No beetle juice, beetle juice, beetle juice


The Sainsbury’s hummus horror

The news that Sainsbury’s hummus is longer vegan shook the world of social media – well vegan social media anyway. Then the news that is was – well most of it anyway, made everybody calm down – except those who still don’t know….

Sainsbury’s response on Facebook now suggests it actually vegan is – except for the Lemon and Corriander variety and the “vegan” stamp is being restored.

Apparently, the hummus only contains lemon JUICE – not bits – the response doesn’t say whether waxed lemons are used for the juice – I’m guessing, and hoping, not.


The rest of the world asked “how can hummus not be vegan?” And what caused the anger in the first place? Well the world of shellac is still worth exploring…

Anything is possibly in these days of perfect fruit…

So what is shellac? And What’s it got to do with lemons?

One word – bug juice.

Shellac is secreted by lac bugs on trees in India and Thailand. People scrape it off trees and use it to polish wood – or citrus fruit– I kid you not.

It is used on fruits to prolong its shelf life and has also been used to coat sweets and pills. It has an additive number of E904.

And Sainsbury’s were said to have removed the vegan stamp from their hummus because the lemon juice it contains itself contained shellac.

So, how come shellac isn’t vegan?

Many will argue that any product taken from living beings of other species is not ours, and therefore, it shouldn’t be used by vegans.

Thought Co’s website ( ) expands on this: “The beetles secrete the resin on tree branches in Southeast Asia as a protective shell for their larvae. The males fly away, but the females stay behind. When the flakes of resin are scraped off the branches, many of the females who remain are killed or injured. Some branches are kept intact so that enough females will live to reproduce.”

According to an article by Ramesh Singh, Department of Zoology at Udai Pratap Autonomous College in India ( ), 300,000 lac insects are killed for every kilogram (2.2 lbs.) of lac resin produced.

In other words, it not only puts the bugs’ larvae at risk, it also kills many of the bugs – so, definitely not vegan then.

But what has this got to do with supermarket hummus? Basically, they’re using lemons coated with shellac to provide the lemon juice for the hummus, as the lemons now contain an animal product, this means the hummus is no longer vegan. In fact, some may argue, it is not even vegetarian.

The mainfact to consider is that most citrus fruit sold in UK supermarkets is coated with shellac – it’s used in nail polishes too, incidentally.

In other words, it’s a hidden ingredient that is found in the most unlikely of places – even in hummus – sometimes. It does bring into question the morals of supermarkets – the number of vegans is growing, and so are the number of vegan products available – so does it really pay them to “unveganise” some of their products? Why coat apples and lemons in bug juice? Is a few days of extra shelf life or a glowing Cox really worth it?

But, those who use nail varnish seem to be most at risk of having shellac in their cabinet at home.

Of course, there are other places to find hummus, soit gives meand excuse to tell you how you can make your own. Here’s the recipe I’ve used:

For the recipe I use, you need:

200gm cooked chickpeas (about one drained can)

2 Tablespoons of light tahini

2 Tablespoons of lemon juice

1 Table spoon of olive oil

2 Tablespoon of water

Some garlic (powder or a clove or 2 crushed – depending on taste)

Black pepper.


If you’re using a blender, simply blend the lot together (excluding the paprika) – adding more oil of water if you want it thinner or creamier. If you don’t have a blender, mash the chickpeas until they are completely creamed and mix in the other ingredients (again, excluding the paprika). You can then sprinkle the paprika on top to make it look even more appetising – maybe mix it with a little olive oil first to give it an extra twist. You can even put aside a couple of whole chickpeas to use as decoration if you’re serving it to others.

As I mentioned above, you can experiment by using different oils and flavour combinations – why not caramelize some onions and mix that in? To do this, simple slow cook the onions in a little olive oil. It adds a great flavour to your hummus, I promise.

Alternatively, you could try mashing up some broad beans or peas to add some greenery. For some of these combinations you may need to add a little more water or oil to prevent the hummus from becoming too thick – but some people like it thick, it must be said. The recipe is just a rough guideline, experiments with quantities so you get the right taste and consistency for you. And, of course, why you dip in it is down to you – celery, carrot, crisps… I also use it instead of marg in sandwiches sometimes.


The only vegan in the office


Being a vegan at work can be hard, well, work.

Even with the 4 billion per cent rise in veganism (figures curtesy of the Leave Campaign and Diane Abbott), many people just don’t “get it”.

“But what do you eat.” Food mainly.

“You can’t even eat eggs?” Even eggs? Most people don’t actually die from a lack of egg consumption.

“Don’t you miss bacon?” No I don’t miss a fried slice of pig skin too much.

And so on.

To be fair, many people do try hard.

My former employers used to ask about vegan options on the menu for Christmas meals out. One restaurant forgot to get vegan cheese in and offered me a vegan alternative – and a free round of drinks for my table! Everyone wanted to be friends with the vegan that night.

But I did once go to an Italian restaurant whose vegan option was a pizza without cheese – that actually turned out to be a base with tomato sauce on it and two bits of asparagus. I like asparagus, but two pieces a pizza topping do not make.

But people do forget that it goes beyond diet sometimes. We won’t bet on the Grand National, go dog racing, give to Cancer Research etc etc.

Sometimes explaining these things can get a little bit tiresome – but when that happens, remember that it gives you an opportunity to explain your stance. In effect, you are being asked to be a “preachy vegan” – so go for it. You never know, you might open someone’s eyes.

I asked people on social media for their experiences. One Facebook friend mentioned how friends were raising their child vegan and said this on the ill-informed response she received: “Apparently, it’s ‘borderline child cruelty to impose veganism on someone who can’t think for themselves.’ Like animals can think for themselves, yeah?”

Somebody else had slightly more positive experiences: “People at my office are generally pretty good – and interested in talking about veganism. My boss is ace and has sourced me Vego bars for Easter and vegan cider for Xmas. However, I wasn’t able to go to the Xmas meal as they had a really rubbish vegan option – so it’s not always at the forefront of people’s minds. Also, people always bring in cake for their birthday and I can never eat it.”

Personally, I like the response from one office worker, who said: “My boss’s response “well there must be other normal vegans out there because you’re quite normal”.”

You see, we are normal!

Canteens were another issue, with many vegans bringing in packed lunches even when this facility is available in a workplace. One worker had this to say about company-provided food: “For the last company event I asked in advance if a vegan option could be possible. They ordered me 6 dry bread rolls. Compare that to the treatment I got when I recently visited our sister company in Sweden – they had informed the hotel in advance, arranged a vegan lunch for me every day and had informed the restaurant where we had an evening function that a member of the party was vegan and planned a menu for me.”

To be fair, the first time I ever encountered avocado was at a training event where a vegan meal was provided for me.

Several vegans I asked on Facebook said they were known as “the vegan” at work – something I find a bit laced with prejudice, although it can be done affectionately.

The most blunt response I received was from a builder friend: “Try telling someone you are vegetarian or vegan on a building site it’s almost as bad as telling them you sh***ed their granny the night before.” Quite!

It was also pointed out that “Case law has shown that veganism is a protected belief.” Something that is worth remembering if you get bullied or singled out in the workplace.

One respondent in charge of tea and coffee had been using soya milk instead of cows’ milk for months before anybody noticed… It’s worth checking that nobody has a soya allergy before doing this, however, the same applies to nut milks.

It is a bit difficult when someone brings a smelly McDonalds into work, the same applies to Tuna or egg, all of them smell like hot death to a vegan’s sensitive nostrils. To the death eater, we are a bit weird. Being a bit weird is generally OK you know – especially considering the alternative.