Home » Food & Drinks » Why isn’t white sugar vegetarian?

Why isn’t white sugar vegetarian?

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Ever wondered what’s in your brands?

There are many products we know by brand name alone. Here at Behind The Label we aim to uncover the generic product names, ingredients lists, and facsimiles (knock offs) of every popular brand, from baby medicines to fizzy drinks! So whether you want a cheap alternative or just to know about your favourite brands, bookmark us for posterity.



Popular brand names:

  • Billington’s
  • Silver Spoon
  • Tate & Lyle

Generic name: White/table sugar.

Active ingredient: Cane or beet extract.

Can you make it? It would be complicated, but in theory you could.


White sugar is not natural. All sugars naturally have an orange, brown, or gold colour. White sugar is filtered through the ash of animal bones to remove its colour.

Furthermore, some brown sugars are white sugar with added molasses, so pick your brands carefully.

Naturally, avoiding all white sugar is impossible unless you eliminate all processed foods, but it’s worth considering that white sugar is part of the meat industry and making your own ethical decision.


I am not sure whether white sugar is filtered through the char of halal or haram bones. However as no bone remains in the finished product, it may be considered halal by most.

Ethical concerns?

Sugar farms can be very bad for workers. Whatever sugar you buy, try and buy beet or cane sugar from your own country to minimize abusive labour practices and deforestation.

Palm sugars are a leading cause of deforestation and a threat to endangered species in many countries. Palm sugars also go by the names jaggery or piloncilo, although not all sugars under this name are palm: some are coconut or cane. Read the ingredients to check.

Health concerns?

Sugar is not the bogeyman many claim it is, but consuming too much refined sugar can be harmful to your digestive tract, promote diabetes and weight gain, cause inflammation, and damage your teeth.

Alternative brands:

  • Biona (fairtrade, organic, raw, vegan)
  • Equal Exchange (fairtrade, organic, raw)
  • Florida Crystals (vegan, organic)
  • Suma (organic, raw)
  • Traidcraft (vegan, fairtrade, raw)

And consider coconut, demarera, sucanat, muscovado or turbinado sugar as an unfiltered alternative to white sugar. “Brown sugar” is most likely white sugar with molasses added back in.

Are there store brands?

Yes, there are store versions of most types of sugar.

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