Why Is Vitamin D3 in Cereals Not Vegan?

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Summary:

  • Vitamin D3 can be vegan (derived from lichen), but the majority of it is not.
  • Most vitamin D3 comes from lanolin (oil in sheep’s wool) – an animal product.
  • The wool industry employs many cruel practices, which is why wool and its oil are not vegan.

The vast majority of vitamin D3 added to supplements and foods these days is not vegan.

This is a shame, because vegan vitamin D3 can also be derived by an algae-like plant called a lichen, which is what vegan vitamin.

All of the best vegan vitamin D supplements, just like non-vegan vitamin D supplements, are D3 and come from lichen.

How Most Vitamin D3 Is Made

Most D3 is derived from oil in sheep’s wool (called lanolin). Lanolin is added to many food and non-food products (e.g. aquafor).

Here’s a brief description of the process from a research paper, just so you have a credible source:

It is produced commercially by extracting  7-dehydrocholesterol from wool fat, followed by UVB irradiation and purification.

You might think “what’s the harm in extracting it from sheep’s wool?”

At first it doesn’t seem so bad, but animal abuse is common practice in the wool industry.

Barbaric practices like “mulesing” are widespread procedures, where a slice of flesh is carved off sheep in order to prevent infections from forming or festering. You can read more about it in my post on why wool isn’t vegan.

SUMMARY

Bottom line: Any wool product, including lanolin-derived vitamin D3, is not vegan.

Is Vitamin D Added to Fortified Foods Vegan?

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Look at the box of Cheerios (or most cereals) and look at the nutritional facts.

You’ll like see that there’s vitamin D near the end of the ingredients list. Most cereals add vitamin B12, and often vitamin D along with it to fortify the food.

Typically, this is a combination of plant-based D2 (not as useful for the body) and animal-based D3.

So is it vegan?

Technically, no, if you’re a strict vegan.

But most vegans and organizations like PETA and the Vegan Society say to not worry about it. It’s such a small amount, and it’s added to a lot of foods which can make it extremely difficult for some people to avoid.

You’ll have to make your own call, I can’t decide for you. 

SUMMARY

Some vegans are okay with the small amount of animal-based vitamin D3 added to certain foods like cereal, while other vegans are not.

Which Cereals Have Vitamin D3?

Almost all cereals are fortified, which means they typically have non-vegan D3 in them.

This is far from a complete list, but here are some cereals I’ve looked at that have D3 in them:

Basically, if it’s a widely popular brand that you likely grew up with, it probably has vitamin D from an animal source in it.

If you’re just starting to go vegan, I wouldn’t worry about it. Otherwise, you should take some time to think about whether or not this will bother you.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

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