Many years ago I was instrumental in having the red dot put onto packaged foods that had meat or egg in them and the green dot put on vegetarian foods. All the biscuits in the market now have the green dot on them. Unfortunately this green dot may have been misused. I know of many cases where the product is non vegetarian but the manufacturers have disguised this as a vitamin , failing to inform you that the vitamin itself , as in the case of Vitamin A, has been taken from fish oil. Or sweets : most of them have a green dot or no dot at all. They will not tell you that gelatine has been used in their manufacture ? I only realised this when I went to buy sweets from Sweet World and found each sweet with a red or green dot ? and they had done this honestly on every sweet.
Manufacturers of Brittannia Milk Bikis, Marie Gold, Tiger, Good Day, Parle-G, Monaco, Hide and Seek and other biscuit brands are under investigation by the government at the insistence of Members of Parliament.
A letter submitted by over two dozen MPs last week to the Union Minister for Food Processing Industry demanding an urgent enquiry and action against all bakers and biscuit manufacturers for allegedly using animal fat from slaughtered pigs,cattle,dogs and donkeys in the manufacturing of biscuits.
Check the ingredients mentioned on the biscuit packets. You will find ingredients like E-322, E-471 under the title of emulsifiers, E-341 (ii) under Calcium Salts, E-223 under Dough Conditioner and the Raising agents' category will contain codes like E-500 (ii), E-450 (i), E-503 (ii), E-521 and many more E-numbers.
The biscuit manufacturers importing these ingredients with permissions from the Government of India. The bureaucrats who run the government are normally completely brainless and it has not occurred to any of them that a biscuit manufacturer who declares his product as vegetarian would not be asking for import licences to import non vegetarian ingredients unless he was going to use them. Since no bureaucrat does any work that requires then to exert their imagination or even learn the laws of the country, they have not even bothered to find out what is the meaning of these codes. The biscuit manufacturers releasing the quality of governments servant they deal with ask for permission in the form of codes and are under no obligation to declare the contents.
Biscuits are basically flour and water that has food additives to improve the flavour, colour, texture and shelf life. Additives include colourings,preservatives, antioxidants, thickeners, emulsifiers, sweeteners, stabilisers and acidity regulators. Many of these additives are made from animal products. For instance the red colour in foods and drink comes from the Cochineal beetle.
Food labelling laws are haphazard and the labelling set out on food products is often misleading. Not every packaged product has to show a full list of its contents, and even if they do, they're usually couched in such unclear terms or disguised under generic or chemical names so as to be meaningless to the ordinary consumer.
One way is to use E-numbers. E-numbers is a labelling methodology for additives adopted by European nations.
Here are the details of the additives (emulsifiers, raising agents, dough conditioners, calcium salts and colouring agents) written on the labels of biscuit brands in India.
Emulsifiers are substances that aid the mixing of oil and water. Emulsifiers can be of animal origin. If a product specifically says that emulsifiers or glycerides or stearic acids) are not derived from animal products, then you can buy it safely . If it doesn?t and goes into hocus pocus number , then you can bet it is of animal origin.
E-322 is listed as an emulsifier on the packets of all major biscuit brands marked with a green dot like Anzac Oatmeal Cookies, Brittania Milk Bikis, Brittania Marie Gold, Brittania Marie Giold Vita, MARIE Gold, Good Day and Tiger Biscuits.
E-322 is lecithin. Lecithin is present in all living cells and is a significant constituent of nerve and brain cells. Commercial lecithin is often used as an emulsifier as it lowers the surface tension of water allowing the better combining of oils, fats and water in such foods as chocolate, ice cream, margarine and mayonnaise. In bread and bakery products like biscuits it also increases volume and shelf life.
Commercial lecithin, contains a mixture of lecithin, cephalin and phosphatidyl inositol. Lecithin can come from egg yolks, animal tissue or genetically modified soya bean oil or genetically modified peanuts and maize. As no GM crops are grown in India except GM Cotton and since neither of the western countries have permitted sale of GM crops therefore, what is E 322 being derived from ? .
E471 is Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids (glyceryl monostearate, glyceryl distearate) prepared commercially from glycerin and fatty acids. Can be cheaply extracted from animal tissue. They can also be obtained from hydrogenated genetically modified soya bean oil but this is a much more expensive process. E-471 is the most commonly used emulsifier in the food industry. It can be found in biscuits and amongst other foods, Black Forest gateau mix, cakes, hot-chocolate mix, aerosol creams, shaped crisps, quick custard mix, packet dessert topping, dehydrated potato and sponge puddings. It is used where the foaming power of egg protein needs to be retained in the presence of fat and in baked goods it prevents the loss of water from starches.
E341 is Calcium phosphate. This commonly comes from animal bones but can also come from marble/stone dust. It is used in self-raising flour, baking powder, cake and pastry mixes, cakes and other pastry products.
The E-numbers which are definitely not for vegetarians are Ჰ, 441,542, 904, 920 and also Leucine and Spermaceti/Sperm oil which have no number.
E-120 is Cochineal/ Carminic acid/Carmines Natural Red 4 ? a colouring agent that makes food pink or red. It is found in alcoholic drinks, fruit pie fillings, jams, many sweets and even cheeses. The red is derived from the crushed bodies of pregnant scale insects..
E-441 is Gelatine which is used as an Emulsifier / Gelling Agent
You may not find this E number 441 on food ingredients listings anymore because instead of an additive, Gelatine has now been classed as food (made of animal skin and hoofs). All types of gelatine are animal based and can be found in dairy products like yoghurts, plus many kinds of confectionery, jellies and other sweets. Therefore the word gelatine will appear.
E-469 is Sodium Caesinate. It is used as an emulsifier, stabiliser & binder, derived from cow's milk.
E-542 is Bone phosphate ? is used as an anti-caking agent made from the degreased steam-extract from animal bones.
E-631 is Disodium inosinate. E-635 is Disodium 5'-ribonucleotides ? Both are used as flavour enhancer and are from animals and fish.
E-904 is Shellac ? Used as a Glazing Agent, it is a resin secreted by an insect called the lac bug Laccifer lacca Kerr . The insect is killed in the process of commercially obtaining shellac .
E-910 is L-cysteine and E-920 is L-cysteine hydrochloride? Both are used as Improving agents. They are produced commercially from human hair and feathers. L-cysteine is used as an additive in all large commercial bakery products.
Once you get used to reading product labels, you'll have no problem finding vegetarian foods. Remember , even if a product contains only the tiniest amount of an animal ingredient, it means the deaths of millions of animals in order to service the biscuit manufacturer . Watch out for changes - such as 'new and improved' - on food labels, which may mean that the formulation has changed, and further scrutiny of the ingredients is required.
If you're not sure what ingredients are used in the food, write and ask the manufacturer, and if animal ingredients are used and the dots prove false, then the manufacturer and distributor can go to jail.