meat on it. I had a “burger” and subbed a grilled portabello at a cool pub recently and I just felt like it was covered in beef fat. My husband tastsed it and swears it tasted nothing like beef. Eventually I told my mind it was wrong. Then again, I got blackened tofu on a salad recently at a place that serves burgers and meat also and I got an aftertaste that reminded me of meat.

Do you ask that the grill be cleaned/wiped down before cooking your food? How do you word that?

Sami October 23, 2010 at 7:21 am

I’ve never been a meat eater, but out of curiosity (and as an amusing reply to “If you’d tried it you couldn’t be vegan” I’ve had a bite of a few kinds (Beef, Turkey, Cod and Tuna). None of them were anything like my idea of a ‘meaty’ taste. To me, meaty is like Smoked, or how a meat BBQ smells. Meaty or not, I can’t stand the taste of smoke. But it also means I couldn’t tell if something did taste of meat, or was just smoked and therefore I don’t like it.

On a more related note, Erin: Did use to work in a place with a cafe where the guy wouldn’t wipe the knife between cutting sandwiches, which meant tuna mayo all over my avocado. I simply caught him before he was about to cut and asked him to clean wipe the knife – from then on he always did for me and (so I noticed) often did for everyone else.

According some an obscure facebook post I happened across (Reliable Source Warning!) ‘May Contain’ in chocolate could be as much as 2% milk – in the very absolute first few bars which catches it all from the pipe etc. I would agree with the above though, it’s the thought that counts, given the choice between equal May Contain and Free From I’ll choose the free from, but I’m not that fussed.

And, back on the original topic, Additives! We in Europe have E Numbers, so many products list an E Number in their ingredients rather than the Latin name for whatever. When they do, it makes it quite easy to know that E120 is not vegan, E441 is Gelatine etc. Learning all the numbers, is different challenge. I take the same approach as you do Jason, I check now and then and often give the benefit of the doubt if it always comes up Vegan.

Jason October 23, 2010 at 10:48 am

Erin, that reminds me – I have a hard time ordering from sub shops (international: hoagie? submarine sandwich? long buns with stuff layered on it? Subway!) – watching them handle meat and then diving their hands into the tubs of produce is pretty nauseating. It’s one of the reasons I avoid the lettuce, as it gets the most contact (the other reason being I don’t care much for iceberg lettuce,) and I don’t know how health departments can approve the cross-contamination.

On the bright side, they will change their gloves if you ask them to.

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