How to Read Food Labels to Identify Non-vegan Ingredients in 2023?

With the increasing popularity of veganism, it has become crucial for individuals following a vegan lifestyle to be able to identify non-vegan ingredients when purchasing food products. Reading food labels is an essential skill that allows vegans to make informed choices and avoid consuming animal-derived ingredients.

In 2023, there are several key aspects to consider when deciphering food labels to ensure a product is truly vegan-friendly.

Look for the Vegan Label

One of the easiest ways to identify vegan products is by searching for a recognized vegan label or certification. Various organizations provide vegan certifications, such as the Vegan Society or the Certified Vegan logo.

These labels ensure that the product has been thoroughly inspected and meets the necessary criteria to be considered vegan. If a product carries such a label, it can provide reassurance for vegans that it does not contain any animal-derived ingredients.

Check for Obvious Non-Vegan Ingredients

While many non-vegan ingredients may be hidden under complex names, some are more easily recognizable. Common non-vegan ingredients include dairy, eggs, honey, gelatin, and certain colorings like carmine (made from crushed insects).

Carefully examine the ingredient list for these substances. It’s important to note that some ingredients have vegan and non-vegan variations, such as plant-based milk alternatives versus dairy milk.

Familiarize Yourself with Ingredient Terminology

Understanding the terminology used in food labels is crucial for identifying non-vegan ingredients. Some ingredients may not be explicitly named as animal-derived, making it important to be aware of potential synonyms.

For instance, ingredients like whey, casein, or albumen are derived from dairy and should be avoided by vegans. By familiarizing yourself with such terms, you can navigate food labels more effectively.

Be Cautious of Additives and E-Numbers

Food additives and E-numbers are often used in processed foods. While some additives are plant-based, others are derived from animals. For example, E120 (cochineal or carmine) is extracted from insects.

It is crucial to research and become familiar with the various additives and E-numbers that may be non-vegan. Several online resources and smartphone apps can help in identifying these additives.

Watch Out for Hidden Animal Ingredients

Not all non-vegan ingredients are immediately obvious from their names. Some may appear as vague terms or obscure components. For instance, “natural flavors” or “natural coloring” might originate from animal sources. When in doubt, reach out to the manufacturer for clarification.

In today’s digital age, many companies are responsive to customer inquiries regarding the vegan status of their products.

Understand Cross-Contamination Risks

Cross-contamination can occur during the manufacturing process, where vegan and non-vegan products are processed on shared equipment. While such cross-contamination does not necessarily make a product non-vegan, it may be a concern for some individuals.

Look for labels that indicate the product was produced in a dedicated facility or on dedicated equipment to minimize cross-contamination risks.

Utilize Technology

In 2023, technology can be a valuable tool for vegans. Various smartphone apps and online platforms provide databases of vegan-friendly products and ingredients.

These resources can assist in quickly identifying non-vegan ingredients and suggesting suitable alternatives. Additionally, many grocery stores now offer online ingredient lists for their products, making it easier to research items before purchasing.


Reading food labels to identify non-vegan ingredients is a crucial skill for individuals following a vegan lifestyle. In 2023, there are several strategies to consider when deciphering food labels.

By looking for vegan labels, being aware of obvious non-vegan ingredients, understanding ingredient terminology, watching out for hidden animal ingredients, considering cross-contamination risks, and utilizing technology, vegans can confidently navigate the grocery store aisles and make informed choices that align with their ethical values.

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