May 7, 2010
John Cunningham (410) 366-VEGE
Sonja Helman (410) 366-8343

Vegetarian Journal's Guide to Food Ingredients Now Available Online

Our Guide to Food Ingredients, which lists the uses, sources, and definitions of 200 common food ingredients, has now been published in its entirety online:

The Guide is also still available for purchase in print for just $6.

Our objective in this Guide is to provide an easy-to-read, useful list of ingredients commonly found in many foods and beverages that indicates whether they are vegetarian, vegan, or non-vegetarian. Our Guide is unique in that we place emphasis on the commercial sources of ingredients most commonly used today while mentioning other possible sources of ingredients.

The Guide is one offshoot of an ongoing VRG food ingredients project. New information and changes in commercial processes and sources will constantly appear. Check for updates.

We are happy to now provide this content on our website and hope that it continues to assist people in deciphering ingredient labels.

Sample Listing:

sodium stearoyl lactylate

Commercial source: mineral-vegetable-microbial or mineral-animal (cow- or hog-derived)-microbial.
Used in: bakery mixes, baked products, dehydrated fruits and vegetables and juices made from them, frozen desserts, liquid shortenings, pancake mixes, precooked instant rice, pudding mixes, coffee whiteners, margarine.
Definition: A common food additive often used to condition dough or to blend together ingredients which do not normally blend, such as oil and water.
Typically Vegan

Production information: Archer Daniels Midland Co., a manufacturer of sodium stearoyl lactylate reports that their product is of vegetable origin; the lactic acid is produced from microbial fermentation and the stearic acid, from soy oil. Sodium is a mineral which is added.

This Guide is intended to help consumers shop for vegetarian and vegan food and beverage products. It may also be used as a reference when answering others' questions about food ingredients. The author hopes that this Guide will aid people to make educated food choices depending on their dietary preferences.

This Guide is not intended to discourage anyone about the feasibility of a vegetarian or vegan diet in today's world. Each person does the best he or she can. Most importantly, the author hopes that the Guide will never be used to criticize those who try to maintain a vegetarian or vegan diet in the face of "hidden ingredients," proprietary processing aids, or the use of shared equipment. Please consider this Guide as a source of information needed when making educated food choices.

The contents of this handout and our other publications, including web information, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on company statements for product and ingredient information. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, information can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your own best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research on your own.

A vegetarian does not eat meat, fish, or fowl. A vegan is a vegetarian who does not use other animal products such as eggs and dairy. For more information on a vegetarian diet, visit The Vegetarian Resource Group at or write to The Vegetarian Resource Group, P.O. Box 1463, Baltimore, MD 21203.

The Vegetarian Resource Group is a national non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about vegetarianism. VRG publishes the quarterly Vegetarian Journal and other materials, and sponsors two annual $5,000 scholarships for graduating high school seniors who have promoted vegetarianism.