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Why isn’t white sugar vegetarian?

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.

Vegan?

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.

Halal?

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.

What goes into Nescafé decaf?

Popular brand names:

  • Carte Noire
  • Illy
  • Kenco
  • Lavazza
  • Nescafé
  • Tassimo

Generic name: Decaffeinated coffee.

Active ingredient: Coffee beans, green or roasted.

Can you make it? Yes. You can soak fresh coffee beans in warm water, lightly steam them, strain them, pass the liquid through activated charcoal, and then resoak your beans before drying them properly. The more times you repeat this, the lower the caffeine content would be.

Vegan?

Yes.

Halal?

So long as you are not addicted, which is very unlikely with decaf coffee!

Ethical concerns?

Coffee farming can be unethical. Always look for coffee that is Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade certified.

Health concerns?

It still has a little bit of caffeine, and some decafs are decaffeinated with a solvent, which has a correlation with cancer.

Alternative brands:

  • Cafedirect (Fairtrade)
  • Clipper (Fairtrade)
  • Equal Exchange (Fairtrade, Solvent-Free)
  • Mount Hagen (Fairtrade)
  • Percol (Fairtrade)

Are there store brands?

Yes, most supermarkets stock their own brand.

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