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Is Sugar Vegan?

You May Have Heard That Sugar Isn't Vegan — Is That True?

Vegans don't live on plants alone! Sometimes a plant-based girl's gotta have a treat — brownie sundaes, anyone? This may come as a huge shock, but just because you make a batch without eggs, milk, butter, or milk chocolate, it doesn't mean it's completely vegan. If you're adding the white stuff to your batter, did you know not all sugar is vegan?

It's not exactly as disturbing as finding out that the gelatin in marshmallows and gummy bears is made from boiled animal skin, cartilage, and bones, but if you don't eat animals for moral reasons, you're not gonna like this.

You know how white sugar is so, well, white? Sugar companies use something called bone char as a decolorizing filter in order to get that pure white color. Bone char is made from the bones of cattle. To make bone char, animal bones are heated to incredibly high temperatures, breaking them down into carbon before being used in a sugar refinery. White sugar technically doesn't contain animal bones, like gummy worms do, but sugar does come in contact with the bone char made from them.

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What about brown sugar? Even though it looks all-natural, it's actually refined sugar with molasses added to it, giving it that tan color. So yes, brown sugar is also processed using bone char. Same goes for confectioner's (powdered) sugar — it's refined sugar mixed with cornstarch (insert sad face).

One thing to note is that the FDA prohibits the use of bones from the United States' meat industry, so the bones used to make bone char are imported from other countries. The bones are supposed to come from animals that have died from "natural causes," but who knows what that means or how that's monitored.

Don't worry, though. If you're vegan or just grossed out by the thought of your sugar being processed with bone char made from cow bones, you can still bake your vegan cake and eat it, too. Just choose Sucanat (whole cane sugar), turbinado sugar, coconut sugar, or organic sugar — US Department of Agriculture-certified organic sugar cannot be filtered through bone char.

Organic sugar is pretty easy to find. Here are some sugar brands you can trust are bone-char-free:

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