'Is this vegan?': The many hidden animal products in your food, drink and medicine

It's a fact of plant-based life: The amount of animal products hidden in food can make things difficult. 

Apart from the obvious meat and dairy, there are often foods that some might perceive to be vegan, but in fact, are not.

If you've ever thought about going vegan, here's a list of some of the hidden animal-based substances you will want to avoid.

Carmine and carminic acid

Check the ingredients listed on ice blocks, liquorice, sprinkles, food coloured with red food colouring, and juice that doesn't state it's "100 percent orange". Some of them are likely to contain carmine, a substance made from crushed up beetles.

Milk powder and milk proteins

Many brands of salt and vinegar chips and tinned tomato soup contain milk powder or some type of milk product.

The fining agents that are used in the production of wine include casein, a milk protein. Some wine can also be filtered through fining agents in order to remove protein, yeast, cloudiness and "off" flavours and colourings. 

Condom manufacturers often add casein to their products to make them smoother.

Asthma inhalers are also a source of milk protein.

"It is true that some asthma inhalers contain lactose, and as a result, contain trace amounts of associated milk protein," allergist Dr Hermant Sharma told Living Allergic.


Gelatine is a protein that is made by boiling animal's skin, tendons, ligaments and bones with water.

Gelatine is found in most lollies, as well as in some flavoured nuts.

Many vitamins and antibiotics use gelatine as the medicine casing, although most vegans overlook this as medicine is needed for recovery. Gelatine is also used on the red part of matches.


Tallow is a hard substance made from animal fat, and is used in making candles and soap. New Zealand's banknotes contain one percent tallow.

Tallow is also used to toughen the tyres and tubing of cars. According to motoring journalist Ryan McElory, it is impossible to buy a vegan car.

"Every single vehicle on the road has animal products in - you can't avoid it," he told the BBC.

Products tested on animals

Products that have been tested on animals are not deemed to be vegan. 

Most beauty products, lube, bleach, toothpaste and sanitary products are tested on animals, but many mainstream brands have become cruelty-free - just make sure to read the product's label.

The tobacco industry is also well known for animal testing, and since the act of smoking is harmful to the environment and yourself, it is deemed to not be vegan.

The NZ Vegetarian Society has developed a Vegan Certified logo (link), to make buying vegan products easier.

"We check the ingredients thoroughly so that you don't have to. When you see our logo, you can be confident as we are that the product is really vegan," says Philip McKibbin, the NZ Vegetarian Society's communications manager.