A2 Vegan

A middle aged vegan living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a small mid-west college town.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Vegan Sugar Talk

There is a lot of confusion about which sugar is vegan and which is not ...and why. Basically that white refined sugar available in every grocery store is made from plants. These plants are either sugar cane or sugar beets. So if sugar is from a plant why can it be un-vegan? Processing! Bone char is used in the refining of some sugar canes.

According to Wikipedia:

"Bone char, also known as bone black or animal charcoal, is a granular black material produced by calcinating animal bones: the bones are heated to high temperatures in the absence of air to drive off volatile substances. It consists mainly of calcium phosphate and a small amount of carbon. Bone char has a very high surface area and a high absorptive capacity for lead, mercury, and arsenic.

Bone char is used to remove fluoride from water and to filter aquarium water.

It is often used in the sugar refining industry for decolorizing (a process patented by Louis Constant in 1812). This leads to worries from vegans and even vegetarians, since about a quarter of the sugar in the US is processed using bone char as a filter (about half of all sugar from sugar cane is processed with bone char, the rest with activated carbon). As bone char does not get into the sugar, sugar processed this way is considered parve/Kosher. Vegans are of varying opinions over whether such sugar can be considered truly vegan"

As beet sugar is never processed using bone char than you think it would be easy just to buy that, right? Nope. Usually, no where on a bag of sugar are you going to find if a sugar is from sugar cane or beet, let alone if it is cane sugar if bone char was used in processing. Supermarkets buy from who ever is giving them the best price at the time so it could be either cane or beet depending on which vendor had the best price.

So how do you find out? Go online and search for beet sugar manufacturers around your area. In my case one of the industries in Michigan is growing and processing beet sugar. Both Big Chief and Pioneer sugar is created from beets and available at least locally.

Does this mean I am advocating the use of refined sugar. Errr...no not really. However, I like to entertain and some omnis are convinced that vegans live a life of deprivation. Haaaa! I like to sneak in dishes that most people think that a plant based diet couldn't possibly provide...like angel food cake or lemon meringue pie. It's like this, if I have to literally sugar coat something to get people to even sample a vegan diet...I am going to give it a try. That being said I probally have had the same 5 lb bag of sugar in the cupboard for at least 3 years.


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