The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog


Posted on December 23, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor


Per the Washington Post, in a report by the Cornucopia Institute, tens of thousands of birds can be packed into large warehouse-like buildings and rarely get outdoors,but still be labelled “organic.”


Blind Faith Cafe in Evanston, Illinois by Hana Takemoto

Posted on December 23, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor

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The Blind Faith Cafe, decorated with festive holiday lights and a sophisticated, earth-toned interior is situated on a cozy avenue in Evanston, Chicago, where I had just taken an audition at Northwestern University. Upon entering the cafe, we learned quickly that this cafe was unique; along with the traditional restaurant setting, Blind Faith Cafe also housed a bakery.

I ordered the Thai Peanut Noodles and the vegan chocolate cake from their on-site bakery. The Thai Peanut Noodles are vegan and gluten-free, described as “rice noodles and garden vegetables sautéed in spicy Thai peanut sauce, topped with crispy tofu, pickled ginger and peanuts.” The dish proved to make a satisfying, yet light meal that pleasantly lacked any heavy oils or cloying sweetness. The flavors were hearty and substantial, with a delicate balance of sweet, salty, spicy, and tangy notes accompanied by crunchy, chewy, and crispy textures. We finished our night with a slice of vegan chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, which had everything one would want from a chocolate cake: rich chocolate flavor and aroma paired with creamy, sweet frosting. We both thoroughly enjoyed dining at the Blind Faith Cafe, a restaurant with a creative menu diverse enough to please different palates, friendly and attentive service, and an on-site bakery.

Blind Faith is in The Vegetarian Resource Group’s online restaurant guide. Here is a link for anyone who wants to learn about other vegetarian restaurants around the USA and Canada:

Here is a link to Blind Faith’s website:

Hershey’s® Bubble Yum® and Ice Breakers® Ice Cubes® Gum: Vegan? Gum Bases and Gum Softeners By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS

Posted on December 22, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor



It’s common to see “gum base” and “gum softeners” on chewing gum wrappers. These general labeling phrases disguise the fact that each term usually represents a mixture of several different chemicals of plant, animal and/or synthetic (i.e., petrochemical) origin.

According to the United States Food and Drug Administration’s (U.S. FDA) Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 21CFR172.615, gum base is a “non-nutritive masticatory substance.”
( The following animal-derived ingredients are specifically approved for use in chewing gum:

lanolin (always animal-derived)

sodium and potassium stearates (could be plant- or animal-derived)

stearic acid (could be plant- or animal-derived)

Also approved for use in chewing gum bases and softeners (see paragraph “b” of previous link) but not listed in the FDA document cited above are all generally recognized as safe (GRAS) ingredients some of which could be of animal origin. (See end of page under “Regulations” for four links to lists of GRAS ingredients.) Possibly animal-derived GRAS ingredients which The VRG has seen listed on websites and in books about chewing gum base include glycerin and glyceryl monostearate.

Identifying Ingredients in Gum Bases and Softeners

Identifying ingredients used in gum bases and softeners is challenging for two reasons. First, ingredients listed in 21CFR172.615 and all GRAS ingredients do not have to be labeled by their common names on chewing gum wrappers but may appear as contained under terms such as “gum base” or “gum softeners.” Second we have found it difficult to get information on ingredients used in gum bases and gum softeners because companies are unwilling to divulge information.
For example, we see how these gum base descriptions by trade organizations do not list even one common gum base ingredient but only name general chemical or ingredient categories:
Neither organization nor several similar groups responded to our numerous requests for ingredient information.
According to what little company and product trade group information The Vegetarian Resource Group could locate, many conventional gum bases and softeners contain synthetic (i.e., petroleum-based) chemicals such as: polyisobutylene, polyvinyl acetate, styrene-butadiene rubber, butyl rubber, and paraffin. Hydrogenated vegetable oils and lecithin (typically derived from vegetable oil) are also common.

The insoluble (i.e., non-dissolvable in water) gum base comprises “…most often about 20 to about 35 percent by weight of the gum.” (See the 18th paragraph of the section titled “Detailed Description of the Drawings and Preferred Embodiments of the Invention.” This source also stated that tallow or lard or their components could be used in gum base or softeners.

For more background information on gum:

Gum Base Ingredients in Hershey’s Products

The Vegetarian Resource Group wished to determine if animal fat-derived stearic acid in particular or any of its many stearate derivatives were present in the bases or softeners of gums sold today. Here is a summary of what we’ve learned from The Hershey Company during October-December 2015.

Hershey’s customer service representatives told us that the gum base in Bubble Yum and Ice Breakers Ice Cubes Gum is the same. It consists of the following:

synthetic food grade rubber, resin, wax, softeners, fillers, and BHT. (Note: BHT is petroleum-derived butylated hydroxytoluene.)

Knowing that “resin” could refer to insect-derived lac resin, tree resin or synthetic resin, The VRG asked for more information.

In two separate calls customer service representatives Gina and Cindy told The VRG that a search for more information about “resin” in their database described “resin” as “shellac.” They also mentioned resinous glaze and confectioner’s glaze in their explanations of what they were viewing from their computer screens about resin.

“Confectioner’s glaze” and “resinous glaze” are commonly understood as synonymous terms for the insect secretion lac resin from which the term “shellac” derives. Confused by Hershey’s information because confectioner’s or resinous glaze is usually applied on the surface of confections to make them shiny, The VRG wondered if Hershey’s “resin” found blended with other gum base components inside of each piece of gum was really a tree resin or a synthetic resin as listed in 21CFR172.615 (see above).

On Hershey’s website we found a page dealing with its glazes: Hershey’s states on that page:

In the United States, The Hershey Company uses the term “resinous glaze” in the ingredient statement on products that contain a glaze made with shellac. “Confectioner’s glaze” is not labeled in the United States, but is included on the ingredient statement by its component ingredients.

In Canada, The Hershey Company uses the term “confectioner’s glaze” for both shellac and non-shellac based glazes.

Based on our past research, Hershey’s distinction between resinous and confectioner’s glazes is not commonly made in the confections industry. Furthermore, since nothing is mentioned on Hershey’s page about resinous or confectioner’s glazes in their gum products although Hershey’s consumer representatives and later a supervisor at the call center used the term “shellac” when defining the resin ingredient in their gum base we wanted to get a clearer explanation so we called again.

The VRG spoke with supervisor Steven at Hershey’s about the resin in the gum base. He told us that when he uses his database to search for “resin,” the word “shellac” immediately appears on his screen. Information on “resinous glaze” and “confectioner’s glaze” also appears. Steven read to us what he was viewing. He said “I would think [from the information in the database] that the resin in the gum base is from the lac beetle. I’ll check and get back to you.”

When we spoke to him again, he said that “…just last week our database was updated. Resin in the gum base is not derived from the lac beetle. The resin is a natural wax product.” The VRG found this statement vague since shellac may also be described as a natural wax product. For that matter, beeswax is a natural wax product and according to the gum base patent cited above could be a component of gum base or gum softeners. Steven was not able to elaborate further on this point.

The VRG also asked about the fillers and softeners listed as ingredients in the Bubble Yum and Ice Breakers gums. Steven said they are “synthetic, not animal-derived.”

The Vegetarian Resource Group will provide information on other gum brands in future articles.

The contents of this posting, our website, and our other publications, including 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 statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

To support The Vegetarian Resource Group research, please donate at:

Or you can join The Vegetarian Resource Group at:

IRA Charitable Rollover

Posted on December 22, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor

According to Forbes, with the federal budget deal signed into law, those who are over 70-1/2 and have to take required minimum distributions from their traditional (pre-tax) Individual Retirement Accounts, will be able to make direct gifts of up to $100,000 a year to charity from their IRA. Consult your tax advisor before the end of the year if this may impact you.


Are You Looking for a Place to Enjoy a Vegan New Year’s Eve/Day Meal in the USA or Canada?

Posted on December 21, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor


The restaurants (and events) listed below will be open either New Year’s Eve and/or Day. In many cases reservations are required. Have a terrific 2016!

Lovin’ Spoonfuls
Tucson, AZ

Los Angeles, CA

Mendocino, CA

Plant Food and Wine
Venice, CA

Vegan Scene
Venice, CA

Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant
Boulder, CO

Sticky Fingers
Washington, DC

F&11 Vegan Brunch Party
Washington, DC

The New Vegan
Delray Beach, FL

Ethos Vegan Kitchen
Winter Park, FL

Cafe Sunflower
Atlanta, GA

Boston Vegetarian Society
Boston, MA

Seasoned Vegan
New York, NY

Irregardless Cafe
Raleigh, NC

St. Louis Animal Rights Team
St. Louis, MO

The Cleveland Vegan Society
Cleveland, OH

Vidya’s Veggie Gourmet Restaurant
Thornton, Ontario, Canada

Rawlicious Bloor West Village
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Are You Looking for New Ideas for Vegan Dishes to Serve on Christmas?

Posted on December 18, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor


Below are links to previous articles we’ve run in Vegetarian Journal that feature recipes you can prepare for your family, friends, co-workers, and others at Christmas. Enjoy!

A Holiday Celebration:

Edible Vegan Gifts for the Holidays:

Celebration Meals:

Vegan Soul Food for the Holidays:

To subscribe to Vegetarian Journal, visit:


Posted on December 18, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor


According to NBC News, it appears Congress is making clear to USDA where to draw the line on Dietary Guidelines. See: Budget Bill Limits New Food Advice

AOL/NBC said,
“Congress is scheduled to vote on a $1.1 trillion spending bill Friday that would avert a government shutdown until next October and fund almost all federal activities.

But like just about any bill in Congress, this one’s full of little goodies and pet projects that can have a big effect on medical research and health and science policies.

Dietary guidelines
The joint USDA/FDA food guidelines, which come out every five years, were due by the end of December. The bill holds that up after a big fight over an advisory panel’s recommendations that included limiting salt, eating less meat and, most controversially, eating a plant-based diet that protects the environment. Now the agencies cannot release their guidelines until they can show they are “based on significant scientific agreement; and … limited in scope to nutritional and dietary information”.

Salt limits

Congress is preventing the Agriculture Department from putting into effect any rule cutting sodium levels in federally provided meals “until the latest scientific research establishes the reduction is beneficial for children.”

Menu labels

The FDA delayed its plan to require restaurants to add calorie counts to menus. The bill makes sure the calorie counts stay off menus for now.

GMO Salmon
FDA won’t be able to allow the sale of genetically modified salmon until it has a plan for labeling the fish. And out of FDA’s budget “not less than $150,000 shall be used to develop labeling guidelines and implement a program to disclose to consumers whether salmon offered for sale to consumers is a genetically engineered variety.” When FDA approved GM salmon last month it said companies didn’t have to label it, provoking the fury of anti-GMO groups.”

Please Give a Gift Membership to Family and Friends this Holiday Season!

Posted on December 17, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor


Through December 31, 2015, you can give a gift membership to The Vegetarian Resource Group (includes a 1-year subscription to Vegetarian Journal) for $15 each. This is a terrific way to share the vegan message, as well as support VRG.

Gift subscriptions can be done online by simply typing in your message and the address(s) of the gift recipient(s) in the comments field. Go to:


Posted on December 17, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor

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The Vegetarian Resource Group 2015 scholarship winner Chloe Falkenheim reported on her first semester in college.

“The first semester of college has gone very well! My courses are Environmental Studies, Principles of Economics, and Humans and Other Animals (a first-year seminar). I have been doing well in school and have written many papers in my seminar advocating for vegetarian diets.

I am in a vegetarian and mostly vegan food co-op, an organization where students share responsibility in cooking and cleaning meals. I am working with a group on campus called Real Food Oberlin, an organization committed to increasing Oberlin’s percentage of sustainable, healthy, humane, fair food purchased. The Oberlin campus is not very aware of food-related issues, so I came up with the idea to hold events in all the freshman dorms to educate students. I met with dining services, Residential Education, and the freshman RAs to organize these events. In the events, we gave out local apples and crackers and Hampton Creek’s Just Cookies (completely vegan cookies) and gave 15-minute workshops on food justice. 48 students went through our workshops the first weekend we held them in the first freshman dorm. We are holding another event this weekend in another dorm. I am also working with Hampton Creek to replace many products in the Oberlin dining hall with their products.

Oberlin has a winter term during the month of January where students can work on whatever project they choose. This winter term I will be interning at an company called Vaute Couture, which makes vegan and eco-friendly clothing. Through VegYouth, we held an online chat to help teens with activism and have had approximately 15 new members join the alliance.”

Congratulations to Chloe for winning a Vegetarian Resource Group scholarship and continuing her activism.

Deadline for the 2016 college scholarships for current high school seniors is
February 20, 2016. See details on applying at:

To support VRG scholarships or internships, you can donate at:


Posted on December 16, 2015 by The VRG Blog Editor


A 2015 Culinary Institute of America-sponsored report from the market research firm Datassential, “Shifting the Protein Focus,” surveyed 634 food service operators (restaurants, hospitals, schools, etc.) and 1,013 consumers concerning reducing the use of animal protein.

Operators said the top three ways industry could reduce animal consumption was offer more vegetarian items, reduce the portion size of animal proteins, and create more “mixed grill” items. Consumers’ top three choices were more plant-based items with meat featured as condiment, more “mixed grill” items, and reduce the portion size of animal proteins. 24% of consumers said offer more vegetarian items.

Fifty percent of food service operators said patrons were responding well to their adding or replacing meat options with non-meat. Seventy eight percent said patrons responded well to using higher quality meats.

Consumers were asked, “When eating away from home – at a restaurant, cafeteria, convenience store, etc. – how often do you look for items that feature each of the following?”

95% of consumers were looking for chicken, 94% for beef, 89% for seafood/fish, 80% for legumes, 56% for nut butters, and 44% for tofu, seitan, etc. Seventeen percent of operators featured or used tofu, seitan, etc. This indicates a pretty large potential for restaurants and food services to add more vegan meat alternatives. Six percent of consumers said they were on a strict diet, while 34% carefully watch what they eat.

The Vegetarian Resource Group national polls estimate the number of vegetarians at three to five percent, so this closely matches their figures of the five percent maximum left after the 95% are looking for chicken.

When consumers were asked how concerned they were with the following issues, the results were antibiotics in animal proteins 75%, GMO’s 66%, and consumption of animal protein 50%.

The top menu challenges to operators were fluctuating protein costs, creating healthier items patrons will pay the same/more for, changing menu to reflect seasonal produce, incorporating more produce in current items, and increasing healthfulness of items without losing patrons.

Note that 47 percent of their consumer respondents said they were not employed, which possibly could impact results of their survey.

For more information, see

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