What is lactic acid?
Lactic acid is a substance that bacteria produce during fermentation.
Lactobacillus and Streptococcus cultures produce lactic acid. Foods such as pickled vegetables, jams, frozen desserts, baked goods, and most dairy products all contain lactic acid.
When manufacturers add lactic acid to the foods, the role is to act as a pH regulator and food preservative.
When is lactic acid not vegan?
If the lactic acid derives directly from fermented dairy products or meat is not vegan, but mos vegan will not be eating these foods anyway.
Fortunately, most of the added lactic acid in the food industry comes from beet sugar or corn starch fermentation. Therefore, the products containing lactic acid are vegan.
However one should take into consideration that certain types of added lactic acid may originate from the byproducts of animals. For example, some lactic acid may come from bacteria feeding on lactose ( a sugar found in dairy products).
However, once the lactic acid is in its final form the chemical structure is identical regardless of the original source of the carbohydrate. There will be no remnants of the animal product in it.
Manufacturers do not need to disclose the lactic acid source for their products, so unless it has the Vegan Logo, the consumer needs to contact a company directly to find out whether it is vegan.
Vegan lactic acid production
Many manufacturers use corn starch or beet sugar to produce lactic acid.
The process of creating lactic acid involves bacteria breaking down carbohydrates for energy, which is known as fermentation. During fermentation, the bacteria feed on glucose (sugar) for energy and produce lactic acid as a byproduct.
The bacteria that manufacturers may use to create lactic acid include:
What plant-based foods contain lactic acid?
Many plant-based foods in grocery stores contain lactic acid.
Some of these include:
- Sourdough bread
- Jars of pickled vegetables
People can also ferment their own foods at home if they want to consume lactic acid bacteria.
Some suitable vegetables include:
How to know whether the source of lactic acid is vegan?
The Vegetarian Resource Group state that most lactic acid is from plant-based sources.