Is it possible that refined sugar has non-vegan (i.e., animal) elements in it?

There is a common belief among certain vegans I know that refined sugar is bleached using animal bones, and they therefore refuse to eat refined sugar. They only will eat “sugar in the raw” or honey.

Are there any ideas of where this belief came from? I could not find anything in the archives here or in some urban legends sites.

The animal bones in sugar idea is cracked, yes? Could this ever have been true historically?

This idea is causing disharmony among vegans - it must be stopped.


p.s., if you’d like to comment on vegans eating yeast-produced breads I’d get a smile out of that, as well.

I don’t know about in it, adn I’ve never heard of animal bones being used to bleach anything (they are used in the form of bone meal to neutralize acidic soil). However, I’m quite certain a large number of animals are killed in the process of growing and harvesting the sugar cane, either outright (to keep them from destroying the crop), or incidentally (due to the indiscriminate nature of the harvesting machinery).

I should clarify a statement. I don’t know if bone meal is used specifically in sugar cane production. I don’t think it is. I do remember my mother using lots of it in her garden for some plant or other that was fussy about the soil acidity.

Wait…honey’s not Vegan, is it? Whole ‘animal product’ thing…

If Vegans couldn’t eat bread because of yeast, could they drink beer? Of course, according to this column, I’m not sure what’s in beer. If you’re going to avoid eating anything with single-celled organisms, then you’ll probably die of starvation.

Here’s a website which outlines two methods of bleaching sugar. One is activated charcoal, and the other uses some sort of resin. I don’t know if either comes from bone meal, however.

As a designed-in ingredient or part of the proceessing process, almost certainly not.

But 100% of food processing plants have bugs and vermin. The regulations hold the number to a low level, but it isn’t zero. So in every 5lb bag of sugar there’s sure to be a few milligrams or micrograms of roach leg and/or mouse hair and/or rat poop.

That’s equally true of the raw sugar as well. If you want to be a purist about multicellular animals you must eat only plants that you yourself have cleaned. You can’t even make your own flour or sugar because you can’t 100% ensure a gnat or two won’t get in.

Ooops, you’re correct. (Obviously I am not Vegan, am I) I confirmed with the vegan’s spouse that the vegan in question definitely refuses honey, also.

Thank you, Tengu!

From’s FAQ:

And from Vegetarian Journal:

“Sugar in the raw” is refined Sugar on which a bit of molasses has been sprayed.

I used to work for a sugar refiner in the UK. One of the processes they used was to decolourise sugar syrup (so the sugar was nicely white) with bone char. It is a form of carbon produced from animal bones. It would not end up in the sugar but it was in contact with it.

In what situation are cows dying of “natural causes”? Are there vast wild groups of Hawaiian cows that I haven’t herd of?

From the linked article:

So I’d guess these are agricultural beasts of burden who died of old age.

Or maybe they’re milk cows. I don’t know what the standard treatment is for a cow who’s past her productive years.

Earthlling’s link from Vegetarian Journal reassures :dubious: us that only bones from cows that died a “natural” death are used in sugar bleaching. Frankly, I’m not pleased about using bones from sick cows instead of slaughterhouse bones, which, by definition, are from healthy animals.

I’m a carnivore, if you hadn’t figured that out. :slight_smile:

Sugar is not refined in Hawai’i (to any significant extent). Even when Hawai’i was a major player in sugar, most of the refining was done in California.