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Tesco and Costco are selling products of slave labour?

Popular brand names:

  • Carrefour
  • Costco
  • Tesco
  • Walmart

Generic name: Fresh shrimp.

Active ingredient: Shrimp.

Can you make it? You could technically farm your own shrimp, and definitely make your own shrimp products.

Vegan?

No.

Halal?

No.

Ethical concerns?

It has been found that many Thai fishing boats catering to big international retailers and distributors have been employing slave labour. Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, the world’s largest shrimp farmer, uses cheap fishmeal to feed its shrimp, and this fishmeal comes from seafood caught on boats that keep fishermen slaves under appalling conditions.

Health concerns?

Mercury and other byproducts are always a risk when consuming seafood, however this risk is minimal with animals that have short natural life cycles, such as shrimp.

Alternative brands:

Anything certified fair trade or wild-caught off the coast of your own country.

Are there store brands?

Yes, but most of them are using Thai shrimp too.

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.

Why are plastic shopping bags not vegetarian?

Generic name: Plastic shopping bag.

Active ingredient: Slip agents.

Can you make it?  Not really.

Vegan?

No, the slip agents in plastic bags are rendered from animal fats.

Halal?

Depends on whether you believe handling bags that may contain pork fat is haram, or whether you believe that it’s halal so long as you do not ingest it.

Ethical concerns?

On top of animal welfare issues, plastic bags are usually not recyclable or biodegradable, and present a hazard to wildlife.

Health concerns?

None that I am aware of.

Alternative brands:

Any cotton, jute or bamboo tote bags. Or just use your backpack!

Are there store brands?

Yes, most supermarkets offer a recyclable or fabric bag you can reuse.

Vitamins = Healthy?

 Popular brand names:

  • Dawn (vitamins)
  • Flora (omegas, calcium)
  • Kellogg’s cereals (vitamins and minerals)
  • Nesquick (calcium, minerals)
  • Tropicana (vitamins)
  • Vitaminwater (vitamins)
  • Welch’s (calcium)
  • Wonderbread (minerals)
  • Seriously, so many brands are adding vitamins, minerals, and EFAs to their foods!

Generic name: Multivitamin and mineral supplement.

Active ingredient: Added nutrients.

Can you make it? You can have a multivitamin alongside your unfortified food for the same effect.

Vegan?

Some supplements, such as vitamin D or calcium, are usually not vegan in origin.

Halal?

Some supplements come from shellfish and are therefore haram.

Ethical concerns?

Companies are adding nutrients to low-nutrition foods, like cereals, white breads, sugary drinks, or chocolate, and selling it as a healthy food. In reality, if you ate the unfortified version and had a supplement you would get the same effect!

Health concerns?

It’s up to you to decide whether you would eat these foods if they were not fortified. If you would not, consider adding a multivitamin to your regular diet instead of buying a brand with fortified foods.

Also, bear in mind that not all supplements work. With supplement pills you can check them to see if they’re likely to be digestible, but you never know the origin or bio-availability of supplements in food. For all you know, the fortification could be impossible for your body to absorb!

Alternative brands:

Countless brands fortify their foods, this doesn’t mean the food is good.

Are there store brands?

Yes, many store brands also fortify their foods.

What is “natural vanilla flavouring”?

Popular brands:

This is found in far, far too many places.

Generic name: Castoreum.

Active ingredient: Beaver bum?

Can you make it? The RSPCA might have something to say.

Vegan?

No.

Halal?

No.

Ethical concerns?

Animal suffering, plus consumer rights. Basically, castoreum comes from the anal glands of a beaver, which means

A: someone had to extract it, and

B: sellers don’t want consumers to know about it.

Fact of the matter is: only two natural products taste of vanilla: vanilla pods and beaver bums. So if you see “natural flavouring”, “natural vanilla flavour”, or “vanilla flavour”, well, even just “flavour/ing” on your vanilla-tasting food, it’s probably beaver bum. Some raspberry-flavoured things too!

Health concerns?

None we’re aware of.

Alternatives:

Anything that says “vanilla bean”.

Why isn’t orange juice vegetarian?

Popular brand names:

  • Copella
  • Innocent
  • Princes
  • Simply Orange
  • Sunny Delight
  • Tropicana

Generic name: Orange juice.

Can you make it? Yes, you can squeeze juice at home.

Vegan?

No. Many orange juices use gelatin and lanolin to thicken, shellfish to help clarify them, and fish oil to add nutrients.

Halal?

Due to possibly containing shellfish, most would consider it haram.

Ethical concerns?

No obvious ones, but animal products and the contents of flavour packs (see below) present serious consumer rights issues.

Health concerns?

Juices are very highly processed. We all know concentrated juices are processed, but it goes further.

CBC Marketplace found that even “not from concentrate” “100% orange juice” is pasteurized and stored so long it doesn’t have flavour left. So the flavour is added back with “flavour packs”. What’s in them? Are they healthy? Are they vegan, halal, ethical? It’s hard to tell.

Are there store brands?

There are many store brands, but they aren’t much different.

What is Febreze?

Popular brand names: Frebreze.

Generic name: Fabric freshener. Odour-eliminating air-freshener.

Active ingredient: Cyclodextrin, although this is copyrighted by Procter & Gamble. Other brands use anti-bacterial agents to kill odour-causing bacteria.

Can you make it? Not the one with cyclodextrin, but you can make a spray with antibacterial base and essential oils to kill bad smells about the house. You can also use baking soda to eliminate odours from things you cannot wash, such as your sofa.

Vegan?

No, they use animal testing.

Halal?

Due to animal cruelty concerns it is not. Also, depending on your stance on Cetyl and Cetearyl alcohols, this may also be a concern.

Ethical concerns?

Animal testing, questionable ingredients, aerosol.

Health concerns?

Again, questionable ingredients. If something cannot be sprayed on your skin or clothes, it’s up to you whether you want to put it on furniture which will be in direct contact with your skin.

Alternative brands:

Most of these have a similar composition to Febreze and may involve animal testing or contain alcohol. So these alternatives will probably just be cheaper or more available.

  • Astonish (non aerosol)
  • Attitude (non aerosol)
  • Bio Kleen (plant based, non aerosol, no animal testing)
  • Evans (non aerosol)
  • Flor Nenuco (non aerosol)
  • HG
  • Johnsons (non aerosol)
  • Mrs White’s Fabric Freshener (non aerosol)
  • Problem Solved (non aerosol)
  • Rug Doctor (non aerosol)
  • Sweetpee (non aerosol)
  • Odour Out (non aerosol)
  • Oust

Are there store brands?

Yes, but many will have the same issues.

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