For those avoiding pork for religious, ethical, or health reasons, it can be tricky to identify all the places pork by-products creep in. Many common foods and drinks surprisingly contain pork-derived ingredients like gelatin, natural flavors, emulsifiers, and more. Even foods labeled as “vegetarian” or that don’t seem like they would contain pork can include hidden pork bi-products.
In this article, we’ll expose the top 10 sneaky foods and drinks most people don’t realize contain pork. We’ll explain what pork-derived ingredients to look for on nutrition labels, along with some simple swap-outs and substitutions to make your meals totally pork-free. With some extra vigilance in the grocery aisles and awareness of what to watch out for on menus, eliminating all traces of pork from your diet is very doable. Arm yourself with knowledge so you can make informed choices.
Common Pork-Derived Ingredients To Look For On Nutrition Labels:
- Gelatin – Gelatin is a protein derived from collagen in animal bones and tissues. Pork is a common source.
- Natural flavors – The exact source of natural flavors is rarely disclosed. However, natural pork or meat flavors can be included.
- Pepsin – An enzyme from hog stomachs used to curdle milk for cheese production.
- Lard – Fat derived from pig fat tissue used as a shortening or baking fat.
- Mono & Diglycerides – Emulsifiers that can come from animal fat, including pork.
- Nitrates/Nitrites – Preservatives commonly derived from pork tissue.
- Heparin – An anticoagulant extracted from pork intestines.
- Rennet – An enzyme from pig stomach lining used to coagulate milk when making cheese.
- Carmine/carminic acid – Red food coloring that may come from an insect-based source or pork.
So when in doubt, give the ingredients list a careful scan looking for any of these pork-derived additives or enzymes. Call the manufacturer if you’re still unsure. Being an informed shopper is key.
For those avoiding pork, it can be shockingly difficult to eliminate it entirely from your diet. Pork-derived ingredients like gelatin, glycerin, emulsifiers, and more creep into a wide array of commonly consumed foods and drinks that most people would never suspect. Even foods labeled as “vegetarian,” “halal,” or “kosher” can still contain traces of pork due to processing methods.
10 Surprising Foods And Drinks That Contain Pork Bi-Products
First up is a classic chewy candy: Gummy Bears. The gelatin that provides gummies their characteristic soft, squishy bite is commonly made from pork tissues like skin, tendons, ligaments and bones. Kosher brands of gummies will specify if they use fish-based gelatin instead. Other candies like Marshmallows and Jell-O also use pork gelatin to achieve their fluffy textures.
Next on the list are fried snacks like Cheetos and Doritos. These crispy favorites contain cheese seasonings that rely on enzymes called rennet to coagulate and curdle the dairy. Rennet is extracted from the stomach linings of calves, lambs, and pigs. So these cheeses cannot be considered halal or kosher. Opt for cheese-flavored snacks that specifically use non-animal-based enzymes.
You might not associate your morning dental hygiene routine with pork, but many mainstream toothpastes like Crest and Colgate Toothpaste include glycerin and gelatin from pork tissues. Halal brands will be glycerin-free or specify vegetable or synthetic sources.
No pork-free food list would be complete without mentioning fast food. McDonald’s iconic apple pies contain pork-derived lard in the flaky pie crust. Their french fries are cooked in a blend of oils including beef tallow and pork lard.
Burger King hamburger buns also contain emulsifiers and preservatives that can come from pork. And refried beans at Mexican chains are traditionally made with lard.
Finally, even condiments like Welches grape jelly and drink mixes like Koolaid contain traces of pork. Gelatin is often used as a stabilizer and thickener. And natural flavors can include pork extracts. So read labels carefully and look for halal or kosher certifications when available. Or consider making your own jams and juices from scratch.
With vigilance in scanning ingredients lists, asking questions, and making thoughtful substitutions, keeping your diet completely pork-free is achievable. Arm yourself with knowledge about the top hidden sources of pork, and your food choices become that much more informed and empowered.
Avoiding pork and pork by-products completely can seem daunting given how commonly they are used as hidden ingredients. But being an informed consumer and learning how to decipher labels empowers you to make food choices aligned with your religious, ethical, or health goals.
Follow our guidelines on identifying pork additives, ask questions about sourcing, choose certified halal/kosher foods when possible, and opt for whole foods made from scratch. With some extra care and diligence, you can still enjoy amazingly flavorful meals totally free of pork.
Scan labels, ask questions, make swaps – small steps that pay off in peace of mind. No longer will you have to wonder, “Could this food contain pork?” Arm yourself with knowledge and take control of your diet.