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  #1  
Old 01-27-2000, 09:07 PM
Scoop Scoop is offline
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My vegan friend told me that she didn't eat sugar because it contained animal products - she claimed it was processed through charcoal made of cow bones. I sometimes eat animal products (though not meat), but this struck me as something I would have heard about. She says gelatin is animal bones as well, which I've heard but not been sure about. Both of these kind of bother me, but the sugar really grosses me out. Can someone tell me this is not true? I've been putting honey in my coffee and cereal for a few days now and it doesn't taste so good.
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  #2  
Old 01-27-2000, 09:14 PM
John Corrado John Corrado is offline
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Well, here's what Cecil has to say about gelatin.
http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a3_103.html

As for sugar, well, I dunno. But I know gelatin.

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  #3  
Old 01-27-2000, 09:17 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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Gelatin is indeed made from animals -- bones, skin, hooves, etc.

Here's what Grolier's says about sugar refiniing:

Sugarcane requires a warm, moist climate for cultivation. It is grown from sections of cane stalk, each containing a bud. After 9 to 36 months of growth the cane attains heights of 3-4.5 m (10-15 ft). At harvest, the cane is cut off close to the ground by machinery or manually with a machete.

The cane stalks are then stripped of leaves and transported to a sugar mill. There they are crushed, shredded, and passed through a series of heavy rollers under great pressure to extract the cane juice. The remaining solid material, called bagasse, may be used as a fuel by the mill or may be processed into paper or wallboard. The cane juice is clarified and then concentrated by boiling. The resultant thick syrup, called massecuite, is fed into a centrifuge having a perforated basket at its center. When the centrifuge is spun, some of the syrup is crystallized and retained in the basket, while the remaining syrup is thrown to the periphery. This process is repeated once or twice to extract additional sugar crystals. The residue is a dark, odorous syrup called blackstrap molasses.

At this stage the sugar crystals are known as raw cane sugar and are light brown because they are coated with a thin film of molasses. The refining process is interrupted at this point, because raw sugar is an economical form in which to ship sugar in bulk.

Nearly all raw sugar is transported to refineries by oceangoing vessels, and it is for this reason that major refineries are located at seaports. At the refinery, the raw sugar is washed to remove the molasses and is dissolved into a water syrup. After the syrup is filtered to remove impurities and discolorants, the sugar is crystallized by boiling in vacuum pans, washing, and centrifuging. The crystallization process is repeated as long as extractable sugar remains in the syrup. The end product is the familiar granulated white sugar, which is dried, screened, and packaged.

End quote. No mention of charcoal. Sounds like your friend has it very wrong.

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  #4  
Old 01-27-2000, 09:45 PM
Johnny Angel Johnny Angel is offline
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I can imagine that this story arose to bolster the general claim pushed by vegans and the like that refined sugar is somehow unhealthy. Well, it's certainly not being processed that makes them unhealthy. But a lot of people believe it.
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  #5  
Old 01-27-2000, 09:54 PM
ChiefScott ChiefScott is offline
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You can always go with Sweet 'n' Low. Yeah, yeah... it increases your chances for contracting cancer. But think of all the brownie points you'll get when you get to doggie heaven.

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  #6  
Old 01-27-2000, 10:45 PM
Doug Bowe Doug Bowe is offline
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Sounds like your friend is ready for a subscription to "Vegetarian Times."
Spreading UL's that are not quite true is a poor way to establish credence in your chosen lifestyle.
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  #7  
Old 01-28-2000, 01:27 AM
EvilGhandi EvilGhandi is offline
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Lactose is a sugar that is derived from milk. Maybe that's what your friend was thinking of when she heard about cow by-product sugar.

Good 'ol sucrose however, is an all natural product extracted from cane and to a lesser extent comercially, beets.

Though we no longer grow sugar on my island, we did for decades. I got a good part of my training as a pipefitter working in sugar refineries. I know every piece of equipment in one well. There is no cow bone charcoal processing phase. In fact there is no charcoal processing in the process whatsoever.

That is not to say there never has been such a phase. At a point in processing, the syrup is passed through ion exchange towers to decolorize it. It is possible that bone charcoal was once used for this process.

I can only swear to the fact that I have never seen machinery for it. (and refineries dont throw out old equipment, they pipe around it, or just haul it out back) So It's never been used in my lifetime. At least not in this country.
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Old 01-28-2000, 07:28 AM
Mr Thin Skin Mr Thin Skin is offline
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So there you have it. I believe EvilGhandi. I'll take Occam's razor every time. On another note, can you even make charcoal out of cow bones? Is there that much carbon in cow bones. I would think there's plenty of cheap,wood based charcoal.

Anyway, a much worst problem for vegans is the problem with plastic products. They are made out of dinosaurs you know.
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  #9  
Old 01-28-2000, 09:56 AM
handy handy is offline
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Sugar, itself, whether from Cane or Beets is all Vegetable.
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  #10  
Old 01-28-2000, 10:05 AM
CatInHat CatInHat is offline
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Your friend may also have a problem with honey, Scoop. I don't know how honey is processed (I don't think that it is processed much) but it does involve the "exploitation" of bees. I have no idea how the bees feel about it.

The easiest way to resolve the sugar question is to look at a bag of sugar and see if it says "parve" or "pareve". Under Jewish law, this means (I think; can someone confirm this?) that it doesn't contain any animal products, so it can be eaten with either meat or milk without being unkosher.

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  #11  
Old 01-28-2000, 10:48 AM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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It's true, it's all true. The poor little sugars are raised from infancy in horrible conditions, kept confined, unable to roam the fields freely. These sugar ranches are cramped, poorly lit, and there is very little reading material provided.

At maturity, many of the sugars are horribly forced into unnatural cube-like shapes, before being slaughtered for market.

Even worse, many of the young sugars are forcibly separated from their mothers at an early age, and weaned to an all artificial sweetener diet. These poor creatures are confined in little pink or blue paper wrappings (the pink and blue are to distinguish the males from females) before being callously slaughtered for human consumption.

And although the sugar companies claim that the slaughter of the sugars is done humanely, in fact nasty chopping instruments are still sometimes used.

If you want to help fight this dreadful mistreatment of the little sugars, you can send money to Stop the Uncontrolled Corrupt Killing of Entire Sugars (SUCKER) organization, care of this website.

Or there are agencies that will help you adopt a sugar as a pet, to save it from slaughter.
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  #12  
Old 01-28-2000, 10:50 AM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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Oh, wait, in my prior response, I hadn't read the question carefully. The question is: Is sugar vegetarian?

The answer is that, in captivity, sugar are raised on an all vegetarian diet. In the wild, of course, some sugar are carnivorous.
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  #13  
Old 01-28-2000, 11:16 AM
Akatsukami Akatsukami is offline
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CatInHat writes:
Quote:
The easiest way to resolve the sugar question is to look at a bag of sugar and see if it says "parve" or "pareve". Under Jewish law, this means (I think; can someone confirm this?) that it doesn't contain any animal products, so it can be eaten with either meat or milk without being unkosher.
More or less; this depends on whether we mean "animal == mammal" or not. Kosher fish are considered pareve.


I note that the term "pareve" may not be used. For instance, I have a box of sugar that is labelled with the circle-K (of Kashrus Laboratories). The unqualified symbol means that the product is kosher and pareve (the sugar is actually marked (K) P -- but that means that the sugar is suitable for Pesah (Passover)); a "(K) D" would mean it is kosher, but dairy. The Orthodox Union (OU; their symbol is circle-U) also uses an unqualified endsorsement for pareve products, and qualifies it for meat and dairy.

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  #14  
Old 01-28-2000, 03:40 PM
handy handy is offline
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Vegetarians are interesting. They won't eat meat but oral sex is okay. They eat vegetables but won't eat sugar. Won't eat cows, but can wear them.

1sug•ar \"shu-ger\ noun [ME sugre, sucre, fr. MF sucre, fr. ML zuccarum, fr. OIt zucchero, fr. Ar sukkar, fr. Per shakar, fr. Skt sarkara; akin to Skt sarkara pebble — more at crocodile] (14c)
1 a : a sweet crystallizable material that consists wholly or essentially of sucrose, is colorless or white when pure tending to brown when less refined, is obtained commercially from sugarcane or sugar beet and less extensively from sorghum, maples, and palms, and is important as a source of dietary carbohydrate and as a sweetener and preservative of other foods
b : any of various water-soluble compounds that vary widely in sweetness and include the oligosaccharides (as sucrose)
2
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  #15  
Old 01-28-2000, 03:47 PM
Scoop Scoop is offline
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Thanks for the info. My friend, I just found out, does have a problem with the exploitation (her word) of bees in the making of honey, but I'm running out of patience. Every time I eat around her she points out that some chemical in the food is made from animals. At this point, I'm just eating what I did before I met her. There's really only so much you can do. But I will eat sugar again.
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  #16  
Old 01-28-2000, 05:15 PM
SoMoMom SoMoMom is offline
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I definitely wouldn't be inviting that friend to any dinner parties.

Do bees really mind sharing their honey? Why do they make so much extra?
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  #17  
Old 01-28-2000, 05:51 PM
Padeye Padeye is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mr Thin Skin:
Anyway, a much worst problem for vegans is the problem with plastic products. They are made out of dinosaurs you know.
I gotta steal that bit.

Handy, have you ever heard the song Mary Moon? The chorus ends with "she don't eat meat, but she sure like the bone." I had an ovo-lacto vegitarian friend who agreed that it described her pretty well. You never heard me complain about the inconsitency.



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  #18  
Old 01-28-2000, 07:19 PM
elelle elelle is offline
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CKDext: Hee-hee! That was sweet!
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  #19  
Old 01-28-2000, 07:19 PM
handy handy is offline
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"Handy, have you ever heard the song Mary Moon? The chorus ends with
"she don't eat meat, but she sure like the bone."

No, but if you hum a few bars Ill pretend I did. Sounds about right....

People *are* meat.
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  #20  
Old 01-28-2000, 08:02 PM
Diceman Diceman is offline
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If God had intended us to be vegetarians, he wouldn't have made animals out of meat .

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  #21  
Old 01-28-2000, 08:14 PM
Diceman Diceman is offline
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I forgot to mention: Have you tried the tactic that people use when encountering Macintosh computer owners (which is practically a cult itself :P)? You just humor them and nod passively to whatever they say.

Seriously, if your friend is really getting annoying, you might have to put her in her place. Politely but firmly mention that you are happy with your dietary habits and are not interested in the sales pitch. Try to agree to disagree.

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  #22  
Old 01-29-2000, 12:02 AM
Greg Charles Greg Charles is offline
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I've also heard the story of white sugar being filtered through bone. It was either from Cecil himself, or from his San Diego clone Mathew Alice. (Mathew Alice writes the same sort of column as Cecil, and is generally very reliable.) In the same article, it was mentioned that one of the "natural flavorings" in many catsups is meat juices. It's hard to be pure in such a complex world.
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  #23  
Old 01-29-2000, 12:08 AM
CatInHat CatInHat is offline
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Thanks, Akatsukami. It feels good to be right sometimes!
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  #24  
Old 01-29-2000, 02:55 PM
jab1 jab1 is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Scoop:
She says gelatin is animal bones as well, which I've heard but not been sure about.
Your friend cannot therefore use cameras or have her picture taken, unless a digital camera is used. Why? Gelatin is an essential component of photographic film. Think about that the next time some Hollywood type claims to be a vegetarian. How many cows died to produce his/her last film, I wonder?

She also cannot use certain cosmetics, ointments, lozenges and any medication that comes in capsules. Read what Britannica has to say about it.

Pardon me while I go have a hamburger.

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  #25  
Old 01-29-2000, 06:35 PM
elelle elelle is offline
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Jab: Medications are sometimes available in non-gelatin "Vegicaps".
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  #26  
Old 01-29-2000, 06:41 PM
jab1 jab1 is offline
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I didn't know that.

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  #27  
Old 01-29-2000, 07:05 PM
Spoke Spoke is offline
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Padeye wrote:

Quote:
Handy, have you ever heard the song Mary Moon? The chorus ends with "she don't eat meat, but she sure like the bone."
That reminds me of a lyric from the old Rank and File song "Amanda Ruth":

Quote:
She burned her biscuits and her gravy was strange;
Can't fry a chicken in a microwave range;
Her salt's tasty, her sugar's sweet;
No, she can't cook, but she's got something to eat!
[/crudeness]

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  #28  
Old 01-30-2000, 12:18 AM
SoMoMom SoMoMom is offline
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Don't even get me started on "natural flavorings"! As a person that suffers from food allergies, let me say that the term should be out-lawed. It would save a lot of heart-ache and pain.
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  #29  
Old 11-13-2002, 05:03 AM
femtosecond femtosecond is offline
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A late bump, but this thread hasn't delivered the straight dope yet...

A cite from the sugar industry: http://www.sucrose.com/bonechar.html
Quote:
In the past a material called 'bone char' was used extensively to remove colour from raw cane sugar in the refining process. Modern technology has largely replaced bone char decolourisation but it is still used in a few refineries so one cannot be categoric about refined cane sugar being suitable for all people's points of view. It is not used in making white beet sugar and it is not used in making raw cane sugar.

Where bone char is still used, it is prepared by almost incinerating animal bones to leave activated carbon - a bit like making wood charcoal. [The refiners did not and ordinarily do not use wood charcoal to do the decolourisation because it is too fragile and would break up in service.]
From a bone char producer: http://www.ebonex.com/b_cha.htm
Quote:
Subsequent to this discovery, bone charcoal became widely used in the sugar refining industry during the 19th century to remove color from raw sugar solution. Indeed, bone charcoal has continued to be used for this purpose over the years in many countries throughout the world. Today, bone charcoal is still the prime adsorbent used in the sugar refining industry.
And on the International Vegetarian Union page: Sugar and other sweeteners in the USA: do they contain animal products?
Quote:
Almost all cane sugar refineries require the use of a specific filter to decolourise the sugar and absorb inorganic material from it. This whitening process occurs towards the end of the sugar refining procedure. The filter may be either bone char, granulated carbon, or an ion exchange system. [...]
Many cane refineries use bone char. Domino, the largest sugar manufacturer in the U.S., uses bone char in the filtration process. The cane refineries of Savannah Foods, the second largest sugar manufacturer, also use bone char. California and Hawaian Sugar employs bone char filters in addition to granular carbon and ion exchange filters.
Quote:
Originally posted by CatInHat
The easiest way to resolve the sugar question is to look at a bag of sugar and see if it says "parve" or "pareve".
Even if the bone char hadn't undergone a significant enough change to be considered as a new substance (d'var chadash), it's used only as a filter and doesn't leave detectable traces in the sugar. Most (not only Jewish) food ingredient laws don't even apply here.
Quote:
Originally posted by Greg Charles
In the same article, it was mentioned that one of the "natural flavorings" in many catsups is meat juices.
It's quite possible to hide that in your natural flavors, this thread Fruit2O and "Naturalness" contains their definition. "Broad" would be an understatement, and since you don't have to to declare their ingredients, there have been such rumors (denied, at least by Heinz). Still though, ketchup may contain other stuff like sodium inosinate flavor enhancer, likely made from meat extract. A thread: Beef blood in ketchup - Ironically, McDonald's uses meat-derived flavoring on the fries, not (I don't vouch for that) in the ketchup.
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  #30  
Old 11-13-2002, 05:41 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is online now
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http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/s1/sucrose.asp has this to say:
Quote:
The cane or beets are crushed, and the juice, after treatment with lime to neutralize acids, is evaporated in vacuum pans that permit the process to be carried out at relatively low temperatures. The brownish liquid obtained, called molasses, evaporates further, leaving the sugar, brownish in color, which is dissolved in water, treated with animal charcoal to remove the color resulting from the presence of impurities, and recrystallized.
(emphasis mine)
If the possibility of animal chacoal having been used presents a problem to your conscience as a vegetarian, most* cane ('brown') sugars should be OK (*there are some that are actually white sugar coloured with added molasses) - look for 'unrefined' on the pack and you should be OK.

Gelatin is indeed an animal product - for culinary use you can get vegetarian alternatives which are good (usually based on alginates and starches) - if you're looking for a veggie alternative to fruit flavoured jelly (AKA 'jell-o' to 'merkins), you could try this:
mix two level tablespoons of tapioca starch into a little water in a pan, add a pint of fruit juice or cordial(diluted to taste) and gently heat, stirring all the time; when it thickens and the colour changes (it will go 'clear'), pour it into a bowl and leave to set in a cool place. You may need to experiment with the amount of starch - if it just doesn't seem to be thickening, you can add a little more, but mix it with a little water first - you can also do this with ordinary cornflour(cornstarch), but it doesn't quite go as clear as with tapioca starch.
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