This holiday season offer your guests/hosts wine and beer free of pesticides, fish bladders and beaver anus!?


That’s right! Some big label names actually could be using beaver anal glands in some ciders! And that’s not the only surprise…I also discovered that many high street wines are made using animal-derived ingredients such as fish bladders to assist in the processing of the wine and beer! This is particularly the case in the UK.

The most commonly used ingredients are isinglass (a very pure form of gelatine from sturgeon fish bladders) used in cask beers and Guinness, gelatine (extract from boiled cow’s or pig’s hooves and sinews), Protease (Trypsin/Pepsin) (Derived from porcine or bovine pancreas), egg whites (or albumin) and casein’s (a protein from milk).

While these products are used as processing aids in the “fining” or filtration part of wine-making to help remove solid impurities to end up with a clearer, brighter wine, most of these animal derivatives are filtered out of the wine before it is sold, although small traces may remain – STILL YUCK!

The use of animal ingredients in the creation of the wine makes them unsuitable for consumption by vegans and such ingredients are completely unnecessary. Vegan wines are delicious yet use alternatives such as bentonite (a type of clay) or a derivative from algae to fine their wines. Nevertheless, industrial companies producing large amounts of wine for the high street cut corners by using the cheapest methods possible. For example, in France, the most common fining agent is egg whites, producing more expensive wines, while gelatin is less expensive and thus used to make wines cheap. One ounce of gelatin can clarify 1,000 gallons of wine. I certainly don’t mind paying an extra few quid to save myself from ingesting drinks made from pig’s hooves and cow’s pancreas!

Alcoholic drinks are not required to state their ingredients or the processing aids used in their production on the packaging.hiding

Turns out that in the UK, where milk, eggs and fish are normally required to be listed as allergens on food or drink packaging, the use of such products in drinks is exempt from this requirement.

The European Union regulations allow for more than 50 different flavourings, additives, preservatives and agents to be added to wine without having to be labelled! Only sulphites, which are used as preservatives and have a possible causal link to asthma and headaches, have to be listed on labels – JUST INSANE!

I decided that if the beer and wine companies are not required to tell us what exactly we are drinking and how it’s been made,  that this was a case for Food Girl to investigate!

My investigation however lead me to understand why these companies don’t want to be labeling their products – the additives that go into beers, ciders and wine certainly do not make for attractive reading; fish bladders, sulphur, bovine pancreas, pig’s hooves, ascorbic acid, and even flavourants added to premium fruit beers which could host a number of undeclared (but legal) ingredients such as beaver anal glands commonly labelled as  “natural flavouring”. – I may just pass out from shock!

beaverbuttdeliciousCastoreum (beaver anal gland) is just one of the ingredients that can be called a “natural flavour.” There are many other things called “natural flavours” that can go into your food and drink.  Starbucks for instance was using actual beetle juice to colour their strawberry Frappuccino’s until it got out and the public backlashed seeing Starbucks discontinue the use of beetles in their products! The problem is it’s near impossible to know exactly which ingredients are actually being used because the food companies won’t tell us because it is fully legal for them to keep it to themselves!?

But it doesn’t end here! Some beers add caramel colouring which sounds quite innocent – who doesn’t like caramel right? Well think again…The Newcastle beer company confessed prior to its insolvency that it was using what I consider one of the most contentious of all food additives. For most beer companies, to achieve a beers golden or brown colour, they use toasted barley, however in some cases, such as with Newcastle beer, it is coloured artificially by heating ammonia and sulphites under high pressure, creating carcinogenic compounds proven to cause cancer in the liver, lungs, and thyroid when tested on animals! In other studies is has also been linked to hyperactivity, damage to genes, slow growth, enlarge intestines & kidneys, may destroy vitamin B, and is linked to gastro intestinal problems.

This investigation has become quite a chore as many companies refuse to divulge their ingredients claiming it isn’t by-law to label them. So to avoid drinking wines and beers tainted by carcinogenic, beaver anus, fish bladders and greater amounts of sulphur, go for the organic-vegan branded versions. Plus, by going organic you avoid synthetic pesticide residue and help to protect the environment as organic grapes and barley are grown sustainably.

According to, organic wines are made from grapes grown and processed using methods that keep chemical intervention to a minimum. Nevertheless, they have pointed out that organic wine is not necessarily totally organic as sulphites are still required to protect the grapes from fungus, as well as to preserve and stabilise wine in the bottle.

The difference is however, that organic wines contain approximately 1/3rd less sulphites. This has been suggested why organic wine has a reputation for being hangover-free! Bingo!

Some people worry that organic-vegan food and drink will be flavourless and dull – but don’t judge until you try them! As James May admitted in his tour around the world learning about wines, that some of the organic and biodynamic wines he tasted were

ozandjames-716946among the best! James had also once tutted at the idea that an organic wine could be delicious. He certainly did not believe they could be tastier than conventional wines. However he soon experienced the process and the taste himself and was pleasantly surprised. Watch Oz and James’s Wine Adventure in Napa Valley @ Frogs Leap Organic Winery for his reaction.

German Beers are also a good choice as the Germans have protected the purity of their beers through the enactment of “Reinheitsgebot” (or now know after its revision in 1993 “Vorläufiges Biergesetz”) which requires all German beers to be produced with unadulterated ingredients such as water, hops, yeast, malted barley or wheat.  No additives or other ingredients are used when a beer is brewed according to the Reinheitsgebot, although certain artificial brewing aids such as PVPP (polyvinylpolypyrrolidone) can be used as long as they are filtered from the finished beer. So it still isn’t 100% free from unnatural additives as some remnants can remain.

Another good tip is to choose beer that contains living yeast. Beer that contains living yeast in the bottle may be relatively natural because harmful additives or preservatives that may be present would kill the yeast.

Additionally,  by choosing Craft or Microbrews beers you not only support smaller, local businesses, but many of them will more than likely follow traditional brewing methods – meaning less chemicals and processing. Plus they will more likely be open to offering how they produce their drinks and what has gone into them. However, make sure these companies are truly a small local plant and not one that has been bought up by a larger high street company trying to appeal to all markets, which has been happening quite frequently as companies are struggling through the recession.

And most importantly remember drinking alcohol of any amount can be damaging to your health, so please drink responsibly. If you have any recommended organic/vegan/biodynamic wines and beers you’d like to share with the rest of us please comment below or share with us on my facebook page with a picture of the bottle! Cheers!


Food Girl Approved Drinks:

A Food Girl twitter follower suggested some fine British organic/biodynamic wines and beers that they thought we’re particularly good. Try Sedlescombe vineyard, St Peter’s organic Ale and Ashridge organic cider.

Frog’s Leap Organic Wines

frogs leapCan be purchased at:

Hennings Wine Merchants

AG Wines

The Wine Society

Blonde Lager


This organic lager is made with English barley, German yeast and Admiral hops. It has a crisp,

fresh flavour and is lovely on it’s own and with food. This lager is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Red Kite Ale

few beersFreedom Lager

Yellowhammer IPA

Whitstable Bay
Samuel Smith’s Pale Ale
Samuel Smith’s Pure Brewed Lager

Samuel Smith might be better known for its Nut Brown Ale and Imperial Stout, but this English brewery makes organic beers, too.

Available at

Food Girl’s Favourites!!!

 Domaine Bousquet Reserve Malbec, 2011/12 -Organic



Oodles of fruit wrapped in vanilla oak.

There’s no question that this is Malbec wine but there is a smattering of other grape varieties in here too: Cabernet Sauvignon (5%), Merlot (5%) & Shiraz (5%) which adds additional substance to the wine. Aged for ten months in solely French oak (rather than a combination of American and French), which is generally accepted to deliver a more finesse and subtle flavouring and this works well in this wine which is fantastically intense and has flavours of black fruits, spice, caramel, chocolate, liquorice, fig and much more besides.

Silver Medal – Argentina Wine Awards (2011 vintage)
Gold Medal at Decanter World Wine Awards 2013 – ***** Stars (2012 vintage)

Sancerre Blanc “LesCaillottes”, 2012 – Organic and Vegan



Really classic and classy Sancerre, full zesty grassiness and really pure fruit.

It’s a bit of a Christmas time winner as it’s delicate enough to be served before

your meal yet there’s enough body to dish it up with all but the richest of starters.

Cheaper Alternatives (but still high quality and delicious!):

Tupungato Malbec, Domaine-Bousquet, Argentina, 2012 –Organic and Vegan


cheaper malbec

This represents an opportunity to taste some seriously good wine-making at a reasonable price.

As with the Bousquet Chardonnay, there’s a desire to let the quality of the fruit speak for itself,

so the wine is aged in oak for just six months before being put into bottle. This means that you can

pick up the vanilla and spice that the oak brings without losing any of the fantastic black plum,

blackberry and dark cherry fruits for which Malbec is famous. A gutsy plate of pasta will work a

treat with a glass of this.

Pinot Grigio Piave DOC,’IMusicanti’ Pizzolato 2012 – Organic and Vegan


pinot grigio

This Pinot Grigio has a straw yellow colour. On the palate, this is delicate, pure, elegant and very refreshing

There are many fantastic organic, organic-vegan, vegan, bio-diverse wines and organic beers out there that are delicious, so explore and try them out! Below are some handy sites that I use/have found that offer a wide selection at reasonable costs.

Organic, Vegan, Biodynamic,  Beer & Wine Suppliers

Abel & Cole – The Greener Grocer
Tel: 08452 62 62 62

Ethically sourced organic fruit and vegetables, bread, milk, meat, wine and much more! We deliver to many parts of the UK – check our website to see if we deliver to you.

Ethical Fine Wines
Cambrian House, 51 Broad Street, Chipping Sodbury, Bristol BS37 6AD
Tel: 01454 313300

Ethical Fine Wines sources quality wines from all over the world that not only taste delicious but are also produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way.

Nothing But The Grape
Hungerford Park, Hungerford, Berkshire, RG17 0UU
Tel: 01488 68 37 17

We are a small independent wine importer specialising in hand made organic wines. We select our wines with care and we taste personally. Every wine we sell, we sell because we believe it to be the best in its class.

Buy Organics
54 Broadcroft Avenue, Stanmore, Middlesex HA7 1PF
Tel: 0208 952 1424

The finest organic products on-line, natural skin care, toiletries, cosmetics, eczema remedies; pregnancy & baby, clothing; mattresses, herbs & spices, wine & beer, gift ideas. Ethical, organic shopping made easy & safe.

Hennings Wine Merchants

AG Wines

The Wine Society


Posted on November 23, 2013, in Consumer Behaviour, Food Crimes, Labelling, Organic and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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