What Vegans Need To Know About Lactic Acid

It isn't always easy to know exactly what is in the food you are eating. Many foods have ingredients that can be confusing, and this is especially true when you are following a vegan lifestyle. Vegans avoid foods that contain meat and animal byproducts, like dairy and eggs (via Healthline). While it's easy to know whether the majority of your meals contain animal products, it's important to remember that food items like butter or milk may have been added. While some ingredients are usually easy to identify by reading the package, many are not.

In a list of neverending ingredients, it can be a bit tricky to decipher what a packaged food contains. For example, you may think that potato chips are safe for vegans; however, they may contain stearic acid, whey, casein, or even honey — all of which are animal byproducts (via Go Dairy Free). As a vegan, you may have never checked a product for lactic acid — but you should.

Understanding lactic acid

Some vegans avoid consuming packaged or processed foods because there is often no clear-cut way to tell whether all ingredients are free from animal derivatives. It's a careful method to ensure that your vegan diet isn't compromised. However, some people prefer to include packaged items in their diet and instead check ingredient lists diligently to make sure they aren't consuming anytihng that conflicts with veganism. One such ingredient for vegans to look out for is lactic acid.

Lactic acid can be manmade or it can occur as a natural byproduct of the fermentation process, which takes place when bacteria or food is fermented (via Healthline). Lactic acid is typically made from bacteria such as lactococcus, lactobacillus, enterococcus, streptococcus, and bifidobacterium. Since fermentation can occur in foods that are made from both plants and animals, you first must find out what ingredient was used to make the lactic acid in order to determine if it's vegan-friendly (via The Greatist). While the majority of lactic acid is plant-based, there are certain times when it contains animal origins.

How to tell whether lactic acid is vegan

Lactic acid is used in foods as flavoring and preservative agents, so it's found in several types of foods. However, according to Medical News Today, most products that contain lactic acid are vegan because they are derived from beet sugar or corn starch. You'll typically find lactic acid in common pantry staples like bread, but also savory items such as pickles, sauerkraut, olives, as well as sugary products like candy, fruit preserves, and frozen desserts (via Healthy Steps). It's also found in soy sauce, miso, beer, wine, and salad dressings.

When lactic acid is chemically produced in laboratories, it may contain some animal derivatives. In those cases, there may be no real way to know if lactic acid has vegan origins. The only way you can find out is to call the company directly and inquire about their process. However, you can also look for a certified vegan logo on the package, which will confirm that all of its ingredients are vegan (via Vegan.com).