1. News & Issues

Vegan Doritos - Just Ask

By May 25, 2010

Follow me on:

Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos

Yes - vegan Doritos!

I try not to be a junk food vegan, and I'm trying to eat more raw foods. But when a friend told me about these vegan Doritos, I could not resist.

The Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos, in a purple bag, are vegan. They are spicy and sweet and have that distinctive powdery Doritos texture, and they are very yummy. But what about the "natural flavor" listed in the ingredients? I called Frito-Lay, and they told me that there are no animal products in the natural flavor and that the Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos contain no animal products.

Corporations are usually forthcoming if you call them with a question about their products. I also called Barilla about their Tomato & Basil sauce and their Marinara sauce, which appeared to be vegan but listed "natural flavor" on the label. They told me that the "natural flavor" is one or a combination of ingredients that are already listed in the ingredients list. (Addendum: This statement applies only to Barilla Tomato & Basil sauce and Barilla Marinara sauce, and not to the term "natural flavor" in general, as explained in the next paragraph and in comment #1 from Mr. Lucas Brice, below.) Barilla also told me, "We don't have any hidden ingredients," but because the exact ingredients list is proprietary, they could not tell me exactly what the "natural flavor" is. They did warn me that the Tomato & Basil sauce and Marinara sauce are made on the same line as sauces containing cheese, and even though everything is washed in between batches, there is a chance for cross-contamination.

The news is not always good, and I'm grateful when a company is honest about their ingredients. My first encounter with "natural flavor" was actually about 20 years ago, when a friend of mine called Near East, and was told that the natural flavor in one of their rice mixes was freeze-dried beef. And before Sonic listed nutritional information on their website, I called and asked if their french fries were vegan. They are not - there is an animal product in the coating on the french fries. And today, you can see on their website one big tip-off that the fries are not vegan: they contain cholesterol.

Unfortunately, you won't always get an answer when you contact a company. I've tried four times - two phone messages and two emails - to find out whether the new Apple iPad contains coltan, but Apple does not respond.

Photo ©Doris Lin 2010, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Suggested Links:

Share on Facebook
Follow Me on Twitter


May 25, 2010 at 9:00 am
(1) Mr. Lucas Brice says:

“They told me that the “natural flavor” is one or a combination of ingredients that are already listed in the ingredients list.”

This is an absolute and utter lie. “Natural flavor” is never ingredients already listed.

…the exact definition of natural flavorings and flavors from Title 21, Section 101, part 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations is as follows:

“The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”

In other words, natural flavors can be pretty much anything approved for use in food. It’s basically impossible to tell what is in natural flavors unless the company has specified it on the label. A few of the vegetarian & vegan-oriented companies are doing this now, but the overwhelming majority of food manufacturers do not.

Why do companies “hide” ingredients under “natural flavors”? It’s considered a way of preserving the product’s identity and uniqueness. Sort of like a “secret recipe” – they worry that if people knew what the flavorings were, then someone would be able to duplicate their product.

(source: http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/faqingredients.htm#natural)

May 26, 2010 at 12:13 am
(2) Doris says:

Hi, Lucas,

Thanks for your comment.

You are correct that “natural flavor” can be just about anything natural. But it is possible that the natural flavor in the Barilla sauces is something that is already listed on the label. There is nothing in the definition of “natural flavor” that would preclude it from being something already listed on the label.

I’ll update the post to make it clear that that paragraph is only about Barilla.


November 20, 2010 at 9:35 am
(3) Mr. Lucas Brice says:

You’re free to believe what you like, but if it’s already on the label, the manufacturer isn’t going to re-list the same ingredients as “natural flavor.” Sorry, but that dog don’t hunt.

May 7, 2013 at 5:40 pm
(4) Benjamin Green says:

How are these vegan…..when it has regular sugar and Dextrose in them? Because, both of them aren’t pure. So, in other words…….they both have been ran through a bone char filter!!!
So, these aren’t vegan……they are vegetarian!!!!!
Please you guys……..get your facts straight okay!!!!
ThankYou.……Vegan Nation☆〜(ゝ。∂)

May 9, 2013 at 12:09 am
(5) animalrights says:

Hi, Benjamin,
Not all sugar is run through a bone char filter. Where did you hear that they use bone char sugar? I think it’s possible that they did, but I haven’t heard definitively either way. I’m comfortable calling these “vegan” because most vegans don’t avoid sugar, there is no bone char in the sugar, and there are so many animal products involved in producing vegan food, processing and packaging it. Even fresh, raw fruits and vegetables are sometimes coated with beeswax or lac resin.

June 11, 2013 at 6:41 pm
(6) Brige says:

Best way to avoid this is not to eat any packaged foods. I got extremely tired of guessing the ingredents, so I said forget it. Make everything myself, which isn’t really that hard. You don’t have to be a chef to do it, just get recipes from the web.

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.