The vegan blacklist, explained — some of these non-vegan foods will surprise you

Hang out with a vegan for a few days, and you’ll notice something kind of interesting. Vegans check, double-check and triple-check all their product labels. If you’re planning a meal for a vegan friend or are considering becoming vegan yourself, it helps to know exactly what vegans can and can’t eat.

Vegans abstain from more than just meat products. They won’t consume any food (or use a product) that was produced in any way that may have exploited animals. That means there could be hidden ingredients lurking in your pantry that may be non-vegan.

1. Some sugar
White sugar gets its color from a refining process that often involves the use of bone char, meaning even though it’s not directly an animal product, it’s not vegan. But don’t opt for brown sugar, powdered sugar or even “raw” sugar. All of them are made from refined white sugar. Some sugar manufacturers are certified vegan, so check the company’s website or PETA to find out. Or just opt, instead, for maple syrup or agave nectar as a sweetener.

2. Jell-O, marshmallows, gummy bears, etc.
These sweet treats are typically made with gelatin, which is made from collagen that comes from animal byproducts. You should avoid any product made with gelatin. That said, a quick Internet search will reveal vegan versions of these and many other gelatin-containing foods. If you’re making something from scratch, try substituting an equal amount of agar-agar.

3. Other candies
While we’re on the subject of sweets, be careful of candies in general. That shiny coating comes from a resin excreted by a bug (the lac bug). Of course, “lac bug juice” would gross out even non-vegans, so they usually just call it “confectioner’s glaze.”

4. Red foods
How ’bout them fake red apple candies? There’s nothing wrong with the red things Mother Nature makes, but most red candies and a lot of red foods in general get their color from red pigments from a female cochineal insect. On the label, it will say “cochineal,” “carminic acid” or “carmine.”