It is common knowledge that animals are used for cosmetics and medical testing, but what you may not know is that many common foods and ingredients are also tested on animals. The Food and Drug Administration specifically has a Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) whose role is to regulate food and additives in the United States. Regulation usually means animal testing.

CFSAN also has a a manual, Redbook 2000, that details tests to be used for new food additives or ingredients. These tests include experiments on dogs, as well as other animals. Many tests in America and other countries are performed on rodents, but can include literal guinea pigs and rabbits, because these animals clearly eat just like humans. The experiments vary, from having animals ingest the food to placing it on skin or eyes to determine its effects. The pressure for companies to make specific health claims about a food often lead to additional animal testing to prove them, even though these tests are not needed to prove food safety.

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Here are a few common foods that you might want to avoid as a cruelty-free consumer.

1. Splenda

Splenda, which is owned by McNeil Laboratories, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson, is infamous for using animals to test its products. According to the Splenda website,”[Splenda Brand sucralose has been through] more than 20 years of research and over 110 scientific studies.”

Unfortunately, the majority of this extensive research has involved animal trails. A series of reports published in the Permagon Press also detailed the horrific testing trials carried out at Huntingdon Life Sciences to determine how sucralose (the chemical name for Splenda) impacts the nervous system. Over 12,800 animals reportedly died during these trials, yet the product was still put into production for sale as the “low-calorie” sweetener we know as Splenda. 

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Adding further insult the sugary injury, in 2000, McNeil carried out an experiment in which beagles were fed Splenda, for 52 weeks. During this time, they were kept inside cages and various tests performed on them. At the end of the experiment, the beagles were killed so their organs could be further tested.

Given the dark history of this particular artificial sweetener, you might want to consider skipping it if you strive for a cruelty-free lifestyle.

2. Lipton’s Tea

The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) discovered in 2013 that Unilever was testing Lipton’s Tea on piglets to test health claims. This specific test included giving the piglets an extract of Lipton’s tea after infecting them with E. coli that purposely gave them severe diarrhea. All of this to see if the tea would counter the effects of the disease. Eight of the one-month-old animals died, seven of which could clearly be attributed to the diarrhea.

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Officially, Unilever agreed to stop animal testing for their Lipton’s products in 2011 but revived the practice in 2013, leaving a gray area for consumers who actively seek out cruelty-free products.  To be safe, you should avoid Lipton’s Tea and Unilever products in general.

3. Goji Berries

Nestle chose to test the health benefits of goji berries by giving mice a goji berry based powder. They were then injected with acid, which created symptoms in them comparable to bowel disease. Ultimately, the mice were killed and dissected to examine the effect of the goji berry powder. Doesn’t sound like such a superfood now. Nestle admits on their own website that they continue to test on animals, so if you strive to live cruelty-free, you should steer clear of their products.

4. Artificial Colors

This one may not be as surprising considering the colors that are commonly found in food (those sprinkles didn’t become hot pink naturally), but those bright colors are hiding a dark secret. These artificial colors are commonly tested on animals. For example, Blue No. 1, Blue No. 2, and Green No. 3 are known to undergo “toxicity testing” where beagles are used to measure what levels of these dyes can be used before the product becomes too toxic. Other tests for a variety of colors include mice and rats being impregnated, given the additive and examined for abnormalities.

Cruelty-Free Food

These are only four examples of many foods and additives that are tested on animals. While it can be overwhelming to think of all the different items that involve animal testing, there are some effective steps you can take to ensure your diet is as cruelty-free as possible.

The most important and effective step you can take is to research and find out what company makes your food. As mentioned, companies such as Unilever and Nestle are well known for their animal testing, so you should definitely avoid them. Doing research on companies before buying their food is essential. You can usually tell from a quick internet search whether or not a company is trustworthy and compassionate.

Another approach, which is probably the safest, is to focus on purchasing less processed food and more whole plant-based foods. Not only is this good for you, but it also ensures animals aren’t being tested on to produce your food! There is certainly no Blue No. 1 in a sweet potato or bunch of kale.

Image source: Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier/Flickr