Are you vegetarian or have vegetarian or vegan friends? Today’s guest post from Kip, The Messy Vegetarian Cook, explains why you should pay close attention your booze.
People are often shocked when they learn alcohol may not be suitable for vegetarians or vegans. Why shouldn’t it be? After all there’s no meat nor dairy in the ingredients list.
Only there isn’t an ingredient list. According to current labelling regulations within the EU, only drinks with an alcoholic strength below 1.2% are required to list all ingredients. This means only low and no alcohol beverages must declare all contents on the label.
People simply don’t question what’s in their booze.
How relaxed the legal requirements are for alcohol manufacturers in regard to ingredient labelling is astounding. Within the EU, nearly all alcoholic beverages are exempt from rules requiring ingredient lists and nutritional labelling; the only thing legally required in this vein is to list potential allergens and the inclusion of sulphites.
Some alcoholic beverages, including many beers and wines, undergo a clarification process in production in order to ensure the clarity of the finished drink. During the brewing process a sediment is produced, and it floats suspended in the brew until the sediment is either allowed to settle naturally or is eliminated by use of a processing aid called a fining agent. The addition of a fining agent considerably speeds up the process by capturing the suspended particles into molecules that are large enough to be filtered out of the liquid.
The reason why this is of concern to vegans is because the ingredients used in the fining process are often animal derived. Common ingredients used as fining agents include egg albumen (an egg white derivative), casein (milk protein), chitin (derived from shellfish shells), gelatine (made from the connective tissues and bones of pigs and cows), and isinglass (from fish swim bladders).
Alcoholic drinks which are least likely to be vegetarian are cask conditioned beers and ales and fortified port wines, while spirits are generally the most veg friendly. There is no hard and fast rule, however, so it’s best to do your research beforehand if you’re concerned about the contents of what you’re drinking.
If you’re disgusted by the inclusion of these products in your booze, be aware that many companies use vegan friendly fining agents or simply do not fine their alcohol at all. Many of the larger supermarket chains (Asda, Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer, Coop and some others) will provide a vegan list upon request. Additionally, resources like Barnivore maintain a database of vegan and vegetarian suitable drinks. Two online retailers I would highly recommend are Vinceremos and Vintage Roots, both of whom mark wines as vegan or vegetarian.
If you’re London based and are keen to partake in some veggie friendly drinking, come along to London Vegan Drinks on the 3rd Thursday of every month at Whole Foods Kensington, and/or pop into the London Vegan Beer Fest on July 13th in Bethnal Green.
Kip Dorrell, an American immigrant, is a self confessed messy cook who loves spending time experimenting in her kitchen. You can find her at messyvegetariancook.com, where she writes about her completely vegan creations, discoveries, and disasters.
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