Sugar comes to us in many different forms and colours and from different
sources. The number of different commercial food products - savoury as well
as sweet - that sugar is added to may surprise you. Check out the ingredients
of a loaf of bread, ready-made pasta sauce or soups. Sugar is used to create
other products too - from rum to vinegar!
There are two steps to sugar manufacture: first, extracting the juice from sugar cane or beet and crystallising the “raw” sugar, and second, refining that raw sugar. It is during the refining process that problems can arise for vegans, as sugar may be refined over animal charcoal.
Vegetarians do not usually avoid sugars as although slaughterhouse products are used during the processing, none remain in the finished product. Vegetarians are also happy to eat honey.
Some vegans avoid eating refined sugars which have been refined using animal charcoal. Vegans may still use refined sugars, but choose only those which have been refined over non-animal charcoal. (In general, animal charcoal is used mainly in America, whereas non-animal charcoal is used more by English sugar manufacturers. Some manufacturers do label their sugars as suitable for vegans.) Many vegans prefer to use only unrefined, or raw, sugar. Alternative sweeteners may also be used, such as maple syrup, rice syrup, date sugar, or even mashed banana! Honey, as an animal product, is also not used by vegans.