The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

VRG Benefit at Great Sage in Clarksvillle, MD on 1/19

Posted on January 08, 2014 by The VRG Blog Editor

On January 19, 2014, Great Sage restaurant in Clarksville, Maryland, will be donating 10% of sales to us! Support our outreach while socializing and enjoying great vegan food.

Brunch is 10am-3pm with specialty pancakes, biscuits and gravy, tofu quiche and much more. Lite fare is 3-5pm. Dinner is 5-9 pm.

Reservations for parties of 5 or more can be made by calling Great Sage at (443) 535-9400.

This is not a group gathering, but if you come during brunch, please do stop by and say hi to our new volunteer coordinator Nina Casalena.

For more information on Great Sage, see http://greatsage.com/.

Hope to see you there!

Make Your 2013 Tax-Deductible Gift to VRG Today!

Posted on December 31, 2013 by The VRG Blog Editor

Today is the last day to make your 2013 tax-deductible gift to The Vegetarian Resource Group! Take a moment now to support our outreach and research: http://www.vrg.org/donate

From all of us at VRG, have a happy New Year!

“No Pig Kidney Enzyme in Aspartame” State Major Manufacturers

Posted on December 11, 2013 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS
VRG Research Director

An online reader asked us: I heard aspartame was made by processing it with pig kidney enzymes. Is there any in the final product that you know of? Or is it like sugar- processed with an animal derivative but none is in the final product?

Aspartame is a non-nutritive sweetener used widely in thousands of foods and beverages. Common brand names include NutraSweet®, Equal® and AminoSweet®.

We looked into aspartame manufactures and found several reports indicating that an enzyme derived from a pig’s kidney could be used to manufacture aspartame. For example: http://chemwiki.ucdavis.edu/Biological_Chemistry/Food_Chemistry/Sweetners/Aspartame

In this link, the paragraph titled “Synthesis” contains the sentence: “In the synthesis of aspartame, the starting materials are a racemic mixture (equal quantities of both isomers) of phenylalanine, and aspartic acid. Only the L isomer of phenylalanine is desired for use. This L isomer may be separated from the D isomer by a chemical pretreatment, followed by a reaction with the enzyme porcine kidney acylase.”

Another source (http://archive.is/EzYz) refers to pig kidney enzyme used in aspartame manufacture.

The VRG located a patent application filed in 1987 by The Nutrasweet Company, a major manufacturer of aspartame, which indicates that pig kidney enzyme could be used in its manufacture: http://www.freepatentsonline.com/4892820.html. The pertinent paragraph reads as follows: “The particular enzymes employed to couple the amino acids or amino acid derivatives according to the present process are not critical. Any enzyme capable of coupling the desired amino acids and/or derivatives is acceptable. Mixtures of enzymes can also be employed. Suitable enzymes are those which affect the aminolysis of amino acid esters by amino acids and their esters to yield peptides. Specific enzymes include (1) peptidase E. described by Carter et al. Journal of Bacteriology, 159 (2), 453-459 (1984); (2) leucine aminopeptidase from pig kidney (E.C. 3.4.11.1); (3) alpha-aminoacylpeptide hydrolases; (4) peptidase E from Salmonella typhimurium TN 1246 and (5) dipeptide hydrolases.”

We contacted The NutraSweet Company and asked for a comment on this patent application. A Vice President in Quality and Technology at NutraSweet wrote to us in December 2013: “Our R&D developed many potential processes, but many were not commercialized. I can assure you that we do not use, nor have we used that technology, in fact all of our High Intensity Sweeteners are actually both Kosher and Halal Certified – and no animal products are utilized in our processes. The only company that I am aware of that used enzymatic processes is no longer in the sweetener business.”

A patent application filed in 2001 by the Holland Sweetener Company details an enzymatic process for aspartame production. Bacterial enzymes especially from E. coli were preferred: http://www.google.com/patents/US6617127

In a 2012 patent application by Genscript Nanjing, Pseudomonas bacteria were successfully used: http://www.faqs.org/patents/app/20120295294. This document gives a brief overview of the three general approaches used to manufacture aspartame: chemical synthesis, enzymatic synthesis and mixed-method synthesis (both chemical and enzymatic aspects).

A document showing detailed steps involved in one pathway to synthesize aspartame can be viewed here:
http://www.chemeng.queensu.ca/courses/CHEE323/lectures/documents/L12-Aspartame-Immobilization.ppt

The VRG also contacted Ajinomoto, maker of AminoSweet® (their brand name for aspartame). A Director of Sales at Ajinomoto told us by phone that “our aspartame is non-animal. Aspartame is produced through a fermentation process.” The Ajinomoto website states that “aspartame is made using a fermentation process to produce amino acids from a feedstock of molasses (a thick syrup from sugar cane or beet), soy and corn.”

In November 2013 Ajinomoto’s Director of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs wrote us that, “We, Ajinomoto Company as manufacturer of aspartame, do not use the same production method as mentioned in the patent. We do not use pig kidney enzyme to manufacture aspartame and therefore it would be suitable for use in vegetarian food applications.”

Niutang Chemical is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of aspartame. We spoke with representatives at their California office who told us that their ingredients are “artificial” and “no fermentation is involved.” A senior level employee in charge of technical and quality support called us in July 2013 and said that Niutang uses “no fermentation and no enzymes in their process [of making aspartame].”

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.

For more information on sweeteners and other food ingredients as well as the processing methods used to make them, visit
http://www.vrg.org/ingredients/index.php. A print version of our Guide to Food Ingredients is available for purchase from this link for $6.

Being vegetarian/vegan during holidays or family gatherings

Posted on November 26, 2013 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Karen Leibowitz, during her VRG internship

Personal Experience/How my family reacted: When I told my parents I was becoming vegan, I was glad to see that they were supportive of my decision. Telling my grandparents, aunts, and uncles, was an entirely different story though. For them it meant changing the traditional holiday menus at family gatherings, something they were hesitant about, and somewhat offended by. The first time I brought up the subject of being vegan was during a family reunion, when my grandmother noticed I didn’t take any turkey. All of a sudden, the entire family was asking me questions with concerned looks on their faces.

What to make of it: In a situation like this, it is important to consider that hints of disapproval from family members should be taken as a comfort; your family cares about your health and only wants what is best for you. If they are not familiar with a vegan/vegetarian diet, they may raise concerns about your health. It’s important to take your defenses down, and recognize that a vegan/vegetarian diet can have a stigma for non-vegans especially if they aren’t aware of its benefits and they think that people have to eat meat and dairy products. They simply care about you and your health.

What I did: In my experience, what worked best was, first, telling my family exactly why I became vegan, and that there is sound scientific evidence that vegetarian/vegan diets are nutritionally adequate. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that, “appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” I assured my relatives that I carefully consider daily food choices in order to make sure I receive all the necessary nutrients. This can include buying calcium-fortified food products, and eating a varied diet, including lots of produce. Your family will also be happy to hear that changing your diet has been a great learning experience concerning proper nutrition.

Practical Suggestions: Bringing my own alternative meat dish, like a Tofurky product, made my family feel better because it made me look included at family meals, and it lifted the burden of my grandparents having to cook an additional meal for just one person. Bringing your own mock meat, or another protein-rich plant food like a bean burger, can also make your family proud because you are being proactive about a change you are passionate about. Being vegetarian/vegan can sometimes feel like you are making a situation more difficult for those cooking at family gatherings. Showing your family that you are healthy and satisfied with vegetarianism/veganism can alleviate their insecurities because those are generally their main concerns.

For other ideas concerning social situations, see http://www.vrg.org/teen/
For information on VRG internships, see http://www.vrg.org/student/

Parmesan-Asiago Cheese on Domino’s Pacific Veggie Pizza Contains Animal-Derived Lipase

Posted on November 18, 2013 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS
VRG Research Director

The VRG received an email from a reader who was told in a July 2013 email by a Domino’s customer care representative that “The Pacific Veggie pizza uses cheeses that do contain animal rennet.”

According to the Domino’s website, the Pacific Veggie Pizza contains roasted red peppers, fresh baby spinach, fresh onions, fresh mushrooms, tomatoes, black olives, cheeses made with 100% real mozzarella, feta and provolone, sprinkled with garlic herb seasoning, on a cheesy Parmesan-Asiago crust.

The VRG spoke with three quality assurance specialists at Domino’s in November 2013 to confirm the latest information on all of Domino’s pizza ingredients. One quality assurance program leader told us on the phone when we asked if Domino’s used animal rennet: “No animal rennet is ever used in Domino’s cheese; it’s too expensive as you well know.”

We learned from a quality assurance specialist in charge of managing cheeses who confirmed information from her suppliers for us that “…Domino’s shredded provolone, pizza cheese (mozzarella), and feta cheeses are made with rennet derived from a non-animal source. Parm/Asiago blend (the cheese applied to the Hand Tossed crust for Pacific Veggie) contains lipase enzyme from an animal source, but the rennet is derived from a non-animal source. Parmesan shake-on (grated parm) rennet is non-animal sourced and does not contain lipase.”

Vegetarian and vegan diners at Domino’s who would like to avoid the Parmesan-Asiago cheese blend have several options. Pizzas at Domino’s can be custom-ordered without cheese. According to a Domino’s quality assurance specialist:

“American Legends® theme pizzas (including Pacific Veggie) can be ordered with any crust. Gluten Free and Thin Crust do not contain dairy ingredients in the dough formula. The other crust choices (Hand Tossed, Brooklyn Style, and Pan) do contain dairy ingredients in the dough.All American Legends® theme pizzas, including the Pacific Veggie build, include cheese applied to the crust rim when made with Hand Tossed dough. If there is concern, the consumer ordering can specify ‘no cheese on crust rim.’”

According to another senior-level quality assurance program leader at Domino’s who spoke with us on the phone, “non-animal” L-cysteine is a dough conditioner used in the following crusts: Brooklyn, Handmade Pan and Hand Tossed crusts.

On its website, Domino’s lists its ingredients: https://order.dominos.com/en/pages/content/nutritional/ingredients.jsp. The Gluten Free crust is the only pizza crust that contains honey. According to the online ingredient statement, Domino’s pizza sauce contains “tomato puree (water, tomato paste), sugar, salt, spices,
garlic, soybean oil, and citric acid.” The Hearty Marinara Sauce contains chicken juices and chicken fat.

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.

For more information on fast food and quick-casual restaurant chains, visit our website: http://www.vrg.org/fastfoodinfo.php

Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes + VRG’s Vegan Pre-Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner

Posted on November 13, 2013 by The VRG Blog Editor

Looking for vegan Thanksgiving recipes? We’ve got you covered: http://www.vrg.org/recipes/vegan_thanksgiving.php

If you’re in Baltimore, come join us and Vegan Drinks at our 32nd Annual Vegan Pre-Thanksgiving Potluck Dinner!

5:00 p.m., Sunday November 24
North Baltimore Mennonite Church
4615 Roland Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21210

Vegetarians, vegans, and the merely curious are invited! $4 per person, children under age 18 are free. RSVP is not necessary! Please bring a vegan dish (and serving utensil) that serves four as a contribution from each member of your party. Write ingredients of the dish on an index card to accommodate special diets. Guests are encouraged to bring reusable dishes and utensils to reduce waste. A vegetarian canned food drive is taking place the same night. Consider donating!

Volunteers needed on the day of the event for set-up and clean-up. To volunteer or for more information send us an email at vrg@vrg.org or call us at (410) 366-8343.

Defoaming Agent

Posted on November 04, 2013 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS
VRG Research Director

This entry was just added to our Food Ingredients Guide:

Defoaming agent
Alternate names: defoamer, antifoaming agent, antifoamer, foam inhibitor
Commercial source: petrochemical-mineral, petrochemical-vegetable, vegetable, animal
Used in: cane and sugar beet processing; fermentation used to make enzymes, amino acids, etc.; processing of baked goods, coffee, fruit juice, instant soups and noodles and many other products; many industrial applications
Used for: reducing, eliminating or preventing the formation of foam during the processing of foodstuffs (e.g., cane sugar) and during a food or beverage product’s manufacture or consumption
Definition: Used widely in many food industries, defoamers control undesirable foam production.
Common Examples: dimethylpolysiloxane, polysorbate 60, polyethylene glycol, hydroxylated lecithin, magnesium stearate, fatty acids
Manufacturers: Organic Defoamer Group, Emerald Performance Materials
Classification: Typically Vegan
Definition added: October 2013

The contents of this entry, 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 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 judgement about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

Injectable Vitamin B-12

Posted on October 29, 2013 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS
VRG Research Director

We received an inquiry from a vegan who was considering taking injectable vitamin B-12 (cyanocobalamin). Before starting treatment she wanted to be sure that it was derived from a non-animal source and that no animal products had been involved in manufacture. The VRG contacted several suppliers and manufacturers of injectable vitamin B-12 in June and July 2013 to find out.

An American Reagent pharmacist told us that the injectable vitamin B-12 that they carry “…is manufactured in China and put in vials in the United States.” She didn’t know how it was produced and stated that she could not find out.

APP Pharmaceuticals also sells vitamin B-12. A clinical/technical support representative told us that their injectable vitamin B-12 is “… a fermentation product made using microorganisms…milk/egg is not present in the product as potential allergens…” After requesting more information from their vendor regarding genetic modifications and growth media, the same clinical/technical support representative called us back to say that their vendor replied by email stating that the injectable vitamin B-12 is “acceptable for vegan use…contains no milk/egg in final product. Genetic engineering is used but the final product is GMO-free.”

The medical information department at Sandoz Canada told The VRG by phone that their injectable vitamin B-12 is made by “a fermentation process without animal components.” The representative told us that she couldn’t access any more information.

Canadian Cytex Pharmaceuticals stated that their injectable vitamin B-12 is a “fermentation product from bacteria…the bacteria have been genetically engineered…no dairy or egg is used in the growth media. [The vitamin B-12] is made in Italy.”

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.

For more information on vitamins, sweeteners, and other food ingredients as well as the processing methods used to make them, visit
http://www.vrg.org/ingredients/index.php.

Edamame at 7-Eleven

Posted on October 24, 2013 by The VRG Blog Editor

According to Seapoint Farms, their dry roasted line of edamame is now available in select 7-Eleven stores nationwide. In September, 7-Eleven launched a snack shelf that will include 4oz packs of Seapoint Farms product, along with other healthy on-the-go items. Seapoint Farms on their website states, “All of our products are Vegan; we use no animal products or bi-products of any kind.”

The contents of this listing, 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 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.

For information about food in quick service chains, see: http://www.vrg.org/fastfoodinfo.php

New Vegan Restaurants in The U.S. & Canada

Posted on October 14, 2013 by The VRG Blog Editor

These vegan restaurants were recently added to our online restaurant guide. To find restaurants in your area, visit: http://www.vrg.org/restaurant/index.php.

enVie: A Vegan Kitchen
http://enviehalifax.com/
5775 Charles St., Halifax, NS B3K 1K7
(902) 492-4077
Vegan/natural foods. enVie is a vegan restaurant with a small lounge. The menu is ever-changing but focuses on locally-sourced foods. They offer raw foods, daily specials, and gluten free options. Enjoy dishes like Seitan Picatta, Raw Zucchini Bolognese, or their Quinoa and Mushroom Burger. enVie is located on the corner of Agricola and Charles in the North End of Halifax. Open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Open Sunday for lunch. Closed Monday. Full service, take-out, delivery, beer/wine/alcohol, VISA/MC/AMEX/DISC, $$.

Goldie’s
http://www.goodgoldies.com/
550 Cookman Ave., Ste. 101, Asbury Park, NJ 07712
(732) 774-5575
Vegan/organic. Goldie’s features creative vegan cuisine to dine on amid a background of shimmering and earthy decor. The menu moves from Small Plates to Salads to Plates to Desserts. Enjoy dishes like Lebanese Couscous Salad, White Bean & Vegetable Pot Pie, and Caramelized Tempeh. Reservations are strongly recommended. Open nightly for dinner through late night service. Full service, beer/wine/alcohol, VISA/MC, $$-$$$.

Lil’ Buddha Tea
http://www.lilbuddhatea.com/
274 Lark St., Albany, NY 12210
(518) 443-0029
Vegan/tea shop/café/organic. Lil’ Buddha Tea is a vegan café and gourmet tea shop with a welcoming, cozy ambiance. They feature over 100 organic teas in bulk loose leaf to take home or to enjoy there served hot or iced. Their menu is vegan and includes an eclectic variety of options, from Belgian Waffles to Hemp Tabouli Salad. Free Wi-Fi is available. Enjoy outdoor seating on their sidewalk tables in the summertime. Reservations are accepted. Please note that Lil’ Buddha’s store hours vary from when they serve food and there is no food service on Sunday (beverages only). Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Open Sunday for beverages only. Counter service, take-out, catering, fresh juices, smoothies, soymilk, special beverages, VISA/MC/AMEX/DISC, $.

The Lunch Room
http://thelunchrooma2.tumblr.com/
407 N. 5th Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 224-8859
Vegan/eclectic. The Lunch Room strives to provide diverse vegan dishes that are appetizing to your taste buds as well as your wallet. Enjoy foods such as BBQ Tofu Sliders, Mac & ‘Cheese,’ Tempeh Reuben, and Pad Thai. Dinner specials and bakery items do rotate, so check their online menu before you head to the restaurant. Outdoor seating is available. The Lunch Room is located in Kerrytown Market & Shops. Open Monday and Tuesday for lunch and dinner. Open Wednesday for three meals. Open Thursday and Friday for lunch and dinner. Open Saturday for brunch and dinner. Open Sunday for brunch. Full service, take-out, delivery, catering, smoothies, soymilk, special beverages, VISA/MC/AMEX/DISC, $-$$.

Nature Vegetarian Restaurant
http://www.naturevegetarianrestaurant.com/
1116 Franklin St., Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 238-9688
Vegan/Chinese. Nature Vegetarian’s motto is “Your health is your wealth.” They uphold this phrase by cooking without MSG and with less salt and oil. They serve authentic Chinese cuisine that is completely vegan and really delicious. Try tasty foods like Pea Sprout with Bamboo Truffle, Pumpkin Curry, Corn & Bean Cake Soup, or Veggie Kung Pao Prawn. Nature Vegetarian is a family-owned restaurant with friendly staff and inexpensive prices. They offer terrific weekday lunch specials too. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Full service, take-out, catering, VISA/MC/AMEX/DISC, $.

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