Your assertion of your dietary habits being a staunch vegetarian may be challenged by the most popular and readily available ‘junk’ foods in the market. Even products with the green circle bound by a square in the same colour – a mark for vegetarian products may be questioning your life-long assertion!
It has long been a marketing strategy to promote a product highlighting only its positive points while keeping the negatives under wraps. As per the norms set by different countries, food product manufacturers are required to mention certain products that have been proved to have a questionable impact on the health of people. The problem, however, arises when these companies often hide such ingredients under the garb of difficult names and numbers. For example, MSG or monosodium glutamate, a very dangerous preservative and flavour enhancer, found in a wide variety of foods like ready-to-eat noodles, chips, soy sauce, Chinese food, powdered foods etc., is marketed under the code name 621 or E621. So, even the customers who are aware of the adverse effects of the chemical may be consuming this because they are unaware of the number code.
The average person has no way to figure out if a given food chemical comes from an animal, vegetable or mineral. It is difficult even for someone with a chemistry background because nearly every substance that food companies source from a slaughterhouse is derived from either protein or fat which can easily get confused with proteins and fats derived from plant sources.
MSG, for example, is made using Bactosoytone, which uses a catalyst enzyme derived from pig intestines in its production (5best.in/foods-vegetarians-should-avoid/). Since the enzyme is used too far back in the process, it is considered to be irrelevant in the actual product as it doesn’t affect the molecular structure. But it is the whole idea of using dead animals in vegetarian and vegan products that has sparked controversies across the globe. People are urged to be more aware about the ingredients in food items especially the processed ones. Other items like chips, biscuits, namkeen etc. also contain high quantities of hidden flavour enhancers.
A multinational company had rolled out a version of a very famous ready-to-eat noodles without MSG; but if seen closely, you will find that it contains Disodium glutamate, which doesn’t contain Bactosoytone, but is often derived from dried fish and seaweed.
Other commonly used flavour enhancers in the so called ‘vegetarian food’ are E631 and E635 i.e. Disodium inosinate and Disodium 5′-ribonucleotides respectively, which are almost always derived from animal sources such as fish, meat and pork. They are used in some of the most popular and readily available national and international brands of chocolates and biscuits. (http://healthybliss.net/the-truth-in-food-labeling-food-additives-to-avoid-hidden-sources-of-msg/)
So, whether you are a vegetarian or not, it makes sense to be aware of what you are eating and ingesting on a daily basis. It is a consumer’s right to know the ingredients being used in what they eat to take care of their health. In today’s day and age where everything is deceptive and has a hidden agenda, you need to be extremely careful about what you take into your bodies.