By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS
VRG Research Director
An online reader asked us if maltitol was a vegan ingredient. Maltitol is one of many polyols (sugar alcohols) used as sugar substitutes. Sugar alcohols are common in confections and baked goods. They are also widely used in the pharmaceutical industry. The VRG reported on another common polyol, glycerol, in September 2012: http://www.vrg.org/blog/2012/09/24/glycerol-and-mono-and-diglyceride-updates-mostly-vegetable-derived/
Here is a list of some common polyols (other than glycerol) found in food:
In July and August 2012, The VRG contacted several companies which manufacture polyols. The unanimous opinion was that they are all vegetable-derived. The notable exception is lactitol which is derived from cow’s milk.
A marketing department representative from Ingredion, (formerly Corn Products International, Inc.), a manufacturer of several polyols, told us that they use corn. Cargill told us: “Besides the isomalt which is only produced in Germany from sugar, the rest of the polyols in the United States are produced from corn. Erythritol can be produced from other carbohydrate sources (i.e. sugar), but currently is only produced from corn.” A sales representative from Danisco stated that xylitol may be a by-product of the paper industry, coming from hardwood trees.
A general manager at Mitsubishi Shoji Foodtech Co., Ltd. based in Japan told us by email that “all of the [following] polyols are of non-animal/vegetable origin:
maltitol, sorbitol: from corn or cassava starch; erythritol, mannitol: from sugar; xylitol: from xylose or corn cob.”
A document that we received in August 2012 from a Customer Care Assistant from DuPont Danisco, one of only a few manufacturers of lactitol, stated that they use lactose from cow’s milk to manufacture lactitol. Another employee of the company told The VRG that lactitol “…is becoming very common in oral health products, and in the food industry…there is a growing demand for it.”
A polyol specialist at Cargill told us in July 2012 when we asked if cow bone char filters were ever used in polyol processing: “I am not aware of bone char being used. Decolorization is normally done via activated carbon and ion exchange resin.”
The contents of this article, our website, and our other publications, including The Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company employees or company statements.Information does change and mistakes are always possible. Please use your own best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. Further research or confirmation may be warranted.
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