Vegetarians Beware – What are you really Eating?


Unfortunately being a vegetarian isn’t always as easy as it seems. Being a vegetarian isn’t as simple as just cutting out meat from your diet, you also have to watch out for animal products being used in other types of food and drink that you might not of known would contain meat. For National Vegetarian Week we are listing some typical items of food that do contain animal products, so that you know in future to keep an eye out. The main issue vegetarians have is with sweet treats which often contain gelatine and some cheeses which contain animal rennet.


Gelatine comes from animal by-products particularly from the bone and the skin of animals such as cows, pigs and chickens. Gelatine is found in lots of different foods which therefore makes them unsuitable for vegetarians to eat. The typical types of food which you will find have gelatine in are sweets and desserts.

Animal Rennet

Animal rennet comes from the enzymes inside an animals stomach. Animal rennet is used in various cheeses and is found especially in parmesan cheese. Parmesan cheese is then used in many different dishes such as pasta dishes and used as a topping on other food such as stuffed mushrooms. Vegetarians may be unaware of this, along with some restaurants who may use parmesan on top of vegetarian dishes not realising that it does contain animal rennet.


Most marshmallows contain gelatine. Vegetarians are not always aware of this and can purchase items of food and drink which contain marshmallows. There are lots of food which contains marshmallows such as ice cream sundaes, sweet treats and biscuits. Drinks which contain marshmallows may be luxury hot chocolates which come with whipped cream and marshmallows. Vegetarians can always ask not to have the marshmallows.

Wagon Wheel Biscuits

Wagon Wheel biscuits are unfortunately not suitable for vegetarians. Wagon Wheel’s are made up of two biscuits sandwiched together by marshmallow or marshmallow and jam. The marshmallow that is used does contain gelatine, therefore this makes it unsuitable for vegetarians to eat.


Rocky Road

Rocky Road is a chocolate treat made up of either milk or dark chocolate, biscuit pieces, marshmallows and either sultanas or raisons. Rocky Road’s are unsuitable for vegetarians to eat as they contain marshmallows, which contain gelatine.

Chocolate Fondue

Vegetarians are unable to enjoy a chocolate fondue with marshmallows on a stick, as most marshmallows contain gelatine. As an alternative vegetarians can eat are pieces of fruit with chocolate fondue.

Pink and Whites Wafers

Pink and White wafers are biscuits made up of two pieces of wafer with pink and white coloured marshmallows. The marshmallow used contains gelatine, making them unsuitable for vegetarians.



Most sweets such as Haribo sweets and other similar brands all contain gelatine. This means that unfortunately vegetarians can not enjoy sweets. Always make sure that you read the ingredients of any sweets before you purchase them and make sure that they do not contain any gelatine and that they say that they are suitable for vegetarians before you eat them. Marks and Spencer do sell vegetarian packets of sweets which are free from gelatine and are suitable for vegetarians to eat, so if more places were to do this it would be better for vegetarians.


Vegetarians are always having to make sure what they eat is meat free and being able to choose something that hasn’t got meat in is usually the simple answer for it being suitable for vegetarians. However what many vegetarians may be unaware of is that many desserts contain gelatine as a setting agent, therefore they are unable to enjoy many desserts such as some cheese cakes and trifles.

Ice Cream Sundaes

You may find that ice cream sundaes are generally served with ice cream, cream, sauce and various sweets or chocolate. Many vegetarians are unable to eat the sundaes which contain sweets as they will always contain gelatine either in the jelly sweets or in the marshmallows.




Jelly is a type of dessert, largely found at children’s birthday parties. Jelly comes in a variety of fruit flavours and some jelly that you can buy, contains real pieces of fruit. Gelatine is used in most jellies as a setting agent, which then makes it unsuitable for vegetarians to eat. Some places may use pectin instead of gelatine, to make jellies with, making it suitable for vegetarians to eat.



Unfortunately many mousses, such as chocolate mousse, contain beef or pork gelatine, meaning vegetarians are unable to enjoy a light mousse as a dessert after their meal. Many restaurants may state that a mousse is suitable for vegetarians and may be unaware that it does contain gelatine.


Bowl of Yogurt and Fruit

Like mousses, vegetarians are unable to eat certain yogurts. Many vegetarians must always look at the ingredients of yogurts as some may not state whether they are suitable for vegetarians and this is mainly because they contain gelatine.

Parmesan Cheese


Whilst most cheeses are suitable for vegetarians, some cheeses do in fact contain animal rennet and one cheese in particular is parmesan cheese. Parmesan cheese is also used in many vegetarian dishes such as being sprinkled on the top of a spinach and ricotta cannelloni or may have been used within a pasta sauce. When in restaurants, vegetarians must be aware of this and maybe make sure that they do not have any parmesan cheese included in their meals. Making meals at home is easier as you know what ingredients you are putting in to your meals.

Tablet Capsule Cases


What many people may be unaware of is that the shells which are used to contain certain tablets are in fact made of gelatine. This is something that vegetarians could be unaware of and is something that vegetarians have no option but to take if they have to for medical reasons, as there is no easy way of obtaining vegetarian tablets.

Vegetarian Alternatives

It is a shame that so many food types, which aren’t even a type of meat, contain a product that has come from an animal such as gelatine or animal rennet. It is also unfair on vegetarians that they may not be aware that they are eating something which isn’t even meat free. There must be a way to exclude gelatine and animal rennet from these food products to make them suitable for vegetarians. Pectin is an alternative to gelatine which can be used to make products vegetarian and this is extracted from different types of fruit such as apples and pears. Gelatine is most probably cheaper and easier to use than pectin, however if there was more of a debate about this maybe there would be a way of eliminating gelatine from all sweet treats and using pectin instead making them suitable for vegetarians to eat and enjoy.