Dump the myth that bananas, figs and miso soup are perfect foods for vegetarians – an array of foods, from fruit and packaged cereal to beer and even figs, that we assume are safe to eat, actually contain animal products, warns an expert.

The worrying thing for vegetarians and vegans is that ingredients lists on packages might list product names, but doesn’t offer information on what’s in them – for example, the food colouring carmine that is derived from crushed beetles. Furthermore, many vegetarians don’t know that pesticides used to spray bananas can contain shellfish.

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Vegan campaigner Karin Ridgers, founder of VeggieVision TV, suggests that checking the food before eating is a must for all vegetarians.

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Ms Ridgers says: ‘Read the list of ingredients, and if you are not sure what the ingredient actually is, just research it. You will then know forever. ‘I never eat anything unless I can read the ingredients; there are a lot of non-veggie ingredients that I feel everyone would want to avoid, vegetarian or not.’

She further says that to find out whether a packaged item is meat-free check whether it has an official label. ‘Ingredients lists frequently change so always cast an eye over them before buying and keep a look out for The Vegetarian Society approved symbol, The Vegan Society registered symbol or the Viva! Symbol as these products have passed testing to confirm that they are vegetarian-/vegan-friendly,’ she says.

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Listed below are foods you could order in a restaurant, a bar, or in your deli – as well as at the supermarket – that contain stealth animal products:

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MISO SOUP

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While it very likely contains tofu, a staple in many vegetarians’ diet, miso soup, more often than not, is rustled up with dashi (water, dried, kelp and fish flakes), the backbone of most Japanese cuisine.

Miso soup acquires its strong umami flavour through Dashi.

PARMESAN

A fact that many of us don’t know is that Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan, isn’t looked on as authentic unless it is made with animal rennet – which comes from the stomach lining of calves.
This is a strict regulation which indicates that a cheese is in fact Parmesan. Calves’ rennet also appears in Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano and Gorgonzola.

FIGS

No doubt figs are non meat food, still they contain insects such as dead wasps in them.

When a wasp pollinates a fig it gets stuck inside the fruit and dies there. Nonetheless, when we bite into the fig we don’t notice the dead wasp lodged inside, because an enzyme in the fruit converts the wasp into protein.

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BANANAS

Organic bananas is a better option because non-organic bananas are sprayed with a pesticide so possibly contain animal parts.
Science Daily, reports that the pesticide Chitosan, which fights bacteria and prevents bananas from over-ripening, is made from shrimp and crab shells.
Go for organic bananas instead.

YOGURT

Most non-fat versions such as Muller Light, contain gelatine to add a creamier, richer texture.
We suggest vegetarians must read the label carefully before buying a new brand.
This is how Müller explains about its products: ‘We offer consumers a range of products, from healthier fat free, low-calorie options to thick and creamy, indulgent desserts.
‘All of the nutrition information and ingredients, including gelatine, are displayed on pack so consumers can make the best choice for them.’

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GUINNESS

Isinglass or fish bladder is one of the items used in the filtering process in some beers and stouts.
As the amount used is so minuscule, the item itself is not listed as part of the ingredients.
The isinglass filters out leftover yeast particles which if present cause the beer to appear cloudy.
Guinness accepts the use of Isinglass in the production of Guinness as a fining agent to help remove yeast from the beer.

RED SWEETS

Coloured foods including red sweets usually contain animal products.

Can you guess how Carmine is made? When crushed up beetles are boiled with sodium carbonate or ammonia, the resulting product is the attractive, bright red dye.

WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE

Worcestershire Sauce a condiment used in many foods and drinks like Bloody Mary – is made from anchovies.
The small, shiny, silver fish in the sauce gives food a more-ish savoury taste.

ORANGE JUICE

Orange juice is claimed to be ‘heart healthy’ for the reason that it contains Omega-3 fatty acids – which come from fish oils.
So if vegetarians see Omega-3s listed on the label, they must check where they come from.

BREAKFAST CEREALS

You’ll come across a host of sugar-coated cereals which contain beef gelatine, extracted from the skin, bones and connective tissues of animals.
One example is Kellogg’s Frosted Wheats – has beef gelatine in it to make the sugar stick to the cereal.

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READY-MADE PIE AND PASTRY CRUSTS

These are often made with lard, rendered pig fat, instead of butter, because its cost is considerably less than the dairy product, and has a longer shelf-life.

MARSHMALLOWS

Gelatine is now used in all commercially manufactured marshmallows instead of the traditional marshmallow root.
The collagen-rich mixture helps give the sweet a firm and bouncy texture.

PESTO

Pesto thought of as the ideal veggie-friendly product, actually isn’t.
The basil and pine nut sauce usually contains Pecorino Romano and Grana Padano —- items made from the stomach lining of calves.

Ms Ridgers suggests picking organic and more natural products free of scary ingredients. Furthermore, she says vegans must visit their local health food store and chat with the manager.