Understanding which products are suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and which contain animal ingredients can be a lofty endeavor. Animal ingredients can be disguised in packaged food products under other names, and they can be used to manufacture several common household items as well.

Vegan buyers beware, below are 6 hidden places you may find animal ingredients:

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1. Candy

Gelatin is a common ingredient used in chewy gummy or hard candies, but its origin isn’t as sweet as what it’s made into. Gelatin is a protein obtained by boiling cow and pigs’ skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones in water. Several food products contain this ingredient, such as face products, cosmetics, marshmallows, ice cream, and cake. An alternative to gelatin is carrageen, a seaweed that can be made into soft gels and puddings.

2. Pills

Gel capsules help the pill go down smoother, but that smoothness likely comes from gelatin. Some name-brand companies will offer several varieties of the same product, such as gel capsules and other capsules that contain no gelatin. Be sure to read labels. There are several vegetarian capsules available, so you can likely get your medicine without the gelatin coating.

3. Red Foods

If your food is red and was made in a factory, you’re probably eating squished bug bodies. Bright red dye called carmine is used in food and cosmetic manufacturing, and it’s made by crushing cochineal insects. Carmine can also be listed as cochineal extract, crimson lake, natural red 4, C.I. 75470, or E120. Alternatives to this dye are beet juice and alkanet root.

4. Ointments and Toothpaste

Glycerin is a byproduct of soap manufacture, and it is found in animal and vegetable fats. It can also be used in cosmetics like lubricants, ointments, soaps, and toothpaste. If a label reads “glycerin,” there’s no way to tell whether or not it came from an animal or vegetable source, so be wary of cosmetics. Usually, if the glycerin is sourced from vegetables, the label clearly specifies it as “vegetable glycerin.”

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5. White Sugar

Animal ingredients may even be hiding in your sugar shaker. Bone char, which is made from the bones of cattle, is used to process both white and brown sugar. This animal ingredient is widely used by the sugar industry as a decolorizing filter, which allows the sugar cane to achieve its white color. Get rid of your conventional sugar and choose alternatives that are not filtered with bone char. PETA-approved brands include Monitor Sugar, SuperValu, Western Sugar, and Savannah Foods.

6. Shampoo

Several animal ingredients are used in shampoos that are hidden under unsuspecting names. Provitamin B-5, Vitamin B-Compex Factor, stearyl alcohol, and panthenol are just some of the ingredients used to make shampoos that are derived from animals. Since there are multiple ingredients to keep track of, it’s best to choose a vegan brand instead of play a guessing game with other shampoos.

If you’re trying to live a fully vegan lifestyle, avoid these potential hidden ingredients and seek alternatives whenever possible. This list is just a start of hidden places you may find animal ingredients. What are some of the hidden places you know of? Let us know in the comments!

Image source: The Green J / Wikimedia Commons

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