Rice Krispies are a popular breakfast cereal produced by Kellogg’s, the same company that produces other popular breakfast cereal brands such as Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes. First produced in 1927, Rice Krispies are characteristically made of crisped rice with hollowed-out walls that give the cereal its crunchy texture. Aside from Rice Krispies being a breakfast cereal brand, the food item is also commonly used in many other dishes and other food products as well.
Although Rice Krispies is primarily made of seemingly vegan ingredients. However, the rice crisp cereal brand is most likely non-vegan. Rice Krispies fall under the same issue as other cereal brands that are fortified with vitamins, especially vitamin D. Since the majority of commercially produced vitamin D is made from sheep’s wool, this means that a cereal fortified with vitamin D like Rice Krispies is unlikely to be vegan.
Primarily made of rice and sugar, it is understandable that Rice Krispies can be easily assumed to be vegan. Unfortunately, there is much evidence to believe that the rice cereal brand is probably not vegan.
Many vegans believe that when a product is fortified with vitamin D, that automatically means that the product is not vegan. There is much reason to believe that. Although there are indeed vegan ways of producing vitamin D, the majority of vitamin D currently being produced is not vegan. This is because the most common way to produce vitamin D is from extracting the vitamin D precursor from sheep’s wool.
Thus, Rice Krispies are probably not vegan due to vitamin D fortification.
Aside from vitamin D, there are some vegans that would not choose to eat Rice Krispies due to the sugar. Sugar is a commonly debated gray area ingredient in the vegan community because of the uncertainty of how it is produced. It is known that some sugar companies use a certain animal product when processing their sugar. Sugar produced this way cannot be considered vegan, but it is difficult to determine if the sugar people are consuming is produced this way or not. Thus, many vegans avoid sugar generally to stay on the safe side.
The list of ingredients of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies includes (1): rice, sugar. Contains 2% or less of salt, malt flavor. Vitamins and minerals: iron (ferric phosphate), niacinamide, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), folic acid, vitamin D3, vitamin B12.
Aside from the original Rice Krispies flavor, other variants exist (2) such as Cocoa Krispies, Frosted Krispies, and Cookie and Crème Krispies. However, this article will focus the discussion on the original Rice Krispies variant.
Sugar is an integral ingredient in cereals and a commonly used sweetener across the food and beverage industries. Conventionally extracted from plant sources such as sugarcanes or sugar beets, sugar can still become non-vegan depending on how it was produced.
After extracting the sugar from the preferred plant source, it is already fit for human consumption. However, sugar companies often further refine the sugar to make it more appealing to the consumers. These further refinement processes make the sugar whiter and finer. There are various processes used in the sugar industry to refine sugar, but there is one in particular that vegans take note of.
Filtration is one of many processes used in sugar refinement. Sugar juice is passed through a filter to remove non-sugar components, thus increasing the purity of the resulting sugar product. Different filtration methods are available to the sugar companies, but the issue vegans have with sugar is that some companies use bone char – the charred skeletal remains of animals (3). Although bone char is a cheap and effective material for filtration, the sugar produced with bone char can no longer be considered vegan since it is an animal product.
The problem with the use of bone char in the sugar industry is that not all sugar companies do it which makes it difficult to trace which companies do so. Furthermore, it is even more difficult when determining if the sugar used in a certain product is vegan or not because the information needed is not easy to come by. More so, some food and beverage companies can have multiple sources of sugar which makes it even harder to trace.
Thus, sugar is considered a gray area ingredient because of the uncertainty that surrounds it. However, the issue is more prominent for vegans in the US because the practice of using bone char in the sugar industry is more prevalent there. Vegans from other parts of the world are not as worried about their sugar being produced with bone char.
The body requires many materials to maintain itself, grow, and develop. Nutrients that are required in large quantities are called macronutrients – these consist of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids. On the other hand, there are micronutrients that the body requires in trace amounts. These include vitamins and minerals. Although the body requires vitamins and minerals in very little amounts, deficiencies in these nutrients are detrimental to the human body.
All vitamins are necessary and are welcome in the diet. However, vegans are wary of vitamin D.
Most vitamins are considered essential which means that they are only obtainable through the food people eat. However, vitamin D is unique in the sense that the body can technically produce it. The body can produce vitamin D using the energy from the sun. UV radiation is absorbed by a cholesterol located in the skin. The UV radiation changes the shape of the cholesterol and promotes its conversion to a form of vitamin D.
Vegans are concerned about vitamin D because the vitamin has a long history of being commercially produced using animal sources. In the past, commercial vitamin D has been produced from various animal brains, spinal cords, and livers. Fortunately, those methods are considered to be cost-ineffective by today’s standards. However, modern methods still use animal products. Modern vitamin D production involves the extraction of a cholesterol from sheep’s wool which is then industrially converted into an active form of vitamin D (4).
Advancements have been made in vitamin D production and there are some methods that do not entail the use of animal products. Research is being conducted on a synthetic version of the vitamin. There are also some companies investing in biotechnologically produced vitamin D produced by lichen.
Unfortunately, since the majority of commercially produced vitamin D comes from sheep’s wool, it would be difficult to believe that breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin D are truly vegan.