"Vegetarian" items which aren't really vegetarian

My diet is c. 75% vegetarian (and I’m cutting down on the dairy), but I an idle moment I was browsing the McDonald’s entry at Wikipedia, where it mentioned that their fries still have some sort of beef extract in them. I also remember a vegan friend pointing out that the “fruit” pie I was about to buy had beef fat in it, and lo and behold she was right.

So what kinds of “horror” stories of this sort (“Eeaggh! I almost ate that?”) do you vegetarians and vegans (and part-time allies) do you have to share?

I practice a form of Buddhism that prohibits cow-consumption (so beef, beef fat, anything where you have to hurt the cow to get what you’re going to eat). I found out in high school that all Hostess products has beef fat in them. I went many years eating beef fat unknowingly. Sigh. And I found out about the McDonald’s beef extract in the fries in the past year. All of my favorite foods have dead cow in them. That makes me sad.

Oh, and jello. Jello has gelatin. I found that out in high school too. Do we have to put dead animal (or pieces of) in everything!?

Geletain is a huge one - sneaks into a lot of food - particularly desserts (there is such a thing as vegetarian geletain). So do some fish flavors (Worchestershire sauce - not vegetarian - Thai food, even the stuff with tofu is almost always made with something that has shrimp or fish in it somehow). Cheese, which is dairy, is not “technically” vegetarian due to the rennet (there are rennet free cheese).

If you are talking vegan, that’s even harder. It takes a trip to a speciality store around here to get a vegan margerine - most contain milk solids.

Its either that, or waste the pieces.

If you can figure out how to make gelatin without an animal-based collagen, please go for it. And let us know.

Im a bad vegetarian, I just try and pretend its not in there, and avoid mcdonalds entirely. I have thought about going back to eating meat, but I fear I will become rotund.

I have several packages of vegetarian “jello” in my cabinet right now. It’s made by Vegan Sweets and it’s called “Fruit Jel”. Here are the ingredients:
Beet sugar (non-bone char processed), Carageenan, Adipic Acid, Potassium Citrate, Natural and Artificial Fruit Flavors, Natural Color (Beet Powder)

Gelatin hides in the weirdest things. Some candy, such as Gummi Bears, Skittles, etc. Some sour cream. Some yogurt. It’s really frustrating. As previously mentioned, things like worchestershire sauce, caesar salad dressing, and similar have anchovies in them. (I think there may be vegetarian substitutes available).

I love ramen noodles, but the only kind I’ve found that are vegetarian are Top Ramen “Oriental Flavor”. Even the mushroom flavor has beef stock in it. Or was it chicken stock?

Most “vegetable soup” is made with chicken or beef broth or stock–read the labels. Baked beans usually have lumps of pork fat in them. Refried beans usually have lard (buy fat-free or vegetarian versions).

Here is an informative list of animal-derived ingredients (in food, medicine, clothing, etc) http://www.vegfamily.com/lists/animal-ingredients.htm

Pectin also makes a halfway decent geletin substitute in some vegetarian recipes. So do things like Xanthum gum and Guar gum. Gelatin is one of the “relatively easy” subs - though it isn’t the same.

(Not vegetarian myself, I have the gluten thing going - there IS no substitute for gluten and “modified food starch” is one of those prevalent additives. I’ve always been veggie aware having had to feed friends and relatives for years - reading labels for the gluten thing and knowing what I’m looking for has made me more so).

Agar is made from seaweed and forms a gel much like gelatin. No animals killed in the process. Desserts made from it are quite common in East and Southeast Asia.

Some folks think that asking for a bean taco or burrito in a Mexican restaurant means getting vegetarian food, but this is often not the case. The beans are often (usually, in fact) cooked with meat (generally pork), or at least with meat stock. Some places offer proper vegetarian beans, and in my experience these are often the black beans, rather than the regular beans.

And this gets to the heart of one of the biggest “gotchas”. The classic method of refining sugar uses burned bones.

I am in ur sugar, messing up ur vegan diet.

Well, the cow is not strictly in the sugar. The bone char does not enter the sugar, meaning that bone char-filtered sugar can be designated parve/kosher.

It’s also quite easy to find sugar processed without using bone char, if you make even minimal effort to search the internet. Well under half of America’s sugar is filtered through bone char. At home, we use sugar not filtered through bone char, but when i eat out the fact that i might be eating char-filtered sugar does not really concern me.

:frowning: This is (only party) why I give up before even starting when I think about becoming a vegetarian. I really really do feel bad about killing animals to eat, but it seems like it’s freakin impossible to really quit. And, as long as I’m responsible for cow death, I like cheeseburgers.

miss_elizabeth: How strict you want to be about vegetarianism is up to you. There are plenty of vegetarians who don’t go out of their way to avoid products containing gelatin, rennet, etc. If you feel bad about killing the animals, then every dead-animal-based food item you choose NOT to consume is helping, right? You don’t have to throw in the towel completely just because you feel that eliminating 100% of the animal products from your diet is beyond you. Just do what you can.

I like cheeseburgers, too. Boca and Gardenburger are my favorites.

I’m not vegetarian, but several friends who are have mentioned that many Chinese restaurants use chicken broth in nominally vegetarian dishes. Looking at the pack of vegetable spring rolls we have in the freezer, yup, there’s chicken broth on the ingredients list…

When I first moved to Norway, “marine fat” was a common ingredient in margarines and bread, though that seems to have gradually faded from use. Actually when I think about it food in Norway has changed quite a bit since 1990, but that’s the most vegetarian-relevant point.

IIRC, McDonald’s stopped using beef tallow for their fries and substituted vegetable oil 10+ years ago after a vegetarian protest. Could be wrong–it’s possible that the change only happened in the UK (or maybe just the UK and the US), since that was where the vegetarian protest about it was. But I distinctly remember eating at a McDonald’s in Virginia sometime in the early 90s where the french fry bags proudly proclaimed that the fries were now made in 100% vegetable oil, and I remember my mom explaining to me why that was important to some people. Then again, it may not have been McDonald’s–I was under 10 years old at the time.

Mexican and Chinese food were mentioned as “vegan traps” here–I’ll take this time to note for the benefit of any vegetarian Dopers who pass through San Diego, that we have a vegan Mexican restaurant (Pokey’s) and a vegan Chinese restaurant (Sipz) that are quite popular and very good. Kung Food is another vegetarian Chinese restaurant in the area, and I’ve heard good things about it but I can’t vouch for it personally, nor am I 100% sure that it’s vegan.

Isinglass (the swim bladders of fish) is used to clarify beer. At least it is in ‘real ale’-type beers - I don’t know about lagers.

Don’t know if I’ve mentioned this to you before, but I have achieved fairly good results using tapioca flour, soya flour and a small amount of xanthan gum (or even just adding those into a proprietary gluten-free flour blend at about 1 part tapioca to 3 parts of the other flour) - I managed to make quite decent bread this way.

You’re right though, that there isn’t any perfect substitute, but there are some fairly good approximations.

Oh, so that’s what happens to Norwegian Marines when their tour of duty is over…

Stork(brand) Margarine used to be made from fish oils - I don’t know if it still is, but it was last time I looked at a label.

I think I’m right in saying that herring and other similar oily fish have been so abundant that they’ve been used as fuel in power stations somewhere bordering the North Sea.