Sugar in the Philippines is usually made from sugarcane. Though it comes from a plant, sugar is surprisingly not vegan most of the time. This is particularly true for white sugar, which is the most common type of sugar used in cooking and baking.
The reason why white sugar is usually not vegan is because of how it is refined. The refining process calls for bone char, which is carbon made from the bones of cattle. Bone char is used in the sugar industry as a decolorizing agent to strip raw sugar of its natural dark brown color.
Since unrefined sugar is naturally dark brown, it is important to note that what we call brown sugar is still not vegan. Brown sugar is just refined white sugar with molasses, a byproduct of processed sugar, added.
Confectioner’s sugar, a finer and quick-dissolving type of sugar, is also non-vegan. It is refined white sugar mixed with cornstarch.
What then is vegan sugar?
Vegans with a sweet tooth have their options. Sugar can also be made with sugar beets, which does not use bone char when processed. Coconut sugar is also an option, but it is expensive compared to regular white sugar.
Muscovado sugar, sometimes called raw sugar, is another option for vegans as it does not need to be refined, thus skipping the use of bone char.
This does not mean that all refined sugars are non-vegan. There are refined sugar brands that do not use bone char. Such brands use granular carbon as their decolorizing agent or an ion-exchange system to filter the natural color of sugar.
As a rule of thumb, consumers can scan the packaging to see if their sugar is certified as vegan. This will save them the hassle of needing to check how their sugar was made.