Is Your Sugar Vegan? by Jeanne Yacobou from The Vegetarian Research Group

This is a great article on sugar refinement.  And, it has made me rethink each and every sugared beverage I’ve ever eaten… not to mention the candy, pastries….

Image courtesy of Suat Eman /
Image courtesy of Suat Eman /

Is Your Sugar Vegan?
By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS

In 1997, The Vegetarian Resource Group published an article on sugar refining, focusing in particular on the char derived from cow bones that is used as a filter to whiten cane sugar during the refining process. In this report, The VRG revisits the issue of bone char use in the sugar industry, examines emerging practices for refining sugar, and discusses alternatives to sugar refined with bone char.
Where The Sugar Industry Stands Today

The sugar industry’s practices haven’t changed much over the past decade. The same large American cane sugar companies that were operating then are still in business and have bought out smaller operations in the United States. There are a few small cane sugar companies, but there are really only two large cane sugar enterprises—Imperial/Savannah Foods (Dixie Crystal) and Florida Crystals. Florida Crystals owns American Sugar Refining (Domino Foods) as well as the C&H Sugar Company, both of which now call bone char “natural charcoal.”

The two major companies refine most of the sugar sold on store shelves in the United States. The majority of this sugar is produced and consumed domestically, although some of the sugar sold by American Sugar Refining is purchased from Australia or Brazil. (By comparison, much of the sugar in packaged products sold in the United States is imported.)

The U.S. companies still use cow bone char as the preferred filter for cane sugar. The exception is a plant that American Sugar Refining owns in Yonkers, NY, which uses an ion exchange system that cost $30 million. Their refining process is quite different and involves liquid sugar that cannot be filtered through bone char. Jeffrey Robinson, Technical Director of American Sugar Refining, said the Yonkers, NY, plant is only the company’s fourth-highest producing plant of five plants, yielding approximately 4 million pounds of sugar per day. On another note, Paul Caulkins, the Corporate Quality Assurance Manager of Imperial/Savannah Foods, said his company is seriously looking into overhauling its filtering system at a price tag of $25 million because there have been recent improvements in ion exchange filter technology.

Read the rest of the article, here.


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