Vegans know to stay away from gelatin, marshmallows, certain orange juices and beer. Many of these are not considered vegan as they may contain or be processed with animal products. But vegans generally thought sugar was safe. Now, even the most common table sweetener may be suspect. Most refined sugar comes from either sugar cane or sugar beets. They taste the same and the nutritional breakdown is identical, not good for you. Both are used about the same in the U.S. The process for refining them is different, however. For sugarcane, the stalks are smashed to separate the juice from the pulp. Next the juice is heated in order to make it form those crystals we come to expect when we see sugar. The problem occurs when the sugar is bleached. Manufacturers often use bone char to remove impurities and whiten sugar. Sugar procured from beets does not use char. It doesn’t have to be bleached extensively. Once the juice is removed, additives are mixed in to force the sugar to crystalize.
Bone char used in sugar processing comes from cows. To make it, the bones are heated to a very high temperature. The bones break down into carbon. Then what is left is used in industrial processes such as sugar refining. Though the sugar itself contains no char, it does come into contact with the substance. Not all cane sugar manufacturers use it in their processing. Some use granular carbon instead. This does not contain any animal products. There is no way to tell the difference from looking at or tasting the sugar which bleacher was used. They are identical in these respects. Chances are the packaging won’t tip you off either. Some say that they can merely rely on beet sugar. But the two don’t perform the same in recipes, making adaptations difficult. For a list of cane sugars that do not use bone char visit PETA’s website: peta.org. The Vegetarian Resource Group also has its own list: vrg.org.