White Castle Removes L-Cysteine from Veggie Slider Bun; Prompted by Vegans

By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS

White Castle, an American burger chain begun in 1921, now with nearly 400 locations, introduced a Veggie Slider in 2014. At that time and in early October 2015 when we checked White Castle's website, the bun on which it was served was not vegan.

In response to vegans' requests, White Castle changed its bun formulation. We noted the absence of L-cysteine and sugar in the new bun in comparison with the original. L-cysteine is most often derived from duck feathers, although non-animal-derived L-cysteine is commercially available. Sugar may be of concern to vegans who avoid sugar that has been whitened using cow bone char. Most cane sugar processed today in the US is processed this way. Sugar beets and USDA Organic cane sugar are not.

Knowing that monoglycerides and enzymes could be animal-derived and calcium stearoyl lactylate could be animal- and/or dairy-derived, The VRG called White Castle specifically about these ingredients. Jason Suitt, Quality Assurance and Research & Development Manager at White Castle, wrote, "Thank you for your recent inquiry as to whether the enzymes in our buns used on our Veggie Sliders are derived from animal sources... Back in August of this year, we reformulated our buns to remove all animal byproducts, so that they now may be considered vegan...That said, please keep in mind that the buns and veggie patties are prepared in a common kitchen, so they may occasionally come into contact with non-vegan items."

Because Jason didn't refer to the monoglycerides and calcium stearoyl lactylate in his reply, we left him a message. He replied by phone stating, "No animal byproducts including dairy are in the new formula bun...Our bakery division carefully researched all ingredient sources for our bun so it is vegan."