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and Powdered Sugar: Vegan?
Are brown sugar and powdered sugar vegan?
Brown sugar is white sugar combined
with molasses, which gives it a soft texture. Powdered
sugar, also called confectioners' sugar, is granulated
sugar that has been crushed into a fine powder. Brown
sugar and powdered sugar can be made from either sugarcane
or sugar beets. Bone char filtration is used for roughly
half the cane sugar produced in the United States. This
means that some cane sugar may be purified through charcoal
made from animal bones. (Bone residue does not become
part of the finished product.)
There is a split among vegans about
whether cane sugar refined with bone char is vegan,
and, if not, whether this warrants avoiding all products
containing white sugar since it is virtually impossible
for consumers to determine the type of sugar (beet or
cane) and/or the processing methods used. If we assume
that animal-free purity is the criteria for ascertaining
whether or not something is vegan, are there any truly
vegan foods? In the commercial arena, probably not.
Regardless of how they are grown or
processed, most foods eventually come in contact with
animal products, directly or indirectly. Insects and
worms land on or burrow through fruits, vegetables,
and grains as they are grown, occasionally ending up
inside them, ground up with them, or packaged with them.
Organically-grown produce is typically fertilized with
dried blood, bone meal, and/or animal manure. Most fruits,
vegetables, grains, and beans are flown or trucked in
from different parts of the country or world in carriers
that may have recently ferried meat and various other
animal products. Trucks, trains, and airplanes use tires,
lubricants, and plastic parts that most likely contain
animal by-products, and they all utilize roads, rails,
or runways that displaced animals and destroyed habitat
when they were constructed. These vehicles also emit
environmentally damaging fumes and pollutants and often
inadvertently kill innocent wildlife. Most plant foods
are distributed to stores where they will be sold side-by-side
with meat, eggs, and dairy products, handled by nonvegan
produce workers, placed on a checkout counter that may
have deposits from previous customers' animal-based
purchases, and packed by a nonvegan checker into plastic
bags that probably contain animal by-products or paper
bags that, even if made from recycled paper, are sealed
with animal-based glue.
So where do vegans draw the line? The
most clear-cut and practical approach is the following:
If a plant-based food (unadulterated or processed) contains
no overt animal products or by-products, it is deemed
From an ethical standpoint, this is
the most realistic and constructive way to view not
only food but other commodities as well. Modern methods
of processing and transporting are so pervasively tainted
with animal components that it is counterproductive
and futile for vegans to be concerned about technicalities.
In addition, preoccupation with minutia detracts from
the more significant and purposeful aspects of being
vegan and makes veganism appear outlandish and onerous
Because half the sugar produced in the
U.S. is beet sugar and around fifty percent of all cane
sugar is refined with bone char, even if vegans were
worried about bone char filtration, there is only about
a twenty-five percent chance that a product would contain
sugar processed in this manner. Searching for prepared
foods that do not contain sugar places an undue burden
on the average consumer who might be willing to become
vegan but is discouraged by what could easily be considered
Your question is an important one,
and it is vital that vegans continue to discuss matters
of ethical practice. However, it is equally significant
to channel energies into those areas of vegan living
that are consequential. If vegans avoid products because
they disapprove of certain processing methods, no vegans
could ride in a car, drink tap water, live in a house,
or wear manufactured clothing.
So, are brown sugar and powdered sugar
vegan? From every reasonable perspective, yes.
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