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Vegetarianism in the News

July 17, 2002 -- Vegparadise News Bureau

Lanolin-laced Soymilk Hits the Supermarkets: the Vitamin D3 Story

The world has functioned quite well with seven continents until this year when two conglomerates combined their efforts to add one more, 8th Continent. A joint venture of Protein Technologies International and General Mills, 8th Continent is gearing up to flood the American market with its new laboratory creation--soymilk that won't be labeled vegetarian.

Protein Technologies International, creator and worldwide marketer of Solae brand soy protein and soy fiber and developer of this soymilk, has been a division of Dupont since it was purchased by the giant chemical company in 1997.

Skeptics who wonder what kinds of products would emerge from joint efforts of General Mills and Dupont would find some of their answers on the labels of 8th Continent soymilk. No one should assume that a soymilk is vegetarian or vegan.

When we called General Mills Consumer Information to inquire if this soymilk were vegetarian, we were informed that the product was not vegan. The representative first stated that it contained lanolin. When we asked what the lanolin was for, he responded that it was in Vitamin D used to fortify the milk. "The lanolin is from wool fat," he said.

In Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina, the authors point out that Vitamin D can be from animal and plant sources. Vitamin D2 is derived from plants like some mushrooms, certain seaweeds, and yeast. "Ergocalciferol, commonly referred to as vitamin D2, is commercially produced from yeasts by irradiation," the authors say.

"When a fortified food or supplement label says 'vitamin D3 or "cholecalciferol,' that means the origin was animal (generally fish, but sometimes from sheep wool, hides or other animal parts such as cattle brains). Often milk or margarine, which may be thought of as vegetarian products, will contain vitamin D3 of animal origin. We have even found supplements that are labeled 'vegetarian,' yet contain Vitamin D3; upon further inquiry, the suppliers were surprised to realize that the Vitamin D used was of animal origin. Occasionally a soymilk can be found that uses D3 instead of D2, though most have chosen the D2 (plant) form and clearly list D2 on the nutrition panel."

To make the product more attractive and tasty, the manufacturer has added color and natural and artificial flavor as well as sugar and salt. The label does not indicate the source of the color or flavors. Information about color and flavors are proprietary and does not have to be revealed by the company. Nowhere on the label does one see the words "organic" or "non-GMO."

In contrast one can purchase Westsoy 100% Organic Non Dairy Soy Beverage that has only two items on its ingredients list: FILTERED WATER AND WHOLE ORGANIC SOYBEANS.

Uncowed by the dairy industry that has tried to prevent producers of rice and soy beverages from using the word "milk" in their products, 8th Continent is calling their product "soymilk." In 2000 the National Milk Producers Federation wrote to the FDA claiming that soymilk is mislabeled. "The law says you don't got milk if it doesn"t come from a cow," said a spokesman for the milk producers group.

Packaged in 8 oz. and 32 oz. blue plastic bottles, 8th Continent soymilk comes in three flavors. The original (plain) version contains 3 grams of fat (none saturated), no cholesterol, 170 mg sodium, 8 g of carbohydrates, 7 g of protein, 6 g of sugar, and1 g of dietary fiber.

The vanilla flavor is higher in sugar (10 g) and carbohydrates (11 g). The chocolate beverage adds much more sugar (21 g), more carbohydrates (23 g), more sodium (190 mg), and a small amount of saturated fat.

The small size sells for $1 while the quart size is $2.

Ingredients in the original flavor are listed below:

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