Operation Pancake: Undercover investigation of LA vegan restaurants484
Is your vegan food really vegan? We pull out all the stops to test 17 LA area vegan restaurants for non-vegan ingredients, and to find out why seven of them failed miserably.
NOTE: Please see update regarding Green Leaves Vegan here
UPDATE: Please check out the follow-up post from today when you’ve read this. THANKS.
From Pure Luck to Green Leaves, Vegan House to Vegan Plate and Rosemead to Taipei we pull back the covers on the seedy world of vegan restaurants, and an international supply chain that pumps eggs and milk into our supposedly vegan food on a daily basis.
Surely, a vegan restaurant is safe to eat at if I’m a vegan?
Really? Regular readers of quarrygirl.com will recall us publishing an email and photos from “Mr. Wishbone” detailing the contents of a dumpster at LA Vegan Thai with non-vegan ingredients plainly visible, and presumably used as ingredients in the food (pancakes in this case).
After we published Mr. Wishbone’s findings, several people wrote in with stories about potentially non-vegan ingredients being sighted in vegan restaurants, and one particular thread on the quarrums “Vegan Dirt” began to get rather busy, with accusations flying here and there about shrimp paste being spotted in some restaurants, and “vegan cheese” that looked and tasted exactly like dairy-based cheese being served in others.
While this blog hasn’t hesitated to call out non-vegan “vegan donuts” and non-vegan “vegan cheese pizzas” in the past, we can only make information public that can be empirically proven. Accusations and reports of non-vegan ingredients and suspect food handling (of which we get many) have to stay smoldering in our Deleted Items folder laying in a morass of uncertainty. Or so we thought until a couple of weeks ago, when Mr. Wishbone emailed again, and requested a meeting: “I have some knowledge of the food industry, and I think we can prove whether or not a food item contains certain non-vegan ingredients. I can tell you, though, it’s not going to be easy or cheap. If we meet I’ll share my ideas”. Intrigued, and under the strictest secrecy, we met up for lunch.
During the meeting, Mr. Wishbone outlined an ambitious plan that would enable us to test for common non-vegan ingredients (eggs, casein [a component of milk], and shellfish) in a multitude of menu items from local vegan restaurants. The plan would be a logistical, financial and time-sucking nightmare but, if done properly, and to scientific testing standards, it would be a ground-breaking and highly reliable indicator of just how “pure” food from vegan restaurants really is. Here’s an outline of the plan:
- Locate a facility that has no traces of egg, casein or shellfish in which to perform the advanced tests
- Purchase anti-contamination equipment including industrial sterilization supplies, lab coats, uncontaminated bags, swabs, razor blades, gloves and floor coverings
- Obtain highly restricted industrial food testing “kits” only available to the food manufacturing industry
- Develop a regimented process to test each food item with the highest standards of inter-test cleanliness, ensuring that absolutely no food particles from one food item contaminate another
- Select a diverse set of menu items from 100% vegan-only restaurants throughout LA (with one exception, see later)
- Order the food for carry-out, and seal it in an airtight bag in its original packaging either inside, or very close to the point of purchase
- Transport the food items to the testing facility intact and sealed, and perform the tests within 48 hours of purchase, keeping them refrigerated until immediately before the test
- Develop a strict bracketing control, with a thorough analysis of the testing facility and equipment before testing: A negative control to ensure no pre-existing contamination, and a positive control test on a known-positive food product (containing all three target non-vegan items) to ensure that the tests do indicate positive results
- Conduct the test in absolute secrecy to ensure that no restaurant would know they were providing samples, and pose as regular customers ordering take-out food in a normal way, with no disclosure that the items would be used for a test
So, we divided up the work between us, and dedicated a Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday as well as over $1,000 of our collective money to pulling off the most extensive scientific test that we know of to find out, once and for all, if samples of restaurant food are vegan or not.
Here’s the story of what we did, how we did it and the surprising results….
The first task was to establish sources for everything we needed (laboratory supply stores, and a secret “insider” who would provide the actual tests, direct from the manufacturer, to Mr. Wishbone under strict orders of anonymity – we don’t even know who he or she is). We decided to use our house as a testing facility as it was built from the ground up with entirely vegan products and has never had any non-vegan food items inside it. Despite that, extensive preparation was conducted with a floor to ceiling deep clean using industrial solvents and an oxygen-based cleaner on all surfaces.
So, this is a food blog, right? What about the FOOD? And the RESTAURANTS?
Well, a key requirement of this operation was that all the selected and tested restaurants should offer only an all-vegan menu, so there could be no question about cross-contamination from cooking implements (kitchen dishes, pans, knives etc.). So, we set about choosing a variety of restaurants in the LA area. Initially, we targeted 20, and were able to obtain food from 17 — only because Taste of Life was temporarily closed during the time window we had allotted, and we eliminated one other restaurant (Madeline Bistro) due to location and the uncertainty of being able to remove a “safe” sample from the facility incognito. We also decided against testing food from Seed, due to it’s opening hours and location.
Using assumed names and decoy telephone numbers, we systematically called up each restaurant and ordered the food for take-out. Upon arriving to pick up the food, one of us went inside to collect, while the other prepared an airtight bag to receive the food. It was critically important to ensure that no foreign particles contaminated the items, so a new pair of surgical gloves were used each time to insert the food item into its bag, which was then sealed and labeled.
The food was then kept in a medical ice chest (the same type they use to carry donor organs between hospitals), before being transferred into a clean refrigerator in the testing facility, still in its sealed bag.
This process was repeated at 17 restaurants, and for 21 individual food items within a 24-hour period. We cannot stress enough how many precautions were taken to ensure that the food was tested under the most stringent conditions. Indeed, our testing standards met or exceeded the standards of the California Retail Food Code, sections 113982, 113984 and 113986.
The testing kits that Mr. Wishbone was to obtain could positively identify three common non-vegan allergens (hen’s egg, milk protein (casein), shell-fish), and were highly sensitive (down to parts per million, which explains our intense focus on process and hygiene), so we targeted food items that contained vegan “cheese”, vegan “fish” (including shellfish and non-shellfish), creamy sauces, breads and stuff that had an expanded, sweet, crispy or bubbly texture (often created using eggs as binders in the cooking process).
Here is a list of the restaurants and menu items we were able to successfully order, store and test under our stringent conditions. We did consider other restaurants, and when we re-test all this food (as we undoubtedly will) we’ll certainly expand the reach of this project to many other establishments.
We also reserved two complete testing sets for swabbing/testing the facility and samples of all clean equipment before any food was present, and another for a final test, conducted under the exact same conditions on a “Healthy Choice” frozen Shrimp Dinner, with creamy sauce (which the ingredient label states contained shellfish, eggs and cream).
The All-important Testing Kits
OK, so we’ve talked about the logistics of hygiene, food sourcing and all the cloak and dagger stuff, but what about the actual test kits themselves? After all, they would be the ultimate determinant of what we found.
Are there testing kits for vegan food? Not exactly. You see, a food manufacturing plant usually spends a day or two processing one food item, a day or two on another and so on, but all using the same equipment. This equipment has to be thoroughly cleaned (usually during a night shift) in between each production run. A combination of solvents, disinfectants, abrasives, steam cleaning and scraping are usually deployed on the equipment, in order to remove caked-on food particles, debris and carbonized (burned) cooked-on residue. It’s like cleaning a stove the size of your apartment three times over, once every other day. We’re talking industrial scale here, and most of the cleaning is performed by humans, so is therefore subject to errors.
A typical food manufacturing facility might be using its production line to mince seafood, whisk eggs and boil milk on Monday (for the shrimp dinner, for example), but on Tuesday will switch to making hummus using the exact same equipment. Yes, those stainless steel chutes and pipes which carried shellfish and cream one day will be used the next to carry garbanzo beans and olive oil into the same mixers which will make hummus.
The cleaning process is thorough, but the food industry in America lives in fear of lawsuits stemming from people who have allergies. As we know, a list of ingredients is not enough to protect against traces of potentially allergy inducing contaminants, especially in the eyes of the law. That’s why most processed foods one buys today have a message on the container stating something like: “Manufactured in a facility that also processes peanuts, shellfish, milk and eggs.”. We’re not sure of the legal implications of this disclaimer (if any), but it’s basically telling a purchaser that what they’re buying might have traces of those things in it, or even a whole peanut, shrimp or egg (or maybe all three at the same time!).
The testing kits that Mr. Wishbone obtained are normally used by operators between production runs in order to test that the equipment has been sufficiently cleaned, and before the next food items are loaded up for manufacture. The testing process is complex – swabs are obtained, then mixed with an agent that separates the target molecules from the carriers (example: to separate the casein from whole milk or cheese), and then mixed with buffering agents, specifically tailored to the test at hand before being soaked into a testing reagent that will indicate, through color change, presence of the items being tested within five minutes.
The whole process works in a similar fashion to a pregnancy test, where certain organic compounds work with a reagent to change its color, and thus provide a visual indication of their presence.
Of course, using these tests directly on the food items themselves, with a proper matrix and under stringent test conditions provides an ideal testing ground for highly accurate results. Swabbing a 15 foot stainless steel pipe in a factory is terribly unreliable – there could be residue of a contaminant in many places – not just the small areas you’re testing. Cutting up a “Cowgirl Pancake with Chicken” from your local vegan Thai and putting pieces of it directly into the extraction solution (per the instructions of the test) will give a much more reliable result.
The process of testing each food item was as follows:
- Thoroughly clean all work surfaces with isopropyl alcohol wipes
- Testing technicians place clean gloves on each hand and prepare testing surface with new foil sheet, razor blade and one or more testing kits for each contaminant being tested
- Open air-tight container of food item to be tested (for the first time since it was sealed in the restaurant), and carefully slice multiple small parts from the dish using the razor blade (ensure that all food items in the dish are selected for sampling, so in the case of a burger, for example, small samples are taken of the burger itself, the bun, lettuce, sauce, garnish and any side dishes)
- Finely pulverize the samples into one integrated mass using the razor blade or disposable laboratory spoon
- Follow the instructions on the test (see later) then observe and document the results
- Photograph results that show anything other than a negative reading for the compounds being tested for
- Upon completion of testing, re-seal the food sample in the original bags and discard well away from the testing area
- Remove and discard all items from previous test (foil sheet, gloves, razor blade and testing fluids, devices and clean-up materials)
This process was repeated 21 times (once before testing, then for 19 food items, and again at the end on the shrimp dinner).
After many hours of testing, several hundred photographs and pages of notes, spreadsheets and statistics, we observed that the test results were highly consistent and somewhat objective in their presentation (as you’d expect from a test — after all, one is either pregnant or not as well as one either contains eggs or not).
While it would be nice if each testing device had a “YES” or “NO” indicator, the reality is that the process was a little more complicated. There were actually FIVE possible results from the test, as follows:
- INVALID: The test was unable to function. This is due to either a manufacturing defect, or major misuse (for example, dipping the test directly into food without proper preparation). We only had one test that exhibited this result, but it was actually a good thing as it proved that the tests were self-monitoring to a degree.
- NEGATIVE: The test did not detect any of the target items in the sample provided. Of course, this isn’t a totally clean bill of health: the parts of the food we chose to test might have been “pure” but other parts we didn’t sample may not have been. Of course, a test that is designed to detect parts per million showing negative on a chunk of Pad Thai with Soy Shrimp is accurate enough for us!
- POSITIVE: This is the result we dreaded the most, in that it is open to some interpretation, given our testing criteria. A positive test for, say, casein in “vegan cheese” might mean that the cheese was handled by somebody that had touched regular cheese, or that one of its ingredients might have trace amounts of casein in it. The positive result was particularly troubling for egg products, as albumen (egg white) is used in pretty much every processed food item to some degree or another, and vegan items have to use expensive alternatives.
- HIGH: This means that the sample certainly contained some ingredients that themselves had the contaminant in them, or had become contaminated in some other way. For example, the “Orange Chicken” we tested from California Vegan registered “HIGH” for eggs. This could mean that the sauce had some egg residue in it, or that the vegan “meat” (or its crispy batter coating) contained egg ingredients. What’s sure, though, is that a HIGH reading pretty much states that eggs are present in some measure.
- OVERLOAD: Open and shut case. The food has the contaminant as a major ingredient. Somebody is using dairy cheese, egg whites (or yolks) or shellfish.
Fortunately, the test results polarized between NEGATIVE and HIGH, with only a few POSITIVE results, one OVERLOAD and one INVALID.
Not every food item was checked for every potential contaminant. For example, the M Cafe Tiramisu dessert was checked for egg and casein, but not shellfish. Talking of M Cafe, we included two menu items from that restaurant mainly to test for contamination within the kitchen. M Cafe is not a vegan restaurant, but it is macrobiotic, meaning that its food offerings are entirely plant based, except for some fish options.
The M Cafe Garden Sushi Roll (one of our favorites) is probably prepared in the exact same space that the fish sushi rolls are prepared in, so we thought it valid to test for shellfish contamination through kitchen implements and work surfaces. The Tiramisu was tested, honestly, because we didn’t believe that something could taste THAT creamy and be vegan!
As with any “sudden death” testing scenario, we’ll first eliminate those restaurants and food items that tested negative for all three contaminants. Of the 17 restaurants, 10 had a completely negative score for shellfish, casein and egg: Flore, Vinh Loi Tofu, Truly Vegan, Vegan Glory, Vegan Express, Vegan Plate, Real Food Daily, M Cafe, Native Foods and Leaf Raw Cuisine. Congratulations to those restaurants, but vegans should note that we were unable to test for whey ingredients with these tests, and just because they passed our tests doesn’t mean they will be vegan for you. Also, the results here are not to be relied upon for critical applications or decision-making such as allergen avoidance, medical conditions, religious practice etc.
One restaurant, Pure Luck, was singled out as suspect because it had a POSITIVE reading on one test for one menu item, the Baja Fish Taco, which consists of two corn tortillas with a creamy sauce, soy fish steak, lettuce and salsa. This is a popular dish at Pure Luck which we’ve eaten many times.
While testing a clear negative for shellfish and egg content, the taco did register as positive for casein. The sample solids were from all food ingredients in the taco as listed above, homogenized into a mush which was then tested, so it’s not possible to determine the actual ingredient within the taco that registered for casein. Was it the soy fish steak itself (Pure Luck confirmed they buy these from a supplier called “Healthy Times”, and they may have less stringent quality control or not be disclosing all ingredients)? Or perhaps the creamy sauce which has milk-based products as one of its ingredients? Could perhaps even be the corn tortilla.
After the initial positive test, we sanitized the testing area, unpackaged the food item again and removed samples from a different part of the taco. Again, the test showed a clear positive result.
We’re unable to determine why the test showed a positive, but please read the explanations and disclaimers section at the end of the post which do provide some general insights and potential reasons. We will continue to eat at Pure Luck, but will be avoiding the Baja Taco.
The next group of restaurants had food items that tested HIGH for one or more contaminants. A HIGH reading indicates that the food item has a derivative ingredient that contains the contaminant. For example, the crispy coating around Orange Chicken might have a binder that’s egg based used as an ingredient. Five restaurants were in this category: Vegan House, Lotus Vegan, California Vegan, LA Vegan Thai and Vegan Joint. These restaurants are all Vegan Thai in style, and have many common food items between their menus.
In all cases, the HIGH readings were for egg content, and with two restaurants (LA Vegan Thai and Vegan Joint) both also testing POSITIVE for casein. The HIGH readings on egg were for four distinct food items: Pancakes, Chicken, Bacon and Fish. From this, we can imagine that pancake mix containing egg was used to make the pancakes (remember: Operation Pancake got its name from that very first non-vegan pancake dumpster dive), and there’s a disturbing trend that crispy soy chicken (of the type usually sliced into quesadillas and fried into orange chicken) contains egg.
It’s highly likely that these restaurants use the same food supplier for meat substitutes, so the egg may be an undisclosed ingredient (again, see the end of the post for some explanations), although the pancake issue is somewhat suspicious as pancakes have to be made from scratch or a mix on the premises.
One thing that did stand out was that the Soy Fish Sandwich from Vegan Joint, which tested POSITIVE for casein – had exactly the same result as Pure Luck. Could it be that these were purchased from the same place, or that a common ingredient in Soy Fish is milk-based? We would love to know. The soy fish steaks themselves did bear an uncanny similarity between each restaurant.
Another item of note was a POSITIVE result for casein in LA Vegan Thai’s Cowgirl Pancake. This was the only dish we tested that had “vegan ham” in it, and it could be that an ingredient in that was registering positive.
CONCLUSION: Following such consistent results, it is perhaps wise for vegans to avoid meat substitutes in vegan Thai establishments, sticking instead to tofu and seitan derived ingredients. Soft tofu is much more likely to be vegan, and is usually a lower calorie and lower sodium alternative to a meat substitute.
The Big Time Loser
The last restaurant on our list, Green Leaves Vegan, stands out as being the only one tested where a food item registered OVERLOAD. Before we get to that, though, Green Leaves, in common with the other restaurants above also registered HIGH for egg content in both its chicken and fish dishes that we tested. We are assuming that is because of an egg-based ingredient that’s used in the meat substitutes.
We tested the item described on their menu as “Quesadilla: Vegan Cheese – Casein-free (non-dairy) melted vegan cheese on Flat bread (Flour Tortilla)”. This has been a menu item of some debate historically, where vegans have questioned the management in Green Leaves about the cheese they use, as it tastes thick and fatty and also stretches like casein-based cheese (in fact, it’s the casein that makes cheese stretch). As soon as we began to extract samples from the quesadilla, we noticed something different. The “vegan cheese” had solidified into the flatbread and did not appear starchy like vegan cheeses usually do. Also, there was a greasy and smelly residue underneath the food item. Upon extraction and testing, an OVERLOAD reading was obtained immediately from the cheese. We re-tested using sample cheese from a different part of the quesadilla, and obtained the exact same result.
It is clear that this menu item had casein-based cheese. Not only did the test confirm an overloaded presence of casein, but the consequential evidence of stretchy cheese and even the smell (real cheese has a noticeable smell not present in current vegan cheeses), grease residue and general texture of the food item indicated that this was not vegan.
There has been much debate about Green Leaves Vegan in the vegan community, and it appears that they are clearly misleading vegans on this, and other menu items. We recommend avoiding this restaurant, and telling your friends about our findings.
Conclusion on Test Results
While these tests show some very specific results, and were conducted under laboratory conditions, they are really a snapshot of the moment in time and may not be completely representative. If we were to do the tests again today, would the results be the same? Could conditions at the exact time we bought the food have a bearing on the outcome?
Let’s use an analogy of a speeding ticket. Say you’ve never gone above the speed limit in your entire life, until the ONE time you do a cop pulls you over – fact is you were still speeding. Conversely, if you speed constantly, and the ONE time a cop has his laser trained on you, you happen to be going at the speed limit you will escape a ticket.
It could be that some terrible kitchen accident at Green Leaves meant that on the day we tested them somebody bought the wrong cheese. It might be that the person who cleaned the kitchen at Pure Luck brought a slice of pizza in from home, and ate it in the kitchen without proper cleanliness. Conversely, another restaurant might routinely use meat substitutes with egg derived ingredients, but for some reason didn’t on the day we tested them. Who knows? We certainly don’t, and the tests clearly can’t be held accountable for false results under such circumstances.
What the test results seem to confirm, though, is that the meat substitutes available at vegan Thai restaurants are suspect, as are the ingredients used in some specific food options (pancakes, quesadillas and more).
We can also confirm, sadly, that some restaurant owners are intentionally misleading their customers with knowingly non-vegan ingredients. Just like the lying staff at Lucifer’s Pizza, Green Leaves Vegan also either intentionally misleads vegans every day, or is seriously mistaken when it describes its menu items to its customers.
Here is a chart of the full results from all the food we tested:
The Positive Control
Our positive control was a delicious-sounding “Creamy garlic shrimp dinner”, kindly donated to the project by an omnivorous co-worker. This test was completed at the very end, in order to ensure no contamination of other food items. The test registered OVERLOAD on both casein and shellfish, and POSITIVE for egg. Although we would have expected OVERLOAD for egg, the ingredients show that egg whites were used only in the pasta so there would have been trace amounts in the food.
Getting to the Root of the Problem
Feeling that we were on to something here, we decided to go “up the chain” beyond the restaurants to their suppliers, as many restaurants purchase their supplies (especially fake meats, many of which which cannot be manufactured in a typical restaurant kitchen) from a local bulk supplier. Just as a restaurant owner might visit Costco once a week to purchase toilet paper, they will also visit places like “Bodhi Vegetarian Supply” in Rosemead, CA to get their “veggie meats” and other ingredients. Bodhi Supply has stacks of freezers FULL of fake “veggie meats”, including all the variants you would typically find as ingredients in dishes from the restaurants that tested positive for egg and/or casein.
Posing as owners of a new LA area vegetarian restaurant, we arrived at Bodhi and asked to speak with a customer service manager. We were quickly introduced to a helpful lady who was ready to advise us on what products to buy. She was either the manager or the owner, and most definitely the senior person on-premise at that time.
She showed us to a freezer of “veggie chicken”, and we checked the ingredients on the label (all vegan). We asked her why some products have a better mouth texture than others, even though they have no eggs listed as ingredients, and after a long conversation and questions, she said the following:
“We buy most of this veggie meat from a manufacturer in Taiwan. It’s produced for the Taiwanese and Chinese vegetarian market then re-labeled for export, often to the USA. I do know of times when things have been labelled incorrectly, but I do my best to make sure that what they send me is what they say it is.”
Upon further questioning, she kindly gave us the email address of her contact in Taiwan. She specifically asked that we didn’t mention Bodhi Vegetarian Supply when we contacted them, and so we’re not disclosing the name of the manufacturer here.
From Rosemead to Taiwan
Posing as a potential US importer of allergen-free veggie meats, we emailed the Taiwanese manufacturer and asked whether their products could contain casein, whey, egg or milk without being listed on the label. We engaged in a an email exchange and we were also able to speak with somebody in the US who worked in the restaurant business in Taiwan for many years. The results of these interactions are paraphrased below, with with our emphasis in [square brackets]:
- In the Taiwanese and Chinese market [where most of these products are made and sold] vegetarian customers are only concerned with meat ingredients and not bothered at all if egg or milk ingredients are included [this is due to religious reasons in many cases, typically to accommodate Buddhists, who are often not vegan]
- Sometimes the ingredient listings are not 100% inclusive of what’s in the product [we asked what things are usually added but not labeled]
- Sometimes eggs, fish flakes and milk might be added but not on the label, and we never include ingredients of all the additives – there would be too many
- The veggie meats are re-labeled for the western market, usually by a non-English speaker who is translating the bulk ingredients list manifest, so there are many occasions where the translations were not correct. Also, the labels are small in size, and rarely have enough room for all ingredients.
- If the ingredients change due to cost or availability the list manifest isn’t always updated, and we only revise our translated labels when we introduce new products
- Most of the time, the “veggie meat” products contain egg albumen because the isolated soy protein base we purchase comes that way from the manufacturer
- There are few labeling regulations in Taiwan and they are rarely, if ever, enforced. We usually list the ingredients we put into food directly, but if if we’re using something from a third party we don’t always list the ingredients in that. It’s just not important in Taiwan.
So, we had just been told in no uncertain terms that egg-containing isolated soy protein COULD be used as an ingredient in veggie meats that were labelled appropriately for the Taiwanese market (ignoring the fact that eggs, in this case, were present in them). We can also assume that the egg ingredients were not written onto the label, as the original ingredients of the soy protein were not available at the time of labeling, and even if they were they would have been ignored as being irrelevant for the local market.
While none of this proves that non-vegan ingredients found their way from Taiwan to our local vegan Thai restaurant, it does show a suspicious chain of events, half-way around the world and well away from US FDA labeling requirements.
So, we decided to do some research into the matter and began with the Taiwanese media. Google led us to this recent story right away: “Over 50% of processed foods for vegetarians contain meat”, which we found to be absolutely shocking. After all, if vegetarian foods contain MEAT (in this case pork and beef), who knows what else they could really contain. So, we thought it would be worthwhile confronting the Taiwanese government directly on the issue.
We placed a call to the “Department of Health, Executive Yuan, R.O.C., Taiwan” (www.doh.gov.tw) and were directed to the “Bureau of Food Safety” and specifically a Dr. Yi-Pin Kao who could answer our questions in English. While we could not get an “on the record” conversation with a Taiwanese official, we were informed that new legislation is about to be enacted in order to deal with what is apparently a known issue. We were referred to the Taiwanese media for details.
Unfortunately, little of the information we sought is in English but we did manage to find two highly reputable news sources (the Taipei Times and China Post), each of which a published a corroborating story about this new legislation, which (purely coincidentally) will be enacted on Wednesday July 1st, 2009 – THIS very Wednesday! The Times post (Labeling rules tightened) explains the introduction of new legislation to fine food producers who don’t accurately label their products. The China Post article (All vegetarian products must have detailed labels starting from July 1) pretty much speaks for itself.
The esteemed “Earth times” also has similar coverage (Taiwan to enact world’s strictest law on veggie food labeling), which again emphasizes the new legislation.
It seems that at the moment we were conducting our research, one of the results of which would be to expose a major flaw in food labeling requirements in Taiwan, the government was about to introduce legislation that would hopefully help to reduce the problem significantly.
Remember: MOST, if not all, of the fake meats you buy come from Taiwan.
The Bottom Line
If you want to eat an entirely vegan diet where there’s no chance whatsoever of any non-vegan contamination, the only way is to grow your own raw materials, and prepare them at home, “seed to plate”. That’s not practical for most people these days, so we place our trust in establishments to prepare food for us, hopefully to reasonable standards of non-contamination.
For most people in LA, though, vegan dining is one of several food options on any given evening. I’ve heard non-vegan people say things like “Shall we have sushi or vegan tonight?”. Walk past any of the restaurants we’ve mentioned in this post, look in the window and we bet that a tiny minority of the people inside are actual vegans, committed to the lifestyle of eschewing any animal products. The rest won’t care much about some egg or milk in their food, and that majority are the ones being catered to in the LA vegan dining scene.
Sadly, there are people out there ready to take advantage of any minority, particularly the operators of vegan Thai establishments who have a long and dubious record of serving non-vegan food items.
Green Leaves Vegan, though, stands out and is most deserving of shame.
REMINDER: Please check out the follow-up post from today when you’ve read this. THANKS.Tags: operation pancake
omg.omg.omg. fuckingstunned. thank you so much for exposing all of this!!!!!!
Wow, very informative post. That was some amazing work you did.
I’m glad to see Vegan Plate, Vegan Glory and Native Foods seemed ok. I’ve been suspicious of the fake meats for a while. Bummer!
WOW! I could make jokes like, “Don’t you have a hobby?”. But I do understand the seriousness of this. I’m not surprised about products imported. We all know that the USDA has different standards than the rest of the world.
Shouldn’t vegans be also trying to eat locally produced food? OR at least food made in the US I know I prefer that. I hope when you go back and do Taste of Life, that you find nothing!
I am not vegan but a vegetarian so I don’t feel like my rights personally have been violated but your’s have and I’d hate to think the nice folks at Taste of Life have been cheating!
Wow. Thank you for all your hard work behind operation pancake.
thank you for this!
you guys are incredible. seriously. everyone needs to BOW THE FUCK DOWN.
green leaves and their “vegan gourmet” can suck it. i’ll protest, give me a date and time.
Daaaaang! I highly suspect the “veggie meat” (one reason I’m not in to mock meat) & had planned to link that recent article, until I saw you linked it. Good work!
That’s weird, I always thought the “fish” at Pure Luck was just tofu with some seaweed stuck on it! Never seemed fake meat-y to me.
And fuck Green Leaves, it was over a year ago that I noticed their cheese stretched and they brought out an unopened package of FYH cheese to show me. That cheese is NOT FYH and it’s NOT vegan. They KNOW about casein and they’ve been blatantly lying about it for over a year.
I’m glad Vegan Glory/Vegan Plate (same family, I think) tested negative, at least for one dish. They’re the only vegan Thai place I’ve felt comfortable eating at, though as you’ve pointed out, even a well-meaning restaurant could be ordering faux meats with shady ingredients lists. I usually stick to tofu anyway! Thanks for doing all these tests.
[...] http://archives.quarrygirl.com/2009/06/28/undercover-investigation-of-la-area-vegan-restaurants/ [...]
Sorry… forgot to say great post – can’t wait to read your next one!
First, thank you so much for going to these extraordinary lengths for the vegan community. We owe you a huge debt of gratitude.
Secondly, I’m sad to say that most of these results do not surprise me too much. We’ve all heard rumors about places like California Vegan and many of us have seen uncharacteristically stretchy “vegan” cheese. I am, however, glad that Native Foods and Real Food Daily were clean as expected.
Now what are we going to do about all this?
Amazing post. Before leaping to the angry mob justice, how about a followup post where you interview the owners of the offending restaurants? They may be completely unaware of deception from their suppliers.
thanks for this
while contacting the company Vege Usa I recieved this interesting bit of info
I can tell you from now own experience that I see and read packages that
are from Taiwan and the English does not match the Taiwanese as to what
the ingredients are. Some only list in English the first five or six
ingredients and they leave off the others, if they were to list all of
them some of these items would not be vegan, but the English on them
give you the impression that the product is vegan .
Anyway, we US lab test our products so even though I know what the
ingredients are from Taiwan, I also need to have a back up for my US
customers; and most would not accept a test from a foreign country as
Bottom line, I have on file all US tests on all items manufactured and
we list all the ingredients in the product.
Thanks for asking and I will mail out the information, today.
What this all leads me to believe is that the mock meats that are out there from Non US sources are not to be trusted. So its probably a safer bet to stick with the tofu when dining out, and just make deiciou seitan at home.
Isn’t the bottom line really that processed food is shit? It should be avoided by anyone, regardless of food philosophy.
If you’re vegan and don’t want to get caught out with this stuff in your food then dine at restaurants that actually prepare and cook their own food.
Vegan/vegetarian meat substitutes are russian roulette.
Hey thanks for all your hard work!
When I became a vegan I took a realistic approach. I know that it’s pretty much impossible to be 100% vegan all the the time. There are just too many processed and manufactured products in the modern world to be able to avoid all of them. I always read the ingredients of what I buy and order at restaurants and keep up with vegan issues and news. So I do my best to be free from animal products and I’d guess that I am 99%+ of the time.
I don’t get out to eat very often so I’ve only been to four of the listed restaurants and only had one of the tested items. Since I usually like tofu and tempeh over mock meats I don’t think your test results will change my eating habits much but it’s good to have more concrete evidence about the food at vegan restaurants. I think that your investigation shows that the problem with animal ingredients in “vegan” labeled food is more of an industry wide problem and the blame doesn’t lie entirely on the restaurants.
After the new laws are in effect I do hope that the mock meats coming from overseas will be much more clearly labeled for vegans and vegan restaurants to be able to discern. I’d love to feel more comfortable eating at vegan restaurants without worrying about any gray area “vegan” meats and cheeses. There are a few interesting points in the Earth Times article that show some cultural differences too.
Pure vegetarian refers to food which does not contain meat, egg, milk or plants including onion, garlic or leek, which are spicy and considered unclean and bad for meditation. They are banned for strict Buddhist practitioners. Vegan, on the other hand, may contain the “unclean” vegetables.
The new rule also bans food manufacturers from labeling food as vegetarian if it is fermented – like chilly sauce – and its alcohol content exceeds 8 per cent.
P.S. Your “50%” link wasn’t working but I think this is the article:
yeah, i’d love to see interviews with the owners. i’d think true vegan proprietors would be pretty outraged. they probably have an interesting perspective on it.
I think places like Madeline Bistro (not too many asian style foods) would do pretty well. I’m happy that Vin Loi was okay – I wonder how much is actually made in house there?
I’d like to add my thanks for your investigation. I’m so glad to have found your blog. You do such a great service to the LA vegan community! I know we all appreciate it
wait… i just reread this… do you think green leaves is just using straight up cheese? they are *so* lucky they haven’t been sued.
thank you both for doing this! I almost ate at green leaves yesterday but at the last minute went elsewhere. Thank my lucky stars. I’m allergic to dairy (in addition to being vegan) so who knows how sick I could have ended up! I love you anyway but now O really love you for what you do for LA vegans!
Thanks so much for this investigation.
You did a fantastic… wonderful research job.
Thank you for sharing it with the world.
Thanks so much for performing this hugely valuable public service.
Your post not only exposes specific instances of carelessness and outright deceit. By digging deeper, you’ve also provided readers with an education in how some of our food gets from “Point A” to “Point B” and how critical information sometimes gets lost in the process.
You’ve also raised larger questions about how the food industry is regulated, especially in regard to combined foods coming from overseas. What the hell else is in there?
On a personal note, I’m heartbroken about the Orange Chicken at California Vegan. It was one of my favorites!
Thanks again to all three members of Team Quarrygirl for your dedication (not to mention your substantial personal commitment of time and money).
Thanks also to Mr. Wishbone for bringing this remarkable detective story to your door.
I am eager to see if some of the restaurants change the ingredients in their offerings, or delete entire menu items altogether.
I don’t have high hopes for the Vegan Thai places, but I bet Pure Luck will axe the tacos until they can get replacement ingredients.
Also, for a little background for those in the dark, somebody should post the whole history of Vegan Thai in L.A. (aka the Pia Saga).
Wow! Your findings are scary but truthfully I’m not that surprised. Eating out is a scary endeavor for anyone and why should it be any different for vegans! All I can say is buyer beware!
I’m glad that my beloved Flore passed though
This is a fantastic article! Thanks so much for doing this legwork.
For those asking for interviews with the owners I don’t think they would be as apt to do them, or as apologetic as you think in many cases. I touched on this topic for LA Metblogs a few years ago and employees and owners I spoke to were antagonistic at best and at least the ones I talked to knew full well the stuff they were selling labeled “vegan” wasn’t. I even had one person tell me that “vegan” is just a marketing word for “vegetarian”.
Wow! I came across this post thanks to Twitter and am so very glad I’ve found it! I had been hearing rumors about fake meats in restaurants not actually being vegan, but wasn’t sure how to investigate it (I’ve long avoided the fake chicken), and resigned myself to tempeh and occasionally tofu. Now there’s no way I’m going to eat the fake stuff! All this highly processed soy isn’t good for people anyway, so even more reason to avoid it.
Thank you again so very, very much for the time and effort you have put into this! You’ve made me a loyal reader, in Portland, OR.
No wonder I can’t get in to the QG discussion board this morning. Full of traffic resulting from your amazing expose!
Thanks QG & Co. for all your hard work exposing the truth. Sucks for folks w/allergies. Damn that Green Leaves. Definatly on top of the s*** list with Pure Luck now! So glad to hear my fave Truly Vegan and of course Native Foods are clean.
Wow. If anything, this test confirms that vegan dishes look positively unappetizing.
WOW!!! Who needs the LA Times when quarrygirl is out there doing such amazing investigative journalism? Way to go, super sleuths. No more mock meats for me. .
I applaud your efforts. Well done! Now – where do we but land to grow our own vegetables!?!?
Again, because I don’t tell you this enough, but I love you guys. Seriously.
Also: Now that I’ve met Foodeater, it’s high time we had a vegan meal together, Quarrygirl! LET’S GET VEGAN PIZZA SOON.
Wonderful investigation and presented so well! This is just plain wrong. Especially that 50% figure on processed “veggie meats” actually containing MEAT. I don’t regularly include mock meats in my diet but I can’t help but wonder if in one of the times that I did, I was actually eating meat. Makes me sick to think about it.
I’ve been exploring the seed to plate idea. I started a veggie garden a few months back hoping to minimize my carbon foot print and eat organically. I’ve also started participating in a CSA box so I get my vegetables straight from a farm in Bakersfield. I’m trying to stick pretty close to vegetables and not depend on some processed foods and this just drives that home. You really don’t know what you’re getting out there especially at a restaurant.
Hmm. I sort of expected the vegan thai places and Green Leaves would lose out in this experiment! I wish you had tested the caesar dressing at Pure Luck. It’s SO creamy and good! My friend and I are fairly sure it’s made with silken tofu, tahini, lemon juice, etc, though.
Even when I was an ovo-lacto vegetarian, the allegations of using non-vegan ingredients in vegan restaurants upset me. Sure, I COULD eat the ingredients, but the lying part really bugged me. If, in fact, it’s lying and not just being mistaken, like it clearly is at Green Leaves. FYH cheese my ass!
I think there’s huge concern for those with allergies, especially egg and dairy allergies who assume vegan food is safe.
I think some serious consideration needs to be given to the revelation to how many “vegan” foods are preprocessed by overseas manufacturers. Given the choice of eating a preprocessed, vegan cheese from China or (for sake of argument) a fresh, goats milk cheese from my county, I suspect the healthier choice on a personal and global scale would be the local cheese.
Granted, the best option would be a locally produced vegan cheese, but for sake of discussion, I deliberately chose an animal-based product. I submit that preprocessed anything, especially shipped from overseas, is not going to be a healthy choice.
What an amazing, comprehensive project–and such shocking results! I generally DO make all my food myself (grow very little, but only buy raw ingredients anyway like produce or grains–nothing processed). But if I have to eat in a restaurant, I choose a vegan option and tell them I’m allergic to eggs and dairy and fish (or whatever). They are generally much more careful about what’s in my food that way! I can’t wait to see the impact this has on those “positive” restaurants.
Why do vegans want to eat so many imitation dishes in the first place?
These things are notoriously over-processed to achieve a likeness.
So much starch, soy, and wheat meals go into these things — they just aren’t very nutritious.
You guys are awesome! That’s one great investigation and certainly one that has put me off certain fake meat products , thanks for all your hard work.
I am saddened by a lot of these results. I wish there could be results for every menu item …if I ever get rich, I’d be glad to fund it.
Ugh! what a bum out! My band just finished tour and I was actually bummed that we skipped LA because I wanted to check out all of the rad “vegan” restaurants! Does this mean there is going to be a new uber-vegan label for joints that are truly truly vegan? Maybe an underground railroad of vegan houses where you can go and pay the vegan resident to cook you some food?
This is a huge service to foodies everywhere, not just L.A. Thanks!
thank you thank you.
do they make a kit to test for whey?
i think thats as bad if not worse than casein for allergies.
i agree with shaunxcode, i think there should be a QG vegan certified sticker for people that pass.
when can you come down to orange county and check our restaurants?
you need to start a whole business doing this.
Wow! I knew you were up to something, but had no idea!
SO- where to go from here?
I just got off the phone with Noi from the Vegan Joint (she’s a personal friend, very honest, and wants to make sure her stuff is 100% vegan).
Her cheese is from Follow Your Heart, and the soy fish is from Taiwan. The distributor of the fish told her that there were no animal ingredients, but obviously may be oblivious as well.
My suggestion is that we find out which brands of soy products are really vegan and share this info with every restaurant. Noi will definitely switch to a new brand if it’s confirmed vegan.
ALSO, HappyCow has many connections in Taiwan, including some contacts at the major production companies. Diana of HappyCow is from Taiwan and reads Chinese. Let us know if we can assist.
wow!!! thank you so much for this!! seems like it’s mainly those vegan thai spots! i’m going to spread this around to all my friends and make sure they boycott those places!!! SHAME SHAME!!! I hope you people are reading this!!! HOW DARE YOU TRY MAKING FOOLS OF US? SHAME ON YOU!!!
VEGAN NINJA, STRIKE!
bravo, my loves, bravo. i knew all of the spying on green leaves would pay off. they really, really need to understand that they can truly get their asses sued off for this, not only for misrepresenting vegan foods if a vegan wants to raise a “religious” argument kind of lawsuit, but for all the allergy-laden people of los angeles. one anaphylatic shock would teach them a huge lesson. idiots. i’m especially pissed, although not surprised at all, since they had even gone through lengths of having “pictures of ingredients” and a huge effing VEGAN banner to reassure everyone. seems like a guilty conscience with something to prove.
these aren’t just ingredients like basil or salt; they are playing around with some of the most dangerous and common food allergens out there. can they put some arsenic in my food, too please?
better business bureau, ninja strike! i’ll send you some contacts.
just a side note, i am sure that there are some of the “losers” who have really tried to get ingredients to fit their restaurant, but green leaves KNOWS what they are doing. they have lied to my face, and when i tried to tell them kamut wasn’t gluten-free, all of a sudden pretended they didn’t speak english. they promised me over and over they would have ingredients for the cheese if i’d come back at certain times, and every time i showed up promptly on schedule, suddenly the delivery was changed, or they pretended they didn’t speak english. i jumped through hoops, coming back probably 10 times in a month to see the “follow your heart” cheese delivery case, and every time they had “just thrown it away”. follow your heart is labeled on every wrapped block of cheese, and the bulk ones are quite large rectangles. they would not be using the small little wrapped package you seen in retail stores, that others have also seen them bring out.
i have ordered it for only about 6 years for different vegan restaurants, i know what that box and the product looks like, tastes like, and is, and green leaves does NOT have it…but they WILL tell you they do.
Excellent job guys! Even as a non-vegan I am disturbed that a restaurant would mis-represent it’s menu’s ingredients.
Your stealth investigative team has, once again, done an amazing service for the vegan population at large. Hopefully, all your hard work and meticulous efforts will pay off in higher standards at vegan restaurants everywhere.
In the meantime, as much as I sound like a broken record, I’m grateful that I eschewed vegan Thai restaurants years ago. And, since vegan seafood doesn’t appeal to me, I’ve only had one small nibble of the “vegan” fish at Pure Luck.
I’m constantly impressed with and very thankful for, you…as friends and as sleuths!
Your stealth investigative team has, once again, done an amazing service for the vegan population at large. Hopefully, all your hard work and meticulous efforts will pay off in higher standards at vegan restaurants everywhere.
In the meantime, as much as I sound like a broken record, I’m grateful that I eschewed vegan Thai restaurants years ago. And, since vegan seafood doesn’t appeal to me, I’ve only had one small nibble of the “vegan” fish at Pure Luck.
I’m constantly impressed with and very thankful for you…as friends and as sleuths!
As a long time vegan for moral, ethical and health reasons, I can say that I am in no way surprised by your findings. It seems I get sick just about every time I eat out (prompting me to eat in from now on) because I am one of those unlucky people that is also allergic to dairy, eggs and almost every type of meat. I say unlucky because if I, unknowingly, had enough dairy or egg ingredients in what I ate at a “vegan” restaurant, I could die of a severe allergic reaction. Why are there not stricter U.S. F.D.A. regulations? I ask this with a heavy heart considering what a mess the food industry is. How can you call yourself a “vegan” restaurant and not have to prove it? It’s bullshit. Anyone interested in proposing a bill that calls for some kind of regulation? I’m not very eloquent nor am I versed in politics and legislation but I’m going to look into getting something done about this because I’m fucking over being lied to.
Here in Harrisburg, PA, (the state capital) there are no veg*n restaurants, not even attempting. The closest is 50 miles away.
I’m very impressed by the great lengths you all have gone through to bring light to vegan restaurant saga. I’m really glad to know what to avoid now. The vegan fish served at many restaurants has always been a favorite of mine, now I know to stay away. Unless it was made in the restaurant, and the restaurant is one you feel you can trust, there’s really no say. It’s unfortunate that some places are genuine in trying to serve vegan food and even more horrible that others *ahem*green leaves*ahem* are just plain deceitful.
Maybe at some point there will be some sort of comprehensive testing for restaurants claiming to be vegan.
Again, you guys did a really great job…although it just whets my appetite (no pun intended) for more info.
thank you sooo much, quarrygirl.
You are AMAZING. This is just blowing me away. I applaud your efforts and will pass this on to my newsletter subscribers — I’m sure some of them live in LA. ;O)
This is seriously amazing journalism. Proves that “old media” is dying. I’m a vegetarian (have been for years) and I’ve been eating more and more at vegan restaurants over the past 6 months to prepare myself for switching to veganism, which I intend to do this summer.
The availability of daiya cheese on good pizzeria pizza has been the thing to tip me over the edge. I was always one of those “I could never give up pizza” veggies, but now I can.
What shocks me, though, is that I’ve been trying really hard to eat vegan – and I’ve been in to Green Leaves, I’d say at least once a week, since February. I’ve asked them several times about menu items being vegan – INCLUDING THE QUESADILLA, which I ate only yesterday. I’m really upset that my attempts to ease into a vegan lifestyle have been wasted by these idiots.
Quarrygirl: you guys amaze me. I feel so much better about becoming vegan because I know you are there with stuff like this.
Purgatory Pizza, Daiya at Wholefoods, brunch at Flore Cafe… the list goes on of places I’d never have found without you.
BIG shout-out to all that you do. When I become vegan officially next month (after I return from vacation) I’d like to take you guys ot to lunch or dinner anywhere you like. You have seriously made my life better with your tireless coverage and entertaining writing.
I don’t live even remotely close to L.A., nor do I even live in the U.S. (I’m from Montreal, Canada), but I just thought it important to thank you for this thorough investigation. Even though this doesn’t directly affect me and my food choices as a vegan in Montreal, one thing remains the same, as you said: Most fake meats are from Taiwan, and I’ve bought fake meats here that are made overseas. I agree with @ap: it appears that “Vegan/vegetarian meat substitutes are russian roulette.” I am very grateful for the heads-up and I hope, for your collective sake, that these restaurants that had nasty results own up, speak up, and make some changes; they don’t even have to change their food item by removing the non-vegan culprits, but they just would have to label it as non-vegan. Be well!
I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time now and I love how informative it is (with a good dose of humor) but I had never posted a comment until now because I am that lazy.
After reading this post, I have no choice but to comment and thank you for bringing this fantastic expose. I am allergic to dairy, gluten, soy and it really is an eye opening to learn that some restaurants will try to cheat their customers. Knowledge is power though and I can’t thank you enough guys for all you do in behalf of the LA vegan community.
First of all let me say I read every word of this article and was greatly impressed by the thoroughness of your investigation. Thank you for doing this. This is something I have always wanted to do because I never trusted many of these fake meats.
Meanwhile I have been vegan for over 20 years. I no longer eat the fake meats but I used to. Back in 2006 I talked to the owner of a vegan Thai restaurant and asked to see the packaging from the products and also the names of their distributors. I don’t remember the exact details any more but what I do remember is that after several phones calls I found out that there was two types of chicken that were available. One of them had a non-vegan ingredient and the other didn’t. I believe the ingredient was whey but it could have been egg or casein, I don’t remember. Anyway, the chicken this one Thai restaurant was carrying was the non vegan variety. I told them and suggested they go to the other distributor and get the **assumed** vegan chicken. They said they would. Whether they did or not, I don’t know.
**Note: I say ‘assumed’ because, although there were not known animal ingredients, I don’t know for sure that the information I had been given was accurate.
But the point of my post is that The Vegan Joint was a new restaurant back then. I had just started going to them and when I had first gone there, I had asked the owner to see packaging on practically everything. I had recently found out that I had certain food intolerances so I needed to know ingredients. Not to mention I wanted to make sure all products were vegan. Anyway she, without hesitation, did all she could to help me find out the ingredients to her products. So when I found out about the non vegan chicken sold at the another Thai vegan place, I told her the type of chicken that was assumed vegan and which distributor that had it. She made sure they used only the assumed vegan option from that point on. I remember also reading the ingredients for her pancakes and clearly those were vegan. I mention this because apparently that’s been a problem at many of the Thai vegan restaurants but I am certain that is not the case at Vegan Joint. The owner of The Vegan Joint is very concerned about making sure everyone who needs to know ingredients is fully informed. She is quite aware of what can happen to people with allergies if they eat the wrong food. She also, as a vegan herself, respects other vegan’s needs for purity.
So I am certain she had no idea about the fish having
the egg and casein in it. I understand that the dish also had cheese but the cheese they use is definitely the FYH cheese so the offending item, the fish, must have both the eggs and casein. I am certain that she will do all that is necessary to remedy this.
I, of course can’t speak for the other restaurants but hopefully they will do so as well.
Again thanks for doing this wonderful investigation. This whole piece was an incredible job of investigative journalism. Bravo!!!!
Jesus. Great job. I hope you filmed all of this. You could seriously make this into a documentary. I love what you’re doing, but at what point does it end? No one I know has the capability or resources to grow their own self-sustaining food. Sure some tomatoes, lettuce etc. are possible, but most people, especially in SoCal live in apartments or homes that have barely a yard at all.
thank you very much for this work. I wish we could arrange to have you do something like this for San Francisco! It’s clear that we need an “authority” to certify vegan, vegetarian, and “organic” restaurants.
btw. you apparently do not have a donate button on your page.
im frankly devastated. especially about green leaves. i should really hang out on your forums because i have had a long suspicion about green leaves food as the staff are so defensive every time I ask about the cheese. that quesodilla is 100% real cheese and it doesn’t take a fucking laboratory test to prove it.
i love your site, and you quarrygirl, whoever you are.
yawn. any time you eat out, it’s an adventure. why not take the next step with your investigation – after all, living vegan isn’t just about food you know – does the soap in the bathroom and kitchen contain animal ingredients/was it tested on animals, what about the “pest” control policy of the restaurant, do they use glue traps or poison, does the restaurant offer delivery, if so how many of their drivers have run over squirrels or hit birds, do they encourage drivers to install wildlife-whistles on all delivery cars?
while of course restaurants should be ethical and disclose what ingredients are used, i think projecting a super-vegan image is unnecessary because it just further turns away people from our cause and does nothing to fight the industries themselves.
you do your best. that’s all you can do.
What a fucking waste of time. Get over this purity bs and remember veganism is about saving animals, not your personal OCD issues.
If this effort went into turning one person vegetarian far more lives would be saved.
Those of you who care the most about this won’t be vegan in two years anyway.
I should also add that Hefty, the bags you are using, is a subsidiary of Pactiv, the corporate giant who products include waste bags, slider storage bags, disposable tableware, disposable cookware and a billion other disposable plastic items that make their way into landfills and pollute our oceans until marine life choke on them. And in addition to that, plastic comes from oil. Oil has to be mined. Mining destroys precious habitat and has resulted in the depletion of millions of species word wide. I would also be surprised if Pactiv doesn’t have stocks/financial ties to animal testing/vivisection, or if their board members aren’t vivisectors themselves. Who knows. Should look that up too.
Be damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.
Thank you so much for this post and all of your hard work. The information that you uncovered is profoundly disturbing on so many levels.
hahaha. “mr. meaner” i have been vegan since you we’re in diapers. the environment, animals, food – it’s all inter-connected. you can’t discuss food and not bring up the other issues it relates too.
Investigative citizen journalism. Am truly impressed.
There are quite a number of people who are allergic to eggs, dairy and shellfish. It’s not about “purity” for them. Also, I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that one of the vegetarian meat products from Taiwan would contain up to 20% meat. Not to mention low quality meat. People have every right to know what they’re eating.
The lady doth protest too much, methinks. (William Shakespeare)
I understand that some of you want to defend your friends restaurant (Vegan Joint), but the owner is the best one to defend their actions/knowledge/deception whether intended or mistaken. Let Vegan Joint (and all the other tested restaurants) hop on the blog and make an official statement. I know I’d like to hear first-hand what happened, and what they are going to do about it.
As for comments like the ones Matt and Lesley left, it comes down to honesty and ethics, not “Super Vegans”, “Purity”, and “Oil”. (When you don’t have ammo in a firefight, I guess you start throwing turds. Buy some ammo or lose this gunfight)
Hefty? Pactiv? These have nothing to do with the post, and are red herrings sent swimming up to obfuscate the TRUTH… Some vegan places are not serving vegan food.
But if you insist using examples from fiction, then at least compare caricature apples to caricature apples. If Hefty told us their bags were made from petroleum products and we chose to buy them, no harm – no foul. But if they fail to disclose they are made with Kryptonite,(and specifically print on the box that they were “KRYPTONITE-FREE”), then Superman would have good cause to call them on the carpet and give them a Super-Wedgie!
If you read the entire article you would have discovered that the folks at Quarrygirl.com are not holier-than-thou vegans who refuse to eat at restaurants that serve ANY animal products. (Their praise of M Cafe De Chaya is a perfect example, there goes the “purity” argument). But they do not like to have their money taken by snake-oil salesman promising a magic cure in a bottle that turns out to be nothing but lard and perfume.
So if you do not care about: getting what you were promised and paid for; your money supporting modern animal agriculture(like the milk and egg industries), then eat anywhere you like.
I happen to think misleading those with sincere religious or health/allergy concerns is unconscionable, and I hope we can agree on that point.
I don’t mind if we have opposite opinions, but please do not try and argue a separate set of facts.
The readers of the blog know all too well that “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” (Louis Brandeis) and restaurants that feel uncomfortable under the bright light of scrutiny often have something to hide.
I cook vegan food almost every day of my life. I had my share of mishaps at the beginning, slipping up here or there with an ingredient. I’ve found that, short of calling a company/restaurant and basically scaring them into believing you have a deathly allergy, the best way to maintain a vegan diet is to DIY.
It’s incredibly lame that for us, “convenient” is an adjective we can’t easily apply to our dining choices. Vegans should never have to make the decision between trusting a restaurant to maintain our moral beliefs or interrogating the shit out of the owners. We don’t have many places that afford us the luxury of a meal out, and it would be nice to know we could have faith in the restaurants that offer us such rarities.
Thanks, QG team. At least I now know where I can eat dinner with a sense of peace.
As a long time customer of several of these restaurants, I cannot express my gratitude enough to QG, Wishbone and Mr M. As a vegan who chooses not to consume animal products, I am mostly at the mercy of restaurant owners and have nothing but their word to go on. Whether it is food or any other product/service, I do not appreciate providers mis-representing their establishments. Anyone remember the McD class action lawsuit regarding french fries? It is illegal to claim to be selling one product while supplying another. I for one would donate a small amount of money to help fund a vegan restaurant watchdog committee. Maybe others are interested in starting an action group?
The fact that some veggie mock meats have REAL MEAT, forget egg and casein for a minute, but actual animal FLESH is enough to get crazy. Some vegans are willing to take the risk of eating out while others want to know exactly what they are getting. I don’t think it’s a case of purity or being radical but being an informed consumer. There are companies I do not want to support and that’s my right as a consumer. So if a vegan wants to live by the letter, that’s his/her right to exercise purchasing power. Quarrygirl and Mr. Wishbone have done a service for themselves and others who do care about getting what they’re paying for. It’s just plain false labeling to call something vegan when it’s not. Figuring that out doesn’t make anyone OCD.
I get what Lesley is talking about with bringing environmental problems to her argument but just like there are environmentalists who are omnis even with the research done on the impact of stock farming , there are vegans and vegetarians whose reasons for their lifestyle have little to do with the environment. I think that’s every individual’s right to pick and choose what they want to believe in and how to practice it. People’s ideologies are different and where “isms” may converge for one, they may oppose for others.
A restaurant magazine came out with an article five years back talking about restaurant trends. The upcoming trend was Vegan restaurants. Restaurants which weren’t doing too well or had too much competition such as Chinese restaurants turned Vegan overnight. Vegan Glory is one such restaurant. They copied California Vegan’s menu exactly. The owners of Vegan Glory also own the sushi place next door. You have non-Vegans running some of these Vegan restaurants who own non-Vegan restaurants.
In the beginning Vegan Glory’s food was great. I was a recent Vegan so I remember the taste of meat and cheese. I ordered vegan chicken and once it had real chicken in it, skin and all. Another time it was the batter on vegan chicken. It definitely had egg in it. Over the last few years the restaurant has become more Vegan as patrons probably complained.
If you want a true Vegan meal, I’d eat in a restaurant owned by Vegans. They know, they care. It’s not all about the money for them. Fake meats, cheeses, ingredients sometimes cost more which is why non-Vegans would slip it to you. If you want to be really safe, skip fake meats, cheese and just eat veggies, fruits.
You really have done some great research here. I hope you will be able to do more. One dish from some of these restaurants is not enough to tell us much. Vin Loi has many other dishes with many other mock meats. Interesting that the fish at Truly Vegan was ok and not the one at Vegan Joint. Chickens from some restaurants seemed ok and others not. You’ve done great. It would be really helpful if funding can be gotten so you can study even more. I wonder about Vegetable Delight, Garden Wok, Happy Family, and the other Chinese restaurants that didn’t make it into the test. Let’s not just pick on the Thai.
To respond to some who seem to wonder why vegans even want to eat mock meats, some of us grew up with and like the textures and tastes. If we take a bit of the flesh of animals directly they will not have these textures and tastes. It is how the food is prepared. And some of us like those preparations. I love those textures and tastes but do not want to eat animals. Tofu doesn’t have those textures and tastes. My favorites are Field Roast, Tofurkey, Now & Zen, etc.
as a former owner of one of the restaurants that was tested (and passed…i knew it would) I agree with the following post:
“Amazing post. Before leaping to the angry mob justice, how about a followup post where you interview the owners of the offending restaurants? They may be completely unaware of deception from their suppliers.”
Often it was extremely difficult to obtain ingredient list on items from supplier without multiple phone calls etc. The restaurant business is tough.
I really appreciate the time you took for this investigation. I’m passing it along to everyone!
I really appreciate the time you took for this investigation. I’m passing it along to everyone! I’ve known about Green Leaves, but there has been so many unknowns in many of these restaurants.
matt, it isn’t about “purity bs”, it’s about these restaurants being misleading. YES veganism is about animal rights but some of us also care about our health and choose to not eat eggs, dairy, meat, etc for that reason. They can easily call their restaurants VEGETARIAN & there would be no problem, but they have chosen to go with a VEGAN label & that carries some responsibility. I think as someone who is spending their money to drive all the way to find these restaurants because they guarantee vegan food I have every rigth to be informed if they are misleading. Instead of all your negativity how about looking at the positive of all of this? These restaurants MAY think twice about the products they buy & decide to FINALLY go with a vegan product. And what does that mean????? MORE SAVED ANIMALS!!! Because even though they may be a simple Bi-product of the animal they are still being tortured for it. Again, thank you quarrygirl.com for your hard work! PEACE!!!
Seriously, you need to win a vegan Nobel prize for this massive undertaking. You can tell how ridiculously impressed I am, since this post contains no F-bombs.
Impressed, but not at all surprised. And I’ll agree that in some cases restauranteurs are just uninformed and/or trusting and/or lazy when it comes to their suppliers.
No need to test Madeleine Bistro, it’s all made there and all VEGAN!
No need to test Madeleine Bistro, it’s all made there and all VEGAN (and totally worth the drive)!
Great study! Thanks so much for doing all of this work. I’ve passed it onto the vegan playgroup I’m involved with. Spreading the word.
That’s why I’ve always had allergic reactions when eating asian “vegan meat” products! I’m allergic to eggs and always read ingredient labels, but have always been confused as to why i can’t have vegan meats. For a while I thought I was allergic to the “soy protein,” but I didn’t have any problems with american products containing soy protein. This explains it. Thank you.
I personally know the owner of Vegan Joint. She is one of most honest individuals I know and is a very sweet person. She had no idea her soy meats contianed egg or casein since the labels on the soy meat products themselves do not indicate so. If the companies they get soy meats from straight out lie how can one know there is animal products in them? The owner has put in a complaint with her soy meat vendor for incorrect labeling and is also looking to replace these items A.S.A.P. Vegan Joint is an awesome restaurant that is run by a really caring individual. Any misinformation put out was not their fault but the fault of their vendors they get their soy meats from and the issue will be resolved shortly.
BRAVO!!!! Most amazing bit of investigative journalism I’ve read in recent history! You’ve really set the standard for people to take responsibility into their owns hands and not believe a word w/o personal verification! Your bravery, personal expense, time and effort are beyond the call of duty! H E R O S in my book!!!
thanks for this! I appreciate it!
For Happy Family, I know for fact that they do import their mock meat products and they do not use dairy intentionally. My parents are one of their suppliers (not of mock meat) and friends with many of the chefs. My dad said that he never noticed them use eggs in their kitchen (he goes in their kitchen all the time). However, I don’t believe they claim to be entirely vegan. Just vegan friendly.
Um… Maybe if you’re vegan you might not want to… How can I put this?
Eat dishes pretending to be made of non-vegan meats and cheeses.
That way It’ll be a whole lot easier to avoid the non-vegan foods.
“Oh no! Someone mixed the butter up with my ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’”
Surprise = 0
Shock = 0
Probably serves you right for trying to cheat your diet = 1
If you don’t want to be vegan then don’t.
Eating mock-meat while you’re opposed to meat eating is just weird.
I’m wondering, do you guys know the brands of the mock meat products that were found to contain meat? Even if they are in Chinese.
This was a great and interesting investigation! I’m a vegetarian but try to eat vegan most of the time. This helps affirm my new resolve to stay away from fake meats. I’ll tell all of my veg friends to read the article as well!
Like sugar-free soda, decaf coffee, and margarine?
Seems natural to me.
There is something desired, and a way to satisfy that urge in a positive way.
(Those with dirty minds can insert sex analogy/examples here.)
It turns out that some of the meat used in mock meat products is actually HORSE meat.
i love happy family , but i stick to the tofu and seitan dishes. most of their chicken is made from mushrooms and wheat gluten ( the kind they sell in a can at asian markets) … i used to love the soy chicken nuggets but now im skeptical … i actually live by a veggie meat distro warehouse in city of industry.. i know they have a market inside.. maybe ill investigate
Yes Mr. Wishbone,
If you find it abhorrent to eat animal products, then eating ‘pretend’ animal products is (at least) weird.
If, on the other hand, you want to eat animal products, then… you might not be vegan.
I also believe that sugar-free soda, caffeine free coffee and margarine are all weird, fake things.
POSTED BY: MATT – 1:28pm 06/29/2009
What a fucking waste of time. Get over this purity bs and remember veganism is about saving animals, not your personal OCD issues.
If this effort went into turning one person vegetarian far more lives would be saved.
Those of you who care the most about this won’t be vegan in two years anyway.
Turning one person “vegetarian”? Should I assume then, that you are not a vegan at all? If you currently do not have problems with eating eggs and dairy then I do not expect you to understand. For the record I care a great deal about this issue, I have been vegan for nearly a decade, I will be vegan for the rest of my life and I do not appreciate you lacto-ovo-pesco-pollo-sonsapointless calling me trendy.
The bottom line here is that everyone has a right to know what is in their food. Everyone should want to know exactly what they are eating. Everyone should be informed, so that everyone can make informed purchases. If Taiwan mock-meat producers see a consumer demand for truly vegan products, and a decline in sales of non-vegan items, then being smart business people it would make sense that they will change their products to reflect that demand.
Seems to me that informed consumers voting with their money will save more animals then converting more people to egg and dairy diets.
Lesley, THEY WERE SERVING PEOPLE CHEESE!!! The place had “vegan” in the title of the restaurant and they were serving people dairy cheese. You really, REALLY find this acceptable? You honestly think calling out restaurants that lie and deceive their customers harms the cause? You know what else harms the cause? Vegan restaurants that serve cheese!
dan animal – i don’t see how liking mock meats results in not really being a vegan. i’ve been a vegan for years and i didn’t stop eating meat because of the taste. meat tastes good. it’s the fact that meat was once an innocent living being that was most likely horribly abused it’s entire life that makes me not want to eat meat. if i can get something that tastes like sausage (field roast) or a beer brat (tofurky) and it’s cruelty-free, i’m absolutely going to eat it.
You guys crack me up. Your so called “healthy” lifestyle consists of eating processed foods made in a factory containing god knows what.
So what you are saying is: ‘I don’t give a FUCK about being healthy, just save the animals!’
First off, go F yourself for making smart ass remarks.
Secondly, Vegan Joint is not serving the fish since they heard about all this and like I said in my original post they are “looking to resolve the situation A.S.A.P.” meaning looking for an alternative soy fish that is vegan.
As I indicated in my original post the owner is an extremely sweet person and she feels horrible about all this. Her only fault here was believing the labels on the soy meat products she used. It would be like any of us buying something from the supermarket that said “vegan” or did not contain animal ingredients on the label and believing what it said.
This is not the first time something like this has happened to a vegan company/restaurant where the vendor/supplier lied to their customers. It happened to a certain vegan marshmallow company a few years back and was all over the news. Some vendors/suppliers of certain so called “vegan” products may lie from time to time and it is not fair to us the consumer, the vegan restaurant nor the animals. So it’s good that this investigation was done.
greg – i don’t understand why that’s just a shocking statement.
Greg likes to pretend that our definition of veganism is his. LOLOLOLOL the hilarity!
Also, I didn’t become vegan (initially) because I hated the sight/taste of meat, so vegan substitutes work quite well for me.
OK, you think it is bad to eat ‘innocent animals’ but it’s OK to eat ‘imitation innocent animals’.
I think this idea that ‘imitation’ is OK is wrong and maybe even dangerous. Think toy guns, chocolate cigarettes.
If eating meat is repugnant to you then do not eat meat.
Pretending to eat meat is (IMHO) kinda weird.
(don’t get me wrong I support your right to choose to eat what you desire. We should all be able to know what it is we are eating.)
I just find it kinda ironic that the issue is mainly that ‘the fake meat has real meat in it’! (ie. just choose to eat some delicious legumes and rice and there would not be any problem).
man i love eating meat. carnitas, anyone?
dan animal – i assume that response was meant for me. the difference between not eating “innocent animals” and eating “imitation innocent animals” is just that – it’s IMITATION. it’s not hurting any animals if it’s vegan – and i only want to eat it if it’s vegan. this coming from someone who LOVED candy cigarettes as a kid and has never taken one puff from a real cigarette.
sure, i eat beans and rice, too. but when i have a pizza with vegan cheese i want some gardein chicken on that baby.
either way, this is just a stupid thing to argue over.
First of all, I would just like to say that the study is definitely alarming!! WE WILL REMOVE THE SOY FISH FROM OUR MENU TODAY!! Imagine advertising to people, that your products are 100% animal free, only to find out later, that they are not. We are not happy and feel that the manufacture ultimately should be the one blame here and held accountable for their content label(s). The Vegan Joint feels their could be some legal ramifications, depending on our own investigation into this particular product (Soy Fish from Vege USA). In addition, from the information provided from the study and manufactures, The Vegan Joint believes the cheese (from Follow Your Heart) is not the problem but, the soy fish from Vege USA is the problem. But, once again we do not claim to be scientist.
The Vegan Joint would like to make the following proposal to Quarrygirl.com (Mr. Meaner) and Mr. Wishbone & his team: The Vegan Joint would like to invite all parties to test other products of concern at the restaurant and The Vegan Joint will pay for the testing. We would then like our information/ results made public on Quarrygirl.com, including the manufacturer’s info, etc. In addition, we would like to assist in implementing a list of product that, we as a public, will know to have been tested and that the products are 100% animal free. The Vegan Joint would like participate in a collaborative approach to solving this problem and sharing of information amongst restaurants, experts, etc. Please feel free to contact me (Hnoi) at the restaurant 310-559-1357 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
First of all, I would just like to say that the study is definitely alarming!! WE WILL REMOVE THE SOY FISH FROM OUR MENU TODAY!! Imagine advertising to people, that your products are 100% animal free, only to find out later, that they are not. We are not happy and feel that the manufacture ultimately should be the one to blame here and held accountable for their content label(s). The Vegan Joint feels their could be some legal ramifications, depending on our own investigation into this particular product (Soy Fish from Vege USA). In addition, from the information provided from the study and manufactures, The Vegan Joint believes the cheese (from Follow Your Heart) is not the problem but, the soy fish from Vege USA is the problem. But, once again we do not claim to be scientist.
The Vegan Joint would like to make the following proposal to Quarrygirl.com (Mr. Meaner) and Mr. Wishbone & his team: The Vegan Joint would like to invite all parties to test other products of concern at the restaurant and The Vegan Joint will pay for the testing. We would then like our information/ results made public on Quarrygirl.com, including the manufacturer’s info, etc. In addition, we would like to assist in implementing a list of product that, we as a public, will know to have been tested and that the products are 100% animal free. The Vegan Joint would like to participate in a collaborative approach to solving this problem and sharing of information amongst restaurants, experts, etc. Please feel free to contact me (Hnoi) at the restaurant 310-559-1357 or email@example.com.
Fantastic work. I hope this expose serves to bring about change this time. The last one by livingvegan.org apparently did not.
I would like to remind whomever has read this far that remaining skeptical means that you neither assume that the people have been lying, nor assume unqualified honesty.
It is clear that misrepresentations have been made; we will most likely never know if those misrepresentations are deliberate.
Even if the owners made legitimate errors, nothing will change unless we make our voices heard. Simply choosing to avoid fake meat products is not enough. We can and must start by calling the restaurants and telling them that we read this post and find the items tested to be unacceptable.
I just returned from Green Leaves restaurant (after ordering the chicken quesadilla) to find an email from my boyfriend titled “you should probably read this…” with a link to this blog.
I’m sick to my stomach, to say the least.
I could reiterate many of the sentiments expressed here, but I think the most important issue at hand is: what are we going to do about it? Sure, we can avoid these restaurants – but is it not our obligation as seekers of truth to inform the uninformed? What would have happened if my boyfriend hadn’t stumbled upon this study? I would continue to eat something I don’t want in my body, give money to a restaurant that intentionally deceived me, and in turn that money would go to fund future shipments of mystery cheese from some animal exploiting company that has no business getting a cent of my hard earned cash!
How can we do our part to make sure this information is not only available to those who care, but that Green Leaves and any other restaurant unwilling to change their ways get kicked where it hurts? In the money pants! So the question is… where are all my steel-toed boot wearing friends out there?
i don’t have the time to DIY at home, so i eat out a lot….this needs to be online in the form of a website where people can quickly find restaurants that are strictly vegan….also, can anyone tell me who serves the best vegan pizza in l.a.?
I was just thinking about something at Greenleaves that has always bugged me.
When you pay at the counter, there is a bowl of hard candies. You know, Jolly Ranchers, cinnamon candies, etc. I somehow doubt they are vegan but don’t really know.
Being that hubby and I are vegetarians, the casein issue isn’t huge for us but what is an issue is misrepresentation. I love the old delivery guy at Greenleaves and I believe he is a manager there. Has anyone gone to speak with them yet?
why is a vegetarian supply store carrying meat?
To make money?
well, of course, but i don’t get why they’re calling themselves “vegetarian supply” and then selling ground beef.
Astonishing “amateur” journalism of the highest order! Kudos to everyone connected to this piece…
I think you misread the information. The Code 033 had examples including items such as ground beef, frozen fish, etc. But it does not state the specific reason Bodhi was cited, just the violation code. So it could have been something like it did not include ingredients, or the name of the manufacturer/distributor/etc.
You’d have to talk to the inspector/county to find out exactly what it was…
I’m neither vegan nor vegetarian, but after seeing Food, Inc. and reading In Defense of Food, I can’t say I’m the least bit surprised by this.
Thank you for your investigative journalism.
Maybe one thing you could write up would be a howto for vegan and vegetarian restaurants so they could check their suppliers from time to time?
Thank you so much for this study — I’m a pescetarian, but it helps me to know that I should be a little more careful, that things aren’t always as they are labeled to be.
I would love to see something like this done on some of the recent “vegan” and “raw” restaurants that have popped up here in San Francisco — it seems we are victims of the trends, too.
Though, just a note. I’ve friends who don’t get sick from eating food they THINK is vegan, until they know they ingested something containing dairy… so that’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, I think people DEFINITELY have the right to know exactly what they are putting into their mouths.
@mm and @wishbone ahhh, i see! i really just skim things most of the time
Being that the new GreenLeaves just opened up really close to my house in WeHo, I kind of hate you for even telling me this. Although I never LOVED GreenLeaves, at least it was comforting. At least my favorite breakfast place is still good, Flor. Oddly enough, the others that scored poorly weren’t favorites of mine either… If I found out that Cru wasn’t on the up-and-up, I’d probably shoot myself.
On what basis did you conclude that a ‘HIGH’ casein reading was an accurate indicator of significant amounts of casein, rather than trace amounts due to handling?
Similarly, how did you establish any sort of benchmark for the egg test, given that your control group produced an ambiguous result?
Can you post the information about where you obtained the testing kits?
The other night I had ordered some orange chicken, and the stuff came out all squishy. I was like WTF?? Then when I was leaving, I saw on the window that it was a VEGAN and KOSHER chinese restaurant. And here I thought I was getting the no meat in my meat shaft…
Sorry to hear that some of these places have been doing just the opposite. No respect, I tell you.
Were your testing implements produced without any animal byproducts? Did you drive to the restaurants (animal byproducts there)?
those kits look awfully familiar. are they from tepnel?
Regarding this comment:
“[… garlic or leek, which are spicy and considered unclean and bad for meditation. They are banned for strict Buddhist practitioners. Vegan, on the other hand, may contain the “unclean” vegetables.”
That is incorrect. That is a cultural nuance of Mahayana Buddhism practiced in China. Theravada Buddhism, practiced in Southeast Asia and following a closer adherence to the Tipitaka (the original teachings of the Buddha) versus later commentaries, has no such restriction on garlic or leek.
The Vegan Joint just wanted to update my earlier statement from 06/29/09 @ 9:15pm. I really think that in addition to having concerns with the manufacturer’s labeling of ingredients that this is an FDA issue: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/GuidanceDocuments/FoodLabelingNutrition/FoodLabelingGuide/default.htm
There are so many loop holes in the labeling of the contents in food. The only way around the labels is testing. The CPSC and FDA are constantly finding products that contain more products than are put on the labels: i.e. Roofing Mastics containing asbestos? Not on the label unless you know what chrysotile is; or a more recent issue with the seven color wonder bolls made in china. Kids at LAUSD like to put these plant balls in there mouth and watch them expand, http://www.lausd-oehs.org/docs/SafetyAlerts/09-02.pdf. It’s my understanding the governing agencies don’t even now how this particular product was getting into the US. The list could go on and on.
Just to drive home the labels should be more accurate. Testing is the only other alternative and removal of the products until we as a public feel the contents in a product “is what the labels says it is….100% animal free”. Maybe these test kits should be available to the restaurant owners so we can verify products are 100% animal free. Can Mr. Wishbone and co. make this information public or direct us?
I would also like to say, that this is a cause and effect issue and process of discovery. The Vegan Joint would like to think that we are reacting to the situation that has recently come to our attention. There is a big difference between deliberately lying about the contents in a menu item and not knowing, especially if it’s not on the label. The Vegan Joint wants to be proactive in general to resolve any and all related issues.
The Vegan Joint would also like it to be known that our kitchen is an open kitchen, if you want to see what is going into your food i.e. ingredients, than feel free to ask for me, the owner/ manager (Hnoi). I will gladly assist in trying to satisfy your immediate inquiry.
I hope you realize how ridiculous going to all this trouble to avoid even trace amounts of animal protein is. The point should be that you’re not going to avoid it entirely, no matter how hard you try. Fundamentalism should be opposed in all its forms.
I have just been texting with Andy Mars who is away directing his Los Angeles based Vegan Camp programs for kids which is what turned me vegan when I went there as a camper. He has also been on the Board of Directors of the American Vegan Society based in New York for 25 years. He wants to follow up when he’s home in between camp programs. He sends great thanks to Quarry Girl for doing this important study. He also is a personal friend of Hnoi at Vegan Joint is glad that she has joined this discussion and is taking this seriously. He is also friends with some other vegan restaurant people who he said he will follow up with when he gets back. He suspects that they will take this just as seriously. He asked me to put out the message for him that instead of boycotting well meaning restaurants that we should let the owners know and give them a chance to take this seriously too. Just like we didn’t know until now they may not have known either. If they don’t take it seriously then we can boycott them but we should give them a chance first and not hurt their businesses if they do take the right steps like Hnoi is doing. He also told me to tell everyone that he and the kids at camp enjoy a lot of mock meats not because they want to eat animals, that goes against his camp’s philosophy, but because they enjoy the textures and tastes like I posted earlier above. He said that last night for dinner they had franks and beans at the camp fire. I can tell you that I first went to his Camp Exploration as a standard American diet eating kid. The foods he served us were all vegan, and none of them are from Taiwan he said, but they fit well with what I and others liked to eat and helped me and others subtly realize that we didn’t need to eat animals themselves to enjoy the textures and tastes we liked. If it wasn’t for the mock meats I might not have as easily gone vegan. Andy’s camps, the foods he served, and restaurants like the ones in this study, are what helped me make this big step.
“Also, the results here are not to be relied upon for critical applications or decision-making such as allergen avoidance, medical conditions, religious practice etc.”
Critical application, such as religious practice…
Wow! You guys are heroes of the vegan world! I’m sure we’ve all wondered for some time about a lot of those fake meat products. I personally don’t like fake meat when it tastes too much like the “real” thing, so I tend to avoid it.
I agree with some of the posts above who say that some of these restaurants are probably as taken aback by this news as we are, and I do hope that they make an effort to change their policies. Those menu items need to come off the menu until they can find a reliable, truly vegan source.
Thank you so much for doing this work!
‘pescatarians’ make my blood boil. Is there a word filter here that can change ‘pescatarian’ to ‘chicken eating carnivore’?
Or ‘fish eating carnivore’. Whatever the fuck it is that they eat.
I am in awe of you! Although I do not live in LA, last time I visited, I did go to Native Foods. Good to know that they passed the test! There definitely needs to be some sort of regulation in the vegan food industry. The entire system needs to be overhauled anyway. I wonder what it’s going to take? Thank you so much for this!
You hippies sure have a lot of money and time on your hands. Maybe if you just ate meat and cheese like normal people this would be moot.
Have you tasted shellfish? It’s delicious!
Jaie I’m with you brother, I fucking hate hippies. I fucking hate idiots like you more.
This is shocking and disgusting!! I’ll be sure to share with the 300,000 readers of GirlieGirlArmy.com. We should seriously shut those liars down! Thanks for conducting this crucial test!
Why did you name Bodhi and not the Mfg ?
Wouldn’t it have made more sense naming the Mfg and not Bodhi ?
1- You didn’t name the MFG to ‘protect the source’ , but you put up this article. Someone from the MFG could clearly piece this together.
2- Bodhi actually helped you, and the MFG was more at fault.
You basically burned your source, and protected the more complicit party.
Wow! Great job!! Thanks so much for doing this!!
I suspect much of the egg and casein contamination may be not just from cooking implements, but cooking surfaces (i.e., grills or woks). The tests used are sufficiently sensitive that if the vegan foods are being prepared on a grill also used to cook products containing the offending meat proteins, then they’ll be contaminated.
amazing job!! really impressive.
Chaps, I work for the manufacturer of the tests that Quarry Girl used. We have been passing around this article in the office today and are so excited to see our products being used in this way. While I don’t officially speak for the manufacturer (and I am not anything resembling a vegan) I can tell you from the methods and pictures that this test was properly conducted and the results should be recognized.
Our testing kits help detect allergens all over the world every day, and unless Quarry Girl cheated in this test, the samples did contain trace amounts of those compounds.
We focus very tightly on false results: a false negative could kill somebody with an allergy while a false positive could cost a lot of money in lost production, discarded foodstuffs etc.
Nice work Quarry Girl
another reason to just cook at home
doug – a few post’s above yours : “we chose food from all-vegan restaurants, there should be no handling issues in the kitchen. It’s for that reason we didn’t choose to order “vegan options” on the menus of vegetarian or omnivorous restaurants”
why would the grill at a %100 vegan place have non vegan substances on them…
i still think greenleaves is the worst of the worse on this list.. they have lied to so many people, they even told doomie once upon being asked about their cheese ( which he knew wasnt vegan right off the bat) that they made it their.
also , when you tested the chicken and pancakes.. did the chicken test positive for eggs as well as the pancakes? it wouldn’t surprise me.. it’s just that they have a picture on the wall of greenleaves saying “these are the ingrediants we use” and vegan pancake mix is up in there.
It’s great that this study was done, and that the results were what they were because now they will held accountable. Very impressive. Blatant misrepresentation is not cool, etc. Changes are in order. Here’s to vegan vigilance. Caring is cool.
Thank you so much for your extensive work!
In the article, you wonder about the statement on some food items that they’re manufactured in a facility that also processes milk or whatever.
The FDA has required labeling since 2006 of prepared food products which contain or are manufactured in the same facility as products which contain certain allergens. Here’s some more information: http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm079311.htm
what i don’t understand is why do we have to be dependent on imported fake meats?… why doesn’t some US company start producing some vegan friendly knock-offs?
Thanks for all the hard work team! Y’all ROCK!
Mindblowing i had no idea. thank you for all your hard work!
Thanks for the comment & the support!
Perhaps you can shed some light on a question popping up here in the comments:
If a cooking implement (stove/grill/pan) was used to cook eggs, milk products or shellfish, how long until residue left on that surface (assuming not totally sanitized) no longer would register a positive?
In other words, if a restaurant cooked nothing but vegan food on a grill, and then by some terrible mistake an egg/milk/shellfish product was cooked there: would the proteins/substances degrade via oxidation, heat fracture or other chemical or physical means to render it undetectable?
If so, what is the “half-life” of these?
If not, then are they detectable “forever”? (meaning that unless some ultimate sanitization or total replacement of equipment was performed would the test always come up positive?
omg! tyler (tjr) forwarded this 2 me. he’s right. more testing of more foods and more restaurants would b great. thanks 4 doin this.
i’ve heard problems b4 with the cheese at leonor’s. i used to love that. it was my fav after becoming vegan. it was so much better than folow my heart.
i’m another who went vegan from andy’s role modling at his vegan camp exploration camps.
mr. meaner u should get 2 know andy. he runs load of vegan stuff 4 kids. he helped found pcrm and earthsave and has worked for american vegan society for like ever. probabaly easiest is 2 find him on facebook.
bravo. this is the kind of journalism we can expect more of when the newspapers are all soon dead. old school journalism would’ve been hobbled by stuff like interviewing the owners of the restaurants being condemned, or revealing that the casein testing kits used throw false positives at absurdly small thresholds of less than 5ppm.
I am impressed though that you transported the foods in the same type of cooler used for donated organs and your use of official looking lab coats.
your testing has revealed possible contamination by a milk derived product in the ingredients at many small local restaurants. that is interesting. someone with less of an axe to grind and less of a sensationalist bent should probably follow up on that.
this self-aggrandizing vigilantism at the expense of small struggling businesses is rather ugly. how is that book deal coming?
I’m still on the mock meat. Sorry. So does that mean that Morning Star and Boca are suspect? Do they also import from Taiwan or do they make their own food? I know they’re owned by Kelloggs and Kraft respectively but is it just standard at this point to get veggie meats from overseas?
I appreciate what you’ve done because liars need to be exposed.
However, did you intend to compel vegans to react this way: “another reason to just cook at home” or not?
Thinking strategically, what was your goal in doing the tests and writing this article? Was it to help animals? Did you accomplish that?
this is repulsive. while it’s no surprise about california vegan or vegan house and ESPECIALLY GREEN LEAVES (i’ve become very ill at all of them and eventually learned to steer clear or any cheese or soy meats) but this took it to a whole other level. i don’t live in LA anymore and while i miss some places, vegan thai places, across the board, i don’t miss whatsoever!!!!! their hearts are rarely in the right place, not to mention their ethics. thank you thank you thank you for doing this.
Thank you for your efforts to expose these Frauds!
I have been telling my Vegan friends and Family for a long time that Greenleaves “VeganCheese” Was too much like Real Cheese to be Vegan and I had asked the staff there many times, always being told the chesese was Vegan/ Casein Free …on one occasion the waitress brought me out a small package of “Follow YourHeart Vegan Cheese” that I eat all the time at home, and said that was what they used in the kitchen at Greenleaves, although I was never able to get the Follow Your Heart Cheese to be Stretchy, Greasy or Rubbery no matter how I cooked with it…I am Vegan and Lactose Intolerant and have had occasions where I was in the bathroom for hours after eating at Greenleaves (I unfortuneately almost allways ate the Quesadilla)just like when I had DAIRY back in the day…(pre-vegan)
I think they just kept a package on hand to keep their Vegan clients happy, while feeding them CRAP!!
I will Diligently spread the word to the Vegan Community to BOYCOTT Greenleaves – !!!
Who are you? Apparently you have no desire to support any sense of community among vegan businesses. I can appreciate the fact that you are willing to embark on some geraldo-esque expose’ in order to help out vegans know “THE TRUTH”, however, you might want to reconsider your tactics. You could run your tests, and THEN contact the owners and give them a chance to run their own tests and resolve the situation before you publish the findings. I don’t know of one vegan restaurant that is trying to sneak animal products into their food. I’ve been a vegan for fifteen years, and I’m not in a fit of rage because a restaurant is unknowingly serving non-vegan products. What you’re doing is creating a lot of stress for businesses (owners and employees) that mean well. These are very stressful economic times for a lot of people. Think about that. If you’re really doing this for ethical reasons, then resolve the situation with the owners, run the tests again, and if they are still testing positive then publish the results. Just a suggestion. But, hey, I bet it’s a lot of fun to shock and awe the vegan community with your reports.
@ peter: “I don’t know of one vegan restaurant that is trying to sneak animal products into their food.”
GREEN LEAVES. have you not read any of the other comments? they are blatantly lying, possibly serving even REAL cheese, telling and showing people people it’s vegan/follow your heart, when it certainly is not. they are making people sick and could possibly put someone with a dairy allergy in the hospital or worse, and they don’t care, they just want your $$$.
this is really interesting. i’m not vegan, but i do have VERY SERIOUS (meaning i could die) allergies to egg, casein and shellfish. i wear a medalert bracelet and carry an epi-pen.
i tend to steer away from faux meats anyways, but this is certainly an eye opener.
Is this really the end of the world?
Cool post, just subscribed.
B12 ladies and gentlemen, B12.
reading this made me think of that cheesy song that goes “did you ever know that your my heeeeero!”
i think its wonderful that you guys did this! the vegan community im sure thanks you!
this, like previous “investigations” you’ve conducted reeks of vigilantism. this is a worthy topic for investigation and i want to commend the tremendous amount of energy you are expending here, but there is a level of self righteousness and sensationalism in your approach to this that undermines the otherwise interesting subject matter.
your tone of indignation and your attacking of people who are well-meaning is just further promoting the stereotype of vegans as unpragmatic moral narcissists. knock it off.
and the restaurant business is very tough, especially in these times. talk to one of the restauranteurs you do support (if there are any) about what their economics look like. that might give you a better leg to stand on than merely remarking on what car somebody drives.
Great vegan citizen journalism! More more more!
a lot of this boils down to who is responsible for what goes into your mouth. The only certain way to be sure of non-animal ingredients is to eat whole plantfoods, or those that you process your self. If you choose processed foods, or to eat in a restaurant, its a matter of trust.
Thanks for the investigation. It just reinforces my resolve eat out less and to cook my own, for safety and economic reasons.
Little I can say in this comment which has not already been covered by the article or the comment string (ie, unlike some of the snarkier folks who posted, I actually read the complete article) but let me repeat what you’ve already heard:
Thank you for the time, effort, and expense you gave to this very valuable, very necessary, very well conducted study.
Oh, one thing I CAN add is my applause to Mr?/Ms?/Mrs? Hnoi of THE VEGAN JOINT for the conscientious response of promptly stepping up to remedy the issue of the offending menu item (as I hope the other proprietors will choose to do, SOON). Imagine the strength possible if even competitors can unite to join with their consumer-customers in calling for responsible labeling practices from the institutional food industry. In the meantime, my wife and I shall be redirecting any vegan restaurant dining funds into the pockets of those establishments we’ve enjoyed in the past who came through with flying colors, away from the nearly weekly destination which has served me more than one suspicious “Quesadilla: Vegan Cheese – Casein-free (non-dairy) melted vegan cheese on Flat bread (Flour Tortilla)” and assured my wife that it was as advertised.
Many, many thanks again, Team Quarrygirl + Mr. Wishbone!
A life. Get one.
Thank you so much for doing this.
I ALWAYS knew that the tropical pancakes at Green Leaves and their fried chicken were too good to be made with vegan substitutes.
I am ESPECIALLY upset over Pure Luck, my favorite restaurant.
I am very happy that Flore and M Cafe are safe.
Veganism is just a socially acceptable eating disorder.
Y’all need to get over yourselves.
You just taught these restaurateurs a valuable lesson:
Do not cater strictly to OCD nutjobs – even in LA – or you will find yourself on the wrong end of their self-imposed disorder.
Who would want to open a vegan restaurant now?
The tone of your last comment seems to suggest that quarrygirl.com is on some sort of vigilante crusade to “get” vegan restaurants. If you would take a moment to explore the site, you’ll see page after page after page of positive, enthusiastic reviews.
I don’t think you’ll find a stronger booster and advocate of quality vegan restaurants than quarrygirl.com.
However, a huge part of what makes this a credible site is its willingness to point out sub-standard food, bad service and deception whenever it is found.
Okay, I seriously don’t get why people feel the need to come on to a vegan website just to be dicks. Are you seriously that bored in your life? Or is it just that you are trying to prove how big and tough you are because you have to have an animal slaughtered for you out of sight, prepared by someone else and purposefully flavored with non meat ingredients because meat apparently doesn’t taste good on it’s own. Someone brought up that it’s weird to have faux meat. Why? The flavorings are vegan in most cases, so we are looking for the flavorings. Do you seriously have such a problem with the size of your penis that you have to prove how tough you are? Do you think you are original in bringing up false arguments like protein, B12, hippies, etc. People choose to eat hormone free ice cream but I don’t see you sending the riot acting to Cabot or Ben and Jerry’s. You know I just don’t get why you naysayers are so damned stupid. Let us live our lives and go live your statistically shorter and prostate cancer prone lives, cus when I think manly, I think erectile dysfunction.
To the authors, I apologize for the rant, I just get so sick of being demonized because I choose to eat differently. I think this proves that there is a market for sietan made in the US under stricter standards and you have given me a business idea.
@ Eating Disorder: thank you for making all of the other stupid comments posted here seem a little more intelligent.
Wow this is really fascinating. I hope someone does the same kind of tests on veg food here in NYC…!!
Wow this is really fascinating… and scary. I hope someone does the same kind of tests on veg food here in NYC…!!
I think we need to pay close attention to what Eating Disorder is saying, because this is how the nonvegan world perceives us when we engage in these activities and discussions. Instead of spending our time educating the masses about the horrors of factory farming, something Eating Disorder is likely very ignorant of, we are doing the exact opposite. Instead of saving countless animal’s lives, we end up harming animals because we come off as “nutjobs,” to the general public. Check this out! http://www.veganoutreach.org/advocacy/meaningfullife.html
Sorry, I copied the wrong link. Try this one.
Wow! You obviously put a lot of time into this. Thanks for exposing the lies – it was an interesting and shocking read! I will definitely take your advice – no Thai “vegan” meat subbies for me.
nice spicy brown shirt! we heart tofu robot!
also, this totally needs to be a food detective show. i’d watch it and buy the series on dvd.. thanks for letting me know where not to eat. i am quite happy that native foods passed!
Thank you quarrygirl!!
fuck all the naysayers, this is an AMAZING piece of research and a phenomenal investigation regardless of whether you eat meat, drive a car, etc. Just the fact that you spent so much time and your own money and took so much care with the testing is SO impressive and goes far above and beyond most of the crap that passes for “journalism.”
I am not vegan, but I agree that everyone has the right (if not the obligation) to know what they are eating. While I will continue to eat at Pure Luck because I love that place (I never liked the food at Green Leaves anyway, plus PL has amazing beer), I agree that steering clear of processed fake meats in the first place is the best bet, and seemingly why places like Native Foods, M, and Flore came out on top.
In response to the comment I can’t find now (sorry!) if you ever want to make a documentary about this, email me! for realz!
(…and I swear I had a nightmare 2 nights ago that I discovered Horse meat being used in “Vegan” meats…)
thank you again xox
They should come down to NY and do some test down here! I always wonder if the stuff I order in the resturants are truly vegan!
I respect what you’re doing on some level,,,BUT I have a problem with the fact that you didn’t contact the owners of these restaurants to inform them of the results. It’s certainly important for consumers to know what they’re eating, but ultimately it’s up to the individual to make the smart choices, such as avoiding mock meats altogether knowing that they often have questionable ingredients.
You’ve presented your findings in an accusatory way that jumps to the conclusion that all of these restaurant owners have purposely been deceptive. As someone who has worked in the food industry, I know firsthand how difficult distributors can be.
Why should we boycott all of these small businesses that are a part of our community? How extremely counterproductive that would be! Doesn’t it make more sense to work with them in the hopes of fixing these problems so that we can still enjoy what they have to offer? Running a restaurant (especially in times like these) is extremely difficult work. If someone has failed to catch a non-vegan ingredient in one of their products, I would like to assume that they would be glad to know about it so that they might handle business immediately. Your research is important, but it would make even more sense to utilize it in a way that benefits the community. Perhaps, offer your services to these restaurants so that they might be able to better trust the merchants they deal with?
Thankfully I hate “vegan food.” But I’d be pretty pissed if I’d been deceived like this. GREAT sleuthing!!
Regarding casein and vegan cheese:
As Gianna’s Grille taught us- if it stretches it’s not vegan. That place lied to people for years, and I like many unfortunately put aside my doubts and ate it on their word. Even while in the back of my head I was thinking ‘there is no way’
Again- if someone claims a cheese is vegan and it stretches there is no way it is. Not at this time anyway.
This is much ado about nothing. And BTW, there’s nothing wrong with “fake meat” either ethically or healthwise. Anything we can do to help animals by not eating them is valid, but it’s not always possible.
It ticks me off when vegans surrender to the myth that there’s something evil about liking the taste of meat. Humans are omnivores; some of us just choose to be vegans for ethical reasons.
And if there’s a possibility that there’s something animal-based in a restaurant meal that is advertised as vegan, relax, take a deep breath, and recognize that there’s no such thing as a perfect vegan. As a 60 y.o. non-anal not 100% vegan (because that’s utterly impossible), that’s how I look at it.
Fuck, this is bullshit, mate. Im going back to Australia….ya’ll …fuk this shit
Fuck, this is bullshit, mate. Im going back to Australia….ya’ll …fuk this shit….damn
this is bullshit….fuck man
Ardethb, a business should not hold themselves out as “vegan” if they do not stringently ensure their food is free of animal products. The issue of personal vegan perfection is simply not related to the issue of commercial integrity.
You’d undoubtedly be alarmed if you found out that a restaurant you ate at served its customers rotting, unsanitary produce. County health inspectors protect you from that risk. Nobody inspects or discloses food ingredients, and the monumental amount of work described above is but a fraction of what we would need to do to ensure our restaurants are truly vegan. We are therefore nakedly reliant on commercial integrity in a way that people who hope to avoid unsanitary conditions are not.
Our ire stems thus not from a desire for personal perfection, but from the violation of our trust.
bravo, quarrygirl! thanks for this gigantic effort. i’ve eaten quite a bit at greenleaves, but never ordered anything “cheesy” (i always inquire what kind of vegan cheese is used) but i have had the fish, not only there but in several other asian vegan restaurants.
i don’t always eat out, but when i do, unless i’m desperate (as in when i drive cross country with my kids), i’ll stick to restaurants recommended here…
I am an ethical vegan who is passionate about helping animals and horrified at the cruelty that is perpetrated on the innocent and defenseless.
Having said that, I need to say that it would have served the animals far better if the 3 investigators gave the thousand dollars they used on this to any of the wonderful organizations out there helping animals and spent the time they spent leafletting, tabling, and doing outreach.
A year ago I would have been reacting as most of those posting have with shock at the results and gratitude for the investigation, but now I just think that the endeavor was a waste of time and money that could have been spent helping animals.
Veagnism is a philosophy of non-violence and opposition to exploitation. It should not focus on purity. The whole point is helping animals and the best way to help animals is to make veganism look do-able to non vegans and look like a life style that won’t cause deprivation. Obsessing about very tiny amounts of animal ingredients does not help the animals.
I realize that dishonesty is not ethical on the part of the reataurant operators if this was done knowingly shame on them, but I am more upset about what animals must endure for their lifetimes than about this.
For more on the issue of personal purity vs. reducing suffering see articles on the Vegan Outreach website and read the book “The Animal Activists Handbook”.
Let’s work to help the animals and use our time and energy on things that more directly impact these defenseless beings.
The Green Leaves website has been taken down and replaced with scanned receipts for vegan mozzarella from Whole Foods. Are they changing their recipe or challenging the results?
those receipts don’t mean jack to me. show me receipts from may ’09 and prior.
also, FYH is available in bulk and is probably a lot cheaper that way. why are they buying it from whole foods?
Thank you for doing this with such thoroughness and professionalism. It is a real pleasure to read something so rigorous and complete, especially in an area so full of hyperbole and innuendo.
On another note, DAMN I knew the cashew chicken at Green Leaves was 2 good 2 B true. Or is it? I agree that some recent receipts for Follow Your Heart Cheese on the Green Leaves website don’t prove an awful lot. They probably mean well.
Still, this is an important part of a grassroots push for better federal regulation of imported food labeling. Keep on girl.
According to the ChinaDaily article that they cited, one of the mock meat products tested by Taiwanese official contain AT LEAST 20% beef or pork. It’s not traces or “very tiny amount”. I personally find this to be a more serious issues than traces of allergens since I am not allergic to any ingredients.
brittany, one of those receipts is from 6/23/2009. please stop commenting on posts that you have, by your own admission, merely skimmed.
ryan had a point about opposing fundamentalism in all it’s forms – a vegan witch hunt is still a witch hunt.
This is great. Thanks so much for doing all of this work.
Thanks! Excellent investigation!
The restaurant food buyers are just like us: they go to a store and read the ingredients list. If the ingredients list is incorrect, the restaurant gets fooled, just like us.
For a restaurant to deliberately serve food containing allergens when it claims the food does not is business suicide. The restaurant might become liable for damages if patrons become sick.
Restaurants are generally very low margin businesses, so sometimes just one large settlement lawsuit could put a restaurant under.
Lesson learned: make seitan at home. It’s easy, much cheaper, and you have total control over the ingredients!
As a vegan who isn’t from Los Angeles, I appreciate this kind of research.
I want to respond specifically to those commenters who say that we shouldn’t be so concerned about individual purity. I think that’s a strong argument for eating things that were made on shared equipment and might contain trace amounts of animal products, but it doesn’t apply here. When a place like Green Leaves is labeling dairy cheese as vegan on a daily basis, it’s not merely a threat to individual purity. It’s supporting animal cruelty, environmental destruction, and all of the other detrimental effects of the dairy industry on an ongoing basis–all while claiming not to do so. These test results have the potential to put an end to that if the local vegan community will work with them to make their food vegan. That’s an end that is consistent with vegan values and, if achieved, will make the tests worthwhile. Of course, it will take some more work on the part of LA vegans to get there.
As for Green Leaves, if they’re so insistent that they are using vegan cheese, they should be willing to prepare the quesadilla in front of an independent witness. They’ll use the Follow Your Heart Cheese that they say they’ve been using all along, and the witness can see if it stretches.
hugesigh: that’s exactly what Brittany is saying you TOOL. All the receipts are from June, therefore probably fake. The restaurant went out and bought a bunch of vegan cheese, then quickly photoshopped the day of the month.
I have had the quesadilla, and I assumed it was just amazing cheese. I can tell you, it WAS NOT Follow Your Heart.
I’m not even close to being vegan, but this is a huge deal for my vegan friends. Thank you for performing such a professional service for LA vegans. Now I’m going to beg you to take on Orange County- having dined at a handful of vegan restaurants in OC with vegan pals, I would love to see this investigation repeated behind the orange curtain.
I repeat: please investigate OC!
This was a great post and you really did nice work for it, thank you.
I don’t live in California, but it is always good to be reminded how careful we Vegans need to be.
It is automatic, but I can’t stand reading labels and here you remind us that we have to be diligent even when something says vegan.
May dogs be with you,
LOLZ at Green Leaves receipts. Most of us knew that cheese wasn’t FYH from the start, this test only confirmed that it also wasn’t vegan. And what restaurant buys all their stuff at Whole Foods?
hugesigh – i did read the entire post, twice. i skimmed the health reports. and last time i checked, the 6th month of the year was JUNE.
Your calculations are grossly inaccurate. $1000 can feed a rescued pig for about 20 months. Fine. But how many pigs lose their lives if a restaurant stays open while selling food with a pork content of 20% or more? What if said restaurants continue to do so, unchecked and unchallenged, for 10 more years? What if $1000 could stop that from happening? I appreciate your sentiment, but your proposition was ill-conceived.
Thank you for doing this investigation.
Of course people can criticize and say it would have been better to contact the restaurants and show them the results, giving the restaurants a chance to respond and make changes. But, I understant the limited resources used for the investigation. You also admit that you tried to do the best you could with limited funds.
I hope this investigation spurs more of the same, including more complete studies of what is in restaurant foods (including at non-vegan restaurants). The LA Times food section should get involved with this type of investigation. If anyone can afford to conduct a more thorough study, they can.
I’m glad that Leaf Cuisine tested negative. I wasn’t surprised as they do make almost everything from scratch using fresh ingredients (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and seaweeds), as most raw restaurants do (including a local favorite restaurant: Cru in Silverlake). It is worth it to pay a little more and get food you know is truly much higher quality than you can get at other places.
Those who wonder about why some people are so strict with avoiding cheese may consider that dairy cheese may also contain rennet, which is the stomach lining of slaugthered farm animals, and that is truly not even vegetarian. So, even vegetarians, not only vegans, should be interested in this (or any) study showing that non-vegetarian cheese may be in the foods served at so-called vegetarian or vegan restaurants.
I am one who avoids consuming any meat, dairy, and egg products.
I’ve also avoided that fake meat stuff for years. Your investigation provides another reason why more people should avoid these fake meats made of soy that are being served in restaurants and in natural-foods stores.
In additon to the carbon footprint involved with consuming such highly processed foods, including many of those shipped from thousands of miles away, that processed immitation meat stuff is very clearly overly pocessed junk food lacking in quality nutrition – even if it is vegan. Consuming overly processed cooked soy does not result in vibrant health. Even the bugs are picky about eating it when you toss it into a compost pit. And the bugs don’t need labels.
I eat mostly home-made, and more and more locally-grown and home-grown foods. When I dine out, I’ll stick to the raw cafes, as they are more likely to be truly vegan.
I list a bunch of raw cafes around the world on my site,
Thank you again for the information. I applaud your efforts.
@maude and brittany
the receipts are photoshopped? doubtful, but certainly possible, although i fail to understand why you would jump to that conclusion
you want older receipts? why? these receipts pre-date quarrygirl’s post, so they can’t be in response to her findings.
why the unwillingness to accept the possibility that the receipts are accurate? the two of you seem to be out for blood, which is funny and sad under the circumstances. or is cruelty to humans something you two find acceptable and attractive? if so, it sounds like you might want to hook up with mr meaner, who implies that he is into some heavy shit.
have you ever tried FYH cheese? I cook a lot i know exactly what FYH cheese LOOKS like and TASTE like. That picture for green leaves is NOT FYH cheese. Yeah those receipts are not fake but then why aren’t they using the cheese??
It’s a real bummer that some of the restaurants have to get dragged down with a couple of the other loser restaurants (Green leaves & LA Vegan). There is obvious evidence that their pancake mix and cheese used was definitely not vegan. Most of them haven’t even responded on the blog. Who knows if they took any action at all? I’m not even sure if they even know who quarry girl is…I believe, in most cases, this is a labeling issue and an overall problem with the FDA laws. The Manufacturers are the problem in most of the cases, it appears. I hope there is some kind of follow up article bringing some of this to light. It seems like people only read the negative part without going to the end of the article and not realizing the Taiwanese companies are the culprit in some of these investigations. Hey Mr. Meaner! What is Mr. Wishbone’s degree in? What Lab did you use? Are they accredited to perform these types of analysis? Is there any QC here? Any possibility of cross contamination? Would all this hold up in court? I smell a law suit a brewing, I hope quarry girl has their “Ts” crossed and “Is” dotted. Why not test one item like the soy chicken at all the restaurants and get the manufacturer’s name, if possible, so we can see which manufacturer is the most animal free? Then the restaurants will know what product to use. Then all the other restaurants that were good or not tested at all might fall in with the rest with the suspected and losers? Could this be possible? Just because a restaurant passed this test, doesn’t mean that they would pass the next test. I think there needs to be more uniform testing here. I will also say this, the overall intention of the investigation is good but, there are problems that need to be addressed…………
@hugesigh – i’ve eaten the cheese at green leaves and i’ve been lied to, by the the staff, to my face. FYH cheese in no way does this:
it basically turns in to liquid when melted and is completely different in color. so while i don’t doubt someone did buy cheese there THIS month, they certainly haven’t in the past, and i don’t know where all of that FYH cheese went. while the dates shown do predate this post, obviously the all of the research predates this article as well. i know team QG took at LEAST two weekends to write it, and who knows when they bought/tested everything not to mention, yes, it is VERY easy to photoshop an image of a receipt.
i realize you are also probably involved with green leaves somehow. please answer me as to why they are paying RETAIL for their ingredients. any restaurant owner would have merchant accounts with suppliers. a 10% discount from whole foods isn’t going to help much financially, especially in these times, and any restaurant owner with an iota of business sense would have every receipt for every purchase made since their restaurant opened. if they’ve been purchasing FYH cheese this entire time, there would be a paper trail. if they were purchasing non-vegan cheese, there would be a paper trail.
@mr green jeans – whether these tests hold up in court really wouldn’t matter (although the person who responded from the company who makes them said they were very accurate as sometimes it is a matter of life and death), no restaurant owner in their right mind would attempt to sue, they’d lose based solely on the fact that it was THEIR fault for not checking out their own ingredients, and then they’re probably looking at some sort of class-action deal for false advertising. also, all of your questions about the process are answered in the article itself.
i have no doubt that in most cases, with the exception of green leaves, it probably was a mistake made by a lazy restaurant owner. as you can see in the forum thread linked above by nasty nick, things with whey are marked “suitable for vegans” in other countries.
Thank you for the expose, you are a true citizen journalist! I will never eat mock meat or cheese again.
don’t know whether to lol or col. wow the reactions people are giving.
quarry girl & co u did a great service. but green jeans is right. more uniform testing would be better. u tested 3 foods from green leaves & 1 from most others. seems like u were against green leaves before u even had results.
like geen jeans says. test the same items from the different restaurants. also test more items from each restaurant.
i wonder if some of these foods were made in factories were other foods were made could these labeled vegan foods test high maybe but not positive. maybe results are cause of contamination from machines and counters in factories?
also for who wanted to contact vegan camp director & vegan society board member andy i texted him at camp. he gave me permission to give his facebook page as
he texted suggestion that maybe we need official vegan certification like kosher certification.
yes meaner u should b able 2 test everything at any of these restaurants. u did though test 3 things from green leaves & only 1 from most others.
i was trying to support and thank u. but your defensive response starts 2 make me wonder.
u tell green jeans that u bought 3 things from green leaves because “we targeted certain food types, and they happened to have all of them” but these same foods are at almost every other 1 of the restaurants u included. your answer to green jeans therefore makes no cents.
i was on your side but meaner u r making me now question u.
anthrope u communicate respectfully. meaner is just mean.
obviously u can not check everything at every place. it would be great if u could.
but u should have tested 2 things at each restaurant instead of 1 at some & 3 at others. what u did was great. but it is not as scientific as could b. in class we learn lots about bias. there was bias here.
there were foods tested at some place that were ignored at others. and there are plenty of restaurants that were not tested.
thank u for doing what u did. maybe someone can pay for more. and like others say each place needs to be told about this.
it does no good for the future if this is where it stops.
and there’s nothing wrong with vegans eating mock meats. tjr explains it good about textures and tastes. if i take a bite out of an animal it won’t have that texture and taste. its the way it is made. some of us like that and there’s nothing wrong with that.
marc – if you look at some of the items they purchased at the other places, many of the contain more than one questionable item – chicken pancakes, chicken wrap with cheese, soy fish sandwich with cheese, chicken quesadilla… the questionable items seem to be chicken, cheese, and fish, so why get more than one item if they can cover all based with one dish?
they also took two items from m cafe. i’ve never been made aware of anyone questioning m cafe – and they serve fish! the vegan thai places have been sketchy from the start.
I do see a few issues with the experiment. First, I’d like to know which tests specifically they used. As Schmod on BoingBoing points out:
For starters, are there any legitimately vegan ingredients that could register a false-positive on these tests? What is the effectiveness of the testing kits that they used? Why were they afraid to disclose the manufacturer of said kits?
Ideally the manufacturer’s protocol and so forth could be published to eliminate these questions.
Also, I think they should have a better negative control than just the lab bench. That information is good, but ideally you want something in the ballpark of the other things being tested, perhaps a home-cooked vegan dish with known ingredients. Similarly, I think they should have found menu items that were the as close to similar as possible at each restaurant. I note that quesadillas were common, but I think they should have done only quesadillas (or close analogs like a taco or something). At the very least, only doing veg-chicken dishes or something with a single unifying common ingredient (or supposed common ingredient). I can’t really compare a quesadilla to tiramisu.
PLEASE DO SUPPORT VEGAN JOINT, VEGAN FACTORY, & OTHER RESTAURANTS WHO TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY
Above people have posted about Vegan Joint taking this seriously and even the owner of that restaurant has responded on this blog.
While camping with his vegan summer camp, Dr. Mars has urged me to see what I can do to contact other restaurant owners he knows.
The owner of Vegan Factory which was not included in the study responds:
Thank you for bringing this to our attention.
I didn’t see my restaurant on the list. However, I went back and
checked the ingredient in questions. The vegan meat we purchase from
vege usa (same as Vegan Joint). For our vegan cheese, we purchase
from follow your heart. The following are the ingredient that state
on the label.
Shrimp – Water, Cardlen Gum, Refined Konjac Powder, Modified Tapioca
Starch, Potato Starch, Wheat Fiber, Sucrose, Salt, White Pepper
Powder, Yeast Extract powder, Seaweed Extract, Vegetarian Flavor,
Sesame Oil, Fermented Rice Vinegar, Calcium Carbonate, Paprika.
Chicken – Soybean Fiber, Water, Soybean Protein, SOybean Oil, Starch,
Raw Cane Sugar, Salt, Yeast, Peptone Powder, Vegetarian Flavor, White
Pepper power, Spice
Fish – SOybean Fiber, SOy Lecithin, Ginger, Salt, Soy Sauce,
Vegetable Oil, Seaweed
Nugget – Soybean Fiber, Soybean Protein, SOybean Oil, Topioca Starch,
Wheat Protein, Salt, Seaweed Extract Gum, Carrageenan Vegetarian
Flavor, Seasoning, white pepper powder
Pepper Steak – water, soybean fiber, soybean oil, soy bean protein,
carrageenan, food starch modified, raw cane sugar, salt, caramel
color, black pepper granule, yeast peptone power, vegetarian flavor,
soy sauce, paprika, socium polyphosphate, enokitake mushroom
Squid – konjac, calcium, vegetable powder
Vegan cheese – filtered water, expeller pressed canola oil, soy
protein, tofu (water, soybeans, calcium sulfate) , inulin( a natural
extract of chicory), natural flavor (vegan). sea salt, agar, brewer’s
yeast, carrageenan, calcium lactate (vegan), lactic acid (vegan).
I feel regret that I rely solely on their label. I would stay tune to
the result from Vegan Joint testing. Also, I agree with one of the
poster that the group should check the products and share the
information with other vegan restaurant. I believe that most of the
restaurant owner, like me, don’t aware of the problem and they will
gladly remove the product off their menu once they know.
Mr. Meaner, I think that you mean well, but please try to be a little more tolerant and respectful. I have well learned from my vegan mentor that being vegan is not just about how we treat non-human animals but it is also about how we treat human animals. Marc spelled poorly but that should not take away from what he is saying. For your information Mr. Meaner, Marc is just a kid and you’ve been very insensitive and upset him. When vegans are not tolerant and respectful they can hurt the cause if they turn others off and away.
Thank you for doing what you do to make this world better for animals including us humans.
@ brittany, m meaner, monica et al
’1 i initally posted a response because i deeply dislike trial by public opinion – i think that emotion based accusations (e.g those receipts are photoshopped)are dangerous and tend to create a mob mentality that undermines the principles that are important to me
2. i am not affiliated in any way with any LA vegan restaurant – in fact the only vegan restaurant i frequent is a japanese place in berkeley called cha-ya, which doesn’t use any mock foods. and no, brittany, i don’t eat vegan cheese because, imo, it’s disgusting.
3. i don’t know why green leaf used whole foods to purchase their cheese. i do know that restaurants often resort to local grocery stores when they run out of stuff and their primary supplier is closed. since 2 of the purchases were on mondays, and 3 were after 5 pm, my best guess is that they ran out of products during the day/over the weekend. it is better to replace missing ingredients with more expensive ones than to remove items from the menu. sure, it cuts down on your profit, but people leaving without eating means no profit at all. and all that aside, there was casein in their quesadilla, which is something they need to respond to.
4. as a health care worker, i am more than satisfied with the protocol used to test the foods – it was rigorous and in line with standard laboratory protocol.
5. the reason this post/article/blog entry is getting so much traffic is that it was re-posted on boingboing – you have to expect a huge increase in comments from outside of your community when such a widely read website links to you. treating those visitors with a lack of respect does nothing to further your mission
Thanks for taking your time to do this. I can’t even count how many times I’ve eaten something containing vegan cheese and thought how much like real cheese or soy cheese it tasted. I’m glad to see my beloved Native Foods wasn’t on the bad list. YAY for that at least.
@hugesigh it’s pretty poor planning to have to buy presumably all of your monthly inventory of vegan cheese from a grocery store. if they’d been using it all this time (and they’ve been open for at least 3 years), they’d know how much they go through per month, when to order, how much to order, etc., and apparently whole foods is pretty well-stocked with FYH, so i don’t think there is a shortage. here’s a quote from someone in the operation pancake update post:
“I and my bf are both veggies, not vegan. We’ve been going to green leaves for about a year once or twice a month. He ALWAYS gets the quesadilla w/cheese. We went last night, and the quesadilla was completely different. the cheese wasnt stretchy but sorta chalky and wet. I don’t know which cheese is which, but in the last two weeks since we were last there they 100% for certain changed the cheese.”
i’m also not saying i think the receipts WERE photoshopped, i’m saying it’s really easy and i wouldn’t be surprised if they were once again lying.
Very sad that these restaurants didn’t take more responsibility to their patrons. I’m one of the owners of SunPower Natural Cafe in Studio City. I can assure our patrons we make almost everything on our menu from scratch, other than tofu and seitan.
On the positive side, these restaurants will either clean up their act or no longer exist.
This is either a case of not seeing the forest for the trees or a desperate cry for help with getting a life =)
@eric – you mean our post? why would you be so dismissive. Explain the forest/trees point, and I lead a wonderful life!
@hugesigh I think this is strange statement for a public sector person to make: 4. as a health care worker, i am more than satisfied with the protocol used to test the foods – it was rigorous and in line with standard laboratory protocol. I could run through this study and smash it a court room. Secondly, I work in the public sector……..I’m in a relative field.
Mr. Meaner the study is fine. It brought out a lot of things that need to be looked at………it would be nice if there was a second wave of testing that was more uniform. More testing, will give more data, and more undertstanding of possible errors………it wouldn’t even be bad to use a lab and perform quantitative analysis as well as qualitative analysis.
The lawsuit issue is always there. It just depends if some manufacture decides to come after someone. There is always a risk with this kind of journalism. I guess by some of the statements in this blog there could have been a little more preparation before uploading the results with Pulitzer prize slobber dripping from one’s mouth…….
Anyway, I support the study!!! Just like to see reform and follow-up.
Just an abstract thought: Imagine a world where vegans were eating vegans….we don’t want to appear conservative do we? Positive criticism is expected and warranted. I just wondered, is there any prejudice in statements being made in our vegan world? I would hate to punch my neighbor chewing on meat, he might bleed on me……….do we like yellow people????
Another thing to add: The manufacturer I assume is just following the FDA guidelines…..for the labeling packages, which for the most part has loopholes riddled through it. But, I know they would have to declare egg, casein or shellfish, especially if people could have a major allergic reaction….. unless it was missed……or other means…..huh…….I still would like to see more testing?? An unopened box from the manufacturer…samples sent to a lab that is certified to perform those particular tests …………….quantitative analysis.
wow – i’m an omnivore and a firm believer in everyone choosing what they want to eat. this is an amazingly great post and project, simply terrific.
This is a great article, effort, idea!
Ad-hominen attacks on the investigators or please for sympathy towards lying restauranteurs are ridiculous.
Don’t attack the messenger. SOYlent Green is made from people. yes it is, don’t like being told the truth.. turn a blind eye and eat shit. (Is that vegan?)
I hope the bloggers seize the opportunity and turn this into a business. The same way Jews have Kosher and Muslims have Halal, we veggies should have an independent body that certifies these places so that we can eat safely and within the choices that we constrain ourselves in when we eat at home.
how about Scoops across the street? Are their Vegan ice creams really vegan?
For what it is worth, I spoke with the manager at Greenleaves (an establishment I frequent A LOT for their tofu soup) who were really sorry for any of the confusion. They said that to the best of their knowledge their cheese was vegan. They claim to get it from Whole Foods. If it is not completely vegan, then their supplier is being deceitful to them. They have since posted all ingredients and proof of sales to their site:
I plan to also speak with the other places in question that I frequent and see what they say. I would encourage all of you to also call these places and talk with the managers. But I would ask that we all do this in a kind and understanding way. I know this has come to a shock to a lot of us and some of us are rather upset and angry, but remember, we are all in this together to try and make the world a better place.
@mr green jeans,
As a fellow fan of Captain Kangaroo, I’m sure we can find some common ground here.
I know that all involved in this test (and many of the readers) wish that the funding was available to perform multiple certified lab assays on every “vegan” restaurant product they could get their hands on.
However, with the budget available, ($1000.) a certified lab would have been able to perform ELISA or PCR assays on perhaps two food samples. (whether they would have been able to test for all three allergens, and include the type of quantitative and qualitative analysis you desire for this price depends on the lab, and whether low quantity and /or multiple submission pricing would apply).
But for the purposes of determining whether these (animal-derived) allergens were merely present (in a place they should not have been,) a lateral-flow “dip test” seems more than sufficient as long as extensive precautions are taken to mitigate possible cross-contamination.
These days most doctor’s offices use urine reagent test strips such as the Bayer Multistix PRO 10LS point-of-care urine test daily to help diagnose diseases. With minimal training and a pair of non-sterile gloves the office staff is able to accurately detect: protein high; protein low; creatinine; blood; leukocytes; nitrite; glucose; ketone; pH; specific gravity; and bilirubin in about 2 minutes. (These specific strips also measure physical characteristics, including acid-base balance and urine concentration.)
So with a much more carefully controlled environment,with chain-of-custody control procedures, pre-testing negative control swabs/tests, duplication of any invalid or inconclusive test outcomes, and post-test positive control tests, I feel these tests were sufficiently controlled and validated for the purposes of detecting the allergens present in the vegan restaurant food samples.
A responsible, specific warning to readers with health concerns was included to prevent critical decision-making from any test results reported.
I personally have had vegetarian manufacturer output (custody-controlled, frozen, vacuum-packed, properly labeled) prepared and tested by a fully accredited lab (with an ELAP certificate from State of California, Department of Health Services (DOHS) under the Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program) in the past and (funding permitting) would do so again in the future.
I hope that you will agree (as readers of the blog including professional journalists who have written stories about Operation Pancake)that a thoughtful, careful and responsible protocol, (with elements sufficient to satisfy a reasonable person) was followed and that a fair and reasonable detection of actual allergens present in the food samples was performed.
I know that in the (not too distant)future electronic personal assay devices will enable each of us to immediately detect contamination in our food. I think in my lifetime individuals will no longer fear salmonella-infected bagged spinach salads, but will instead use their wand to detect disease, spoilage and perhaps the occasional blob of saliva deposited by an unhappy chef.
As with all new technology, first there will be disbelief (we’ve seen plenty of that in the comments), then fear and anger, (some of that too) and finally acceptance.
It happened to newspapers, it is happening to television, someday it will happen to food labs.
Thanks for your careful consideration of the ideas presented here.
gene – then why were they serving stretchy, casein-filled cheese and showing people packages of follow your heart when people questioned why their cheese was stretchy? it certainly wasn’t whole foods fault (if they’re being referred to as the distributor) and there have been no reports, to my knowledge, of follow your heart cheese with casein in it. bottom line is, the cheese they were serving was not follow your heart, and they were deliberately deceiving people, there was no misunderstanding.
there’s still no logical reason why they’d buy it from whole foods instead of in bulk from the distributor. unless they like throwing money away.
wow gl’s manager lied directly to you on the phone and said to the best of their knowledge it was vegan????? that fucking blows my mind…
it’s like when you make up a stupid lie, you get caught and dig yourself a deeper whole by making more lies . it was soo obvious that they never used follow your heart cheese for the quesadillia.. maybe other dishes? but we’ve all have seen the pictures of how the old cheese stretched and some of us have actually tasted it before. they also top their tofu scrambles with this cheese ( which actually is melted on top of the tofu in a perfect translucent melted rectangle ) .. looks like they made the switch to fyh though after the findings to avoid trouble.. i just wish there was a way for all of us to be refunded our $7 for ever ordering that lie on a plate in the past.
I agree. I was just very disappointed with all of this, so I called the one establishment that I frequent most. I am not defending Greenleaves or any of these restaurants – merely passing along information… My hope would be that, through all this, some real vegan restaurants will emerge and investigations like this will keep them on the straight and narrow.
I spoke to someone to an employee at Greenleaves. The manager was out. They are going to ask the other restaurants to see what kind of cheeses they are using based on the outcome of the investigation. The employee said the manager is going to look for another cheese in the meantime.
Thanks Mr. Wishbone. Just what I was hoping for………so if I want to take some vegan meat down to a lab, I would ask for these tests correct? ELISA or PCR assays on perhaps two food samples. (whether they would have been able to test for all three allergens, and include the type of quantitative and qualitative analysis you desire for this price depends on the lab, and whether low quantity and /or multiple submission pricing would apply).
I can just transfer it to a baggy if I grab them (with latex gloves on), right out of the frozen box right……..? Keep cold or doesn’t matter? Or in a small cooler?
Recommend any labs?
Again thanks for the explanation.
Thanks for your important investigation.
I wasn’t surprised that RFD and Native Foods came out clean (I would make the leap and say Veggie Grill also belongs in that category).
I am also not surprised by GREENLEAVES. They have a picture of their stretchy cheese quesadilla on the back of the menu. They also proclaim it is “home-make.” I say, they’re liars and they know exactly what they’re doing esp. now that they’re buying Follow Your Heart from Whole Foods. Come on – cut me a break! Most cheese-loving vegans know that FYH Monterey Jack melts better than FYH Mozzarella!
All other restaurants – I’m shocked and disappointed and think maybe they are too. It’s is a good opportunity to hold the (Asian) food manufacturers accountable for their deceitful practices. Shame, shame, shame.
People who think this blog posting harms the vegan community in some way, or that we should feel sorry for harming “vegan” businesses do not really understand what is going on. Many of these establishments have been suspect for a long time, and prior to that several restaurants have been actually caught using non-vegan ingredients. This has been going on for years and it will keep going on until WE, the customers speak up and hold them accountable.
Many of these places are not vegan owned, therefore are not really vegan businesses and not a part of the vegan community. Should I spend money at every restaurant called Vegan Something or Other and look the other way while they knowingly feed me casein, egg and whey laden food? That’s stupid, I will eat at Native Foods where the owner is actually Vegan and cares about what she is serving.
Now, to be fair I will say that in most cases it may very well be a simple case of falsely labeled packages from Taiwan. Well-meaning restaurants should get our support and guidance to rid their kitchens of this garbage. (Assuming they are willing to do so). If the place is not vegan owned but is at least sincere, like the owner of the Vegan Joint appears to be then it is likely that they are victims just like the customers are. Actually, even more so since their livelihood is at stake.
For other restaurants that have not responded, or duck the issue then I will not be spending money there. I know that for some of the places listed this is just the latest non-vegan thing they have been caught for. Ignoring the issues is sadly the status quo.
My point is basically this; we all learned something after reading through Operation Pancake. All of this new knowledge, will we use it or ignore it? Can you ignore it? I can’t, I won’t and while my dining options will be chosen more carefully for a while I am better now for having this new information. I can make better choices with my spending, and inform others whether they be vegan customers or vegan restaurant owners to help them make better choices.
Donating $1,000 to an animal rescue non-profit would have helped a few animals for a little while but this could start a revolution. With enough of us on-board we can affect which items restaurants buy, which in turn affects which items the bulk suppliers order. As this moves up the pipe it takes a source of income away from the meat industry as they lose a market for their by-product waste.
SCVegan – I totally agree with what you are saying. But people should know that Tanya sold Native Foods to a non-vegan in the spring. I’m watching them closely, and so far, I’m so very happy that they haven’t changed the content or quality of the food, or the restaurant’s mission.
i just wanted to say i’m super impressed with this. thanks
While there is more that could be done, what you have done here is really important. Thank you! And what an education I’m getting in reading all of these posts. Some people really seem to have axes to grind. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all tried to treat each other with the respect with which we want the animals to be treated? Lots of this has been shocking.
How shocking that Native Foods isn’t vegan owned anymore. That was the first vegan restaurant I ate at. That’s sad! I have sat upstairs and watched bags of supplies be brought in below from Smart & Final and been shocked then too. It did bug me to see a supposed organic restaurant unpack regular ketchup, spices, and produce from Smart & Final, or at least I don’t think they sell organic produce there. Also, the owner of Real Food Daily isn’t vegan either. Again how sad! I do think the owners of Vegan Joint, Vegan Factory, Garden Wok, Vinh Loi, Rahel’s, Madeleines, and Sun Power Cafe are all vegan. I know that Andy Mars who’s been referenced above, (and who also is responsible for me going vegan, after he was responsible for my son going vegan at his summer camp), is friends with the owners of these places and I’m pretty sure he trusts and respects them all.
Please keep me on your list for finding out more.
Marie Olivari, (aka Mali Bu)
Holy cow, this is unreal. Thanks for finding this stuff out. I am going to contact Green Leaves in particular and tell them that my family and I are NEVER eating there.
I can abide people who make mistakes and admit to it, but I cannot handle total jerks.
@ mr green jeans,
My best advice is to start dating a technician at a food lab.
But seriously, there are scores of them out there, finding one that will work with you will be the difficult part. (I assume you aren’t in a food manufacturing/importing business.)
Here’s a big one, I don’t know if they will work with you, but they have national accounts:
You won’t want to obtain a sample for testing until you have established an account with them, signed their COC and NDCA forms, and discussed whether you will be ordering a standard service or special project.
They will define the amount of sample needed, collection technique, storage, temperature, shipping or courier service needed for the specific sample and services.
As to what test to order, it depends what you are looking for, but I had mentioned ELISA (Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) because say you are looking for shrimp allergen. You could order a Crustacean Tropomyosin Residue assay. PCR (polymerase chain reaction) PCR is often used for E.coli, Salmonella, etc, and for species identification. Again, no need to go into it all here, the lab will consult with you as to your specific analytical needs.
Good luck with the tests (and the lab tech
I have noticed a number of things in the comments here that are in need of correction. They are in need of correction because of the remarkable results from the investigation here and the seeming intended audience.
The first sort of comment indicates that the claim “one should not eat at restaurants if one is vegan” can be inferred from “these restaurants are not vegan”. This is not the upshot of the article. Presumably those vegans interested in the results specifically ENJOY eating out and accept risks (the restaurant lies, there is an accident, there is cross-contamination, etc). This is why they eat out. As such, they should know whether or not what they are eating is or is not vegan when they eat out. Just because a number of restaurants lie does not mean that one shouldn’t eat out.
The second sort of comment is another shitty inference. This incorrect inference is from “these restaurants aren’t vegan” to “you should eat local”. No, you shouldn’t. You should do whatever you like. Being vegan means you don’t purchase or consume animal products. It is conceptually distinct from the slow food, organic, raw, and local food movements. Presumably the target audience for these findings are people that want to eat vegan. Just because a restaurant lies doesn’t suggest anything about the ethical implications of other food-related movements.
The last sort of comment that is wrong-headed is related to the first two. These comments conflate issues of health with issues of being vegan. Perhaps some vegans are vegan for health reasons, but this doesn’t define what veganism is. Veganism, as mentioned, is abstaining from purchasing or consuming animal products. These restaurants advertise that their items are suitable for vegans, but their items are in fact not suitable for vegans. It is WRONG to infer from this that one shouldn’t eat at restaurants because it’s less healthy.
I bring these issues up because I greatly respect the work done by the authors for the vegan community. As such, I think it’s worth making clear that the vegan community is specifically defined by abstinence from animal-sourced goods and NOTHING else. This makes it all the more shameful that these restaurants have exploited our community for their gain.
Thanks for your hard works.
May I ask why you focused most on Thai restaurants?
What about the Chinese restaurants that use soy meats too?
Plus what about cheese at Leonors?
I’ve been avoiding jumping in on this thread, but I am glad that you guys are doing something productive with your sensationalist journalism. I do think it would be fair to at least give restaurants an opportunity to respond before you publish information like this (even if their response doesn’t change your article) — if only to at least slightly cover your own butts in the case of any sort of legal action.
Just a guess, but most Chinese Buddhist restaurants don’t specifically describe themselves as vegan, and I can’t think of any in the LA area that have “vegan” in their name. Often, they will mark dishes containing egg, or dishes that are pure vegetarian, and if you ask, they may tell you that there’s no milk, but most of these restaurants don’t officially make any claim that they are vegan (though Chinese cooking doesn’t use much milk or dairy, so aside from the processed foods and noodles or dumpling wrappers made with egg, you should be pretty safe). On top of this, with a few exceptions (Veggie Delight and Garden Wok), most cater primarily to a Chinese / Taiwanese clientele who are generally either non-vegetarian or Buddhist vegetarian of varying levels of strictness. The Thai places are all over the city, and specifically represent themselves as “vegan”, so I think that’s the main difference.
Also, many of the Thai restaurants in question have been deliberately evasive.
For a while, I felt like there may have been some cultural and language misunderstandings with the Thai restaurants calling themselves “vegan”, as it’s the most logical translation of Buddhist vegetarianism into English, even though there are some important differences. *BUT*, I think it’s very clear at this point that those restaurants have had plenty of time and information to understand what calling a restaurant “vegan” means.
I would love to see some more transparency from some of these restaurants, and I’d love to see a community discussion with some of the owners so that there’s a little better communication going on here.
Like many others, I’m not particularly surprised by a lot of the results here — I have been advising people who wish to avoid dairy / egg products entirely to avoid most mock meat products in Asian / Buddhist vegetarian restaurants for quite a while. There are some other issues with eating highly processed mock meats – one issue is that from what I am told, a lot of times, soy protein and other soy products come from the chemical extraction of oil during the process of making soybean oil…. just because both are made from soy doesn’t mean that products that have been (safely) consumed for thousands of years, like tofu and tempeh are equivalent to processed soy meats. I eat them sometimes, but I really try to avoid eating large amounts.
Leonors almost definitely has dairy in not only their soy chicken but their soy meats too… that’s been out in the open for years, so no need to test.
Vinh Loi – I like the owner a lot, despite his intense-ness, but I would honestly be very surprised if some of the fake meats he uses contained whey or other animal products. With regards to what of his proteins are made in-house, I don’t think much besides the tofu and the soy milk. I am also suspicious that the banh mi baguettes may be made with a light coating of butter on the outside – this isn’t typical of French baguettes, but I believe a lot of the Viet bakeries do it.
Holy Hell! This is awesome.
“….vegetarian customers are only concerned with meat ingredients and not bothered at all if egg or milk ingredients are included”
Strict Buddhist vegetarians, usually those following a pure vegetarian diet (i.e., without garlic, chives, leek, onion, cilantro, etc.) generally don’t eat eggs. Small amounts of egg white in processed food may not be considered as big a deal, but I think restaurants would be more likely to be careful about this than about milk products.
I think there are two historical reasons for this – one is that eggs are seen as a potential life, so eating them is considered destroying life in a way that eating dairy isn’t; also, the set of dietary restrictions followed by Chinese Buddhist monks and some lay Buddhists comes from India, where cows were generally treated very well (in the past), and even revered in many areas. Of course, at that time, it would have been very hard for most Indians not to drink milk. In China, SE Asia and Japan, on the other hand, milk wasn’t / isn’t common, and most people are lactose-intolerant. So while it wasn’t prohibited, it wasn’t common until it started being added to processed food.
The certification thing is something I’ve been kicking around in my head for a long time. It’s really the right way to approach this problem, but I’m not sure it’s feasible. The costs (to the certifying organization and / or the restaurant) and amount of supervision involved are large, and it takes quite a while for something like that to build critical mass. The organization might be able to cover some of their costs by providing consulting services (helping non-veg*n restaurants come up with “certified” vegetarian and vegan options, making sure that they maintain the status of these items as suppliers and ingredients change, helping restaurants accommodate other special diets, etc.).
The most likely way to start would be to somehow piggyback off of existing certification authorities (like the OU or other Kosher certification organizations)… they already have a lot of knowledge about food ingredients — an insane amount actually. I have a rabbi friend who used to work for the OU (certifying food), and we have all sorts of discussions about food ingredients.
@Mr. Wishbone. Thanks for your help. I’ve been using EMSL and LA Testing for years so that will be simple to set up an account etc. Actually, I’ve been in the Industrial Hygiene field for about 20 years so I’ve had my experience with all kinds environmental health and safety issues. Obviously, I’m more industrial based but, I have had my share of Indoor Air Quality investigations and food microbiology course work. I will get some samples (i.e. soy chicken, fish, cheese, etc.) and have them analyzed. Plus I will know which company they came from……..I want to separate what is coming from the manufacture and what is going on inside the restaurant. Then I will move through the restaurant if the results conflict with your earlier findings. I will make these available to you and your team and you can do with them what you will…..Secondly, I think these will solidify anything and everything if someone decides to go to court. I think this is the type of “Action” you would want to see from restaurant right? I was hired……I like investigations, witness testimonies, etc. I’ll let you know…………
For Vegans and non vegans it is good to know that we are not full aware of what is in out food. Also people with allergies are extreme risk. The restaurants are deceiving their consumers like this. Maybe I did not catch this but are all these resturants particularly Vegan or are some vegetarian? Cross contamination with utensils can occur. However, I would imagine at a place called Vegan House there would be no possibility of that. Very interesting.
@hiro – i’m sure there are plenty of chinese restaurants that use mock meats, but i’m not aware of any of them being 100% vegan. actually the only chinese restaurant i know of that uses a lot of mock meats is kung pao bistro – and they were happy to tell one of the writers of this blog which meats are vegan and which are only vegetarian (they knew the crispy chicken had egg in it). after this study, though, i wouldn’t be surprised if none of the fake meats really are vegan and the owners don’t know, because of the labeling issues.
@Brittany – “the only chinese restaurant i know of that uses a lot of mock meats is kung pao bistro”
There are quite a lot of them across the LA area, mostly in the SGV. See:
There are a few new ones since then as well, as well as some in other areas that I didn’t mention (South Bay, OC, Valley). All of these restaurants mentioned are completely vegetarian, and most of them are very close to vegan, however there are the same kind of issues with a lot of the processed mock meats, and (at some places) egg in certain dishes, which are often labeled. If you stick to vegetable / tofu / wheat gluten dishes at these places, you should be pretty safe.
Regarding the link by Erik Marcus of Vegan.com to
“The Four Steps of Nonviolent Campaigns”
The quote given from “The Letter From Birmingham Jail” is: “In any nonviolent campaign, there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustice exists; negotiations; self-purification; and direct action.”
The commentary from the author Eccentric Vegan is:
“I think some vegans are just a little too caught up on step three and not concerned enough with step four.”
It seems to me that the author (and Erik) must have missed the paragraph just above the one quoted, which contains “You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.”
I have leafletted for more than 20 minutes many times, and often not a single person seriously engages in conversation or takes information for review.
I believe Operation Pancake has called the city’s vegan restaurants out for negotiations, as stated in Dr. King’s letter.
I just ripped up all my take out menus from any Vegan Thai place. I knew they were suspect. I had actually called Green Leaves out a few years ago on using whey in their food. They told me they were unaware that whey was not vegan. I say they should be called out in the LA Weekly and a boycott of all vegan imposter restuarants.
HEY GIRL JUST WANTED TO SAY THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS. I’VE BEEN WORKING ON SEVERAL RESTUARANT IDEAS OVER THE YEARS AND THEY’VE NEVER CAUGHT ON.
NOT UNTIL NOW, THAT IS…
COMING IN THE SPRING OF 2010 … “REGINALD’S VEGAN CAFE AND BARBECUE”.
HERE’S THE THING… IT WILL ACTUALLY BE 100% MEAT-BASED PRODUCTS. YOU’VE PROVEN ALL THESE HIPPY-DIPPY VEGANS LOVE THE TASTE OF REAL CHEESE (AND REAL MEAT, IF YOU KNOW WHAT I AM SAYING), BUT LIKE TO PRETEND, TO SEEM HIP AND ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS, THAT THEY REALLY ARE VEGAN.
ANYWAY KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR MY RESTAURANT. I WOULD INVITE YOU OVER FOR A REVIEW, BUT WE BOTH KNOW YOU’D BRING YOUR LITTLE TESTING KITS AND THAT WOULD RUIN THE RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION OF MY FUTURE CLIENTELE!!!
Thanks for the info. I never trusted most of these vegan Thai and Chines restaurants, but I have to say I’m pissed at Vegan Joint. Couple years ago when it was discovered that most of mock chicken that was used in almost all Thai vegan restaurants, had whey, Vegan joint (with Plate and Glory) where the only places to come clean. I confronted Vegan Joint, they invited me in to their kitchen and showed me that all their mock meat came from local source and it was not imported from Taiwan or China. The mock meat was produced by a small business in the san fernando valley area and the ingredients was all listed specific according to federal standards for labeling. Most likely they have made the switch to that imported cheap mock meat. I hate the fact that they where in every vegan events this year and solid this over priced crap to vegans. I say we all should confront these restaurants and let them know that we will not order any of their mock meat dishes.
For now I will stick with very few vegan restaurants that I trust and I’m staying away from all these Asian places.
I have always been concerned about the mock meat at Asian restaurants. The Vegan Joint is by far the most open place I have been to. I can tell you first hand that I read the ingredients of the fish at The Vegan Joint and there was no animal ingredients. I have been a committed vegan for over 20 years and nothing in my life is more important than that. I am absolutely certain the package did not indicate any animal ingredients.
i had no idea about greenleaves but i’ve always suspected the cheese had casein in it for the reasons described above. wow, what an eye opener. i really appreciate all the hard work you guys put into this and i appreciate that atleast one restaurant owner responded. i certainly have more respect for him and his establishment than i do for some of the others who failed the tests and then failed to comment on the situation.
in regard to accusations of vigilantism, i would ask, “exactly what is wrong with alerting people that they are being misled about what they eat?” some people have serious allergies as stated above and some have serious ethical issues with consuming animal products.
i don’t think the tone of this study was hostile or rude; i think it just presented the facts. if there are restaurant owners or employees who disagree, i hope you will come out and explain your side of the situation.
as a vegan, i will be avoiding greenleaves in the future and any of the other menu items like pancakes and soy fish that came up repeatedly as contaminated/high. i hope that the vegan community will act in solidarity on this issue and avoid nonvegan food items whenever possible while continuing to be supportive of each other and help one another make informed choices about food and lifestyle issues.
AWESOME article! And if anyone thinks this investigation was frivolous, they need to think about what it means for the people who are severely allergic to things like shellfish.
Not to mention mis-labeled food is a form of fraud. If a meat-eater paid a premium price for angus beef and instead got a big mac, they’d be just as angry.
This article was extremely thoughtful and it tried hard to address any sources of error or bias. I really appreciate it.
That’s awful. I am not vegan and I do not believe that it is the most healthy of diets, but I am a ‘poultry/pescatarian’, was raised mostly vegitarian, and strongly disapprove of lies in foodstuff. This is equivalent to serving pork to a Muslim and just as appalling. Why would vegan restaurants, who are supposed to be serving animal protein free meals to those who choose to eat them, loading their foods with stuff they know vegans cannot or do not want to eat? It’s all for the money. Sadly a lot of people choose to be vegan because it is ‘cool’ and not because they truly believe in the ideals of a vegan life – and that’s sad. But the worst thing of all is that the restaurants selling ‘vegan’ food are cheating their patrons out of a truly vegan meal simply because they want to save a buck and animal byproducts are easier to come by. This is a disgusting practice – I do not approve of it in the meat business and I do not approve of it in the vegitarian/vegan lifestyle either. The moral of the story is this, kids – if you want a vegan meal make it at home with natural ingredients. That way, you know exactly what’s in it, and it’s nothing that Mother Nature didn’t intend to be in it.
Also… that tofu orange chicken is making my mouth water – it looks just like the real thing even though it probably doesn’t taste like it.
Despite running a vegan retreat center here in Florida I am only vegetarian. I stopped being vegan after I realized it was nearly impossible as I travel and eat out a lot. Most vegan restaurants aren’t REALLY 100% vegan. I now just call myself a vegetarian and while I don’t eat meat I realize I’m going to have some egg/dairy products on occasion.
Hello To everyone out there concerned about this matter. We at A Taste of Life welcome this testing on any and all of our products. We take pride in creating our meats and cheeses from scratch, TVP or Tofu, not purchasing the others. As a consumer we do appreciate Quarry Girl doing this because it has always been a concern of ours. Please feel free to ask us any questions regarding the content of our food and join us joining you in helping to create peaceful vegan environments. Thanks to everyone who supports us and who supports the growth and development of the vegan lifestyle. Our website is http://www.atasteoflifellc.com.
Wow, great job on all the effort put into this and exposing such a pervasive problem. I only wish we had 17 vegan restaurants here in Austin – even if some of them were “fake vegan”.
As a former TV investigative reporter, it makes me sad that investigative journalism is so dead. But congrats on doing the work that the mainstream doesn’t any more. Go get ‘em! And those who are so inclined, do this in every city.
Because I’m the only healthy/alive person in my family by a long shot, I’ve been eating vegan 20+ years, placing in local 5K’s for my age group, and teach cooking classes for the national non-profit, The Cancer Project in my free time. Trying to avoid the genes and bad lifestyle choices that destroyed my family has been the investigative reporting job of my life.
While The Cancer Project docs and dieticians suggest seitan and other analogues as a transition food, the cheapest and cleanest way to know you’re eating veggies to eat veggies.
There are 90 fruits and veggies out there, so if you don’t like one, we say, try some others. You certainly don’t find that variety in meats. I can make a mean seitan that looks like beef stroganoff. But seitan just doesn’t call to me the way a rainbow salad or bean dish does. Where I live in Florida between 2 fishing piers, it isn’t easy to seek out vegan dishes. But I can do it in every local restaurant, with items beyond salads. Carry on and keep asking for veggies!
PEOPLE GET REAL, HUMANS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE INTELLIGENT BEINGS!
It’s sad that I’m the only person to post an objection to quarrygirl’s “tests.” It’s a complete falsity: read the entire article again.
There are 9 bullets for their outline of testing and none of them are legitimate, especially the testing facility, which is apparently a vegan house built of vegan materials from the ground up. I would love to see photos of this ground-breaking architectural facility.
There is nothing scientific about these tests or their results, even the guys at
quarrygirl admit not everything is completely accurate. Just look at their reason for Pure Luck testing positive for casein, “can’t determine why.”
I don’t mean to rain on the praise parade but there has to be a limit in believing what you read, especially in this day and age where all forms of media are distorting the truth and reality of our existence.
Thank you so much for all the effort and expense you put into doing this research! I would be very grateful if you would test faux meats from the Wheel of Life in Irvine, one of my favorite restaurants. And it would be reassuring to have negative test results for other items at the “good” restaurants, especially their faux meats.
I wish someone would organize a class action lawsuit on behalf of all of us upset vegans who have eaten these non-vegan products! This is so depressing… I’ve always loved Thai and Chinese food and now am too paranoid to eat it.
If you need anyone to help with testing restaurants in San Diego, I would love to be of assistance!
i’m convinced that every moron who has something negative to say about your research never tried the cheese at greenleaves
I’m a complete foodie and I call it as I see it and this report should be interpreted by the readers as they see it, not to just simply imply or judge not having eaten there that all vegan establishments are not on the straight and narrow when it comes to strict guidelines regarding vegan foods. Call it “as” this investigative report found. someplace (Truly Vegan,Vegan Glory came out “Negative” from this report. Would you still say, no I won’t eat there because…what? You have something against an Asian establishment or something else?? You may eat wherever you want, just dont impose your thoughts on where “I” should or shouldn’t eat at!
First world problems.
Should you do it with the same kind of food for every restaurant? Maybe you should test all the foods also if you really want to judge them like this!! This may ruin the reputaions to the restaurants and we don’t even know how accurate the test is!!!
Unbelievable!!! Some of the restaurants in the list use a lot of ingredient brands in common for their foods but the test got the different results…Can this really be accuate?
I agree with Terence’s post above. Get real!! try it and decide by yourself!!
Incredibly thorough investigative journalism. Well done.
Excellent investigation. I rarely go to restaurants, or purchase prepared foods, sticking to homemade (made from scratch) foods.
To all of California Vegan Customers and Quarrygirl:
My name is Toon Fuhtrakoon. I am the owner of California Vegan. By October 2009, California Vegan will be in Business for 6 years.
Let me tell you a little history of myself and experiences. I’ve been in restaurant business for over 12 years. I have BA in Performing Arts in Bangkok University. When I came to the United States and stayed with my aunts and asked me to help as a cook for her catering business. They inspired me about Veganism. And I came to the conclusion that the best way to promote veganism was to show people that they could make tasty meals that didn’t have any meat by cooking for them. The most gratifying thing about owning my own restaurant is when I have customers come in and tell me, “my friend and my family became a vegan because he ate here.” That’s what it’s all about for me.
After I opened up California Vegan in October 2003 I told myself i have to do busin with honesty, integrity, commitment, and loyalty to customers.
It is very interesting that the Querrygirls accused California Vegan for using egg in Orange chicken because we use the same type of soy chicken and chicken batter like other Thai Vegan restaurants that you don’t find any egg or casein. We make our own batter mix ourself. Before i purchased the soy products i have to make sure that the all the ingredients are absolutely vegan. Also our distributors wouldn’t lied to us because the products came from Taiwan and they have to go through FDA. I agreed with Torence that there is nothing scientific about these tests or their results, even the guys at quarrygirl admit not everything is completely accurate. Just look at their reason for Pure Luck testing positive for casein, “can’t determine why.” Sorry to say this but The testing kits look like pregnancy test.
In conclusion I would like to urge any customers or the Quarrygirl who has doubts or concerns about our orange chicken, batter mix, chicken nuggets, etc.. to come to our store on Sunset location. I would be more than happy to show you the ingredients.
Thank you for my supporting customers and i appreciate Quarrygirl who concern about vegan community.
By the way, here is the ingredient for the batter mix flour we use for orange chicken.
- Kamut flour
- Egg Replacer (not real egg)
- baking soda
- garlic powder
- black pepper
Why do they call themselves vegan restaurants if they don’t really serve vegan foods. Some people are serious with what they eat, they can’t just say they serve vegan foods when they don’t.
I think the most important point made from this investigation is the problem with the source. In this case the manufacturer who produce fake meats and other company’s who produce faux cheese. One should be so inspired now to rely on home cooking than some food establishment that is in the business to make a profit and not so much interested in your health and ethics. It is a shame that some ‘vegan’ restaurants failed to research deeper into their food supply to insure clean, vegan ingredients. Besides I believe fake meats are such a transitional food anyways. Why are so many vegans still eating that stuff?
This is Rahel the owner of Rahel Vegan Cuisine at 1047 S. Fairfax in Los Angeles.
I am sorry to read about the problems with some of the foods at some of the other “vegan” restaurants in Los Angeles.
Please know that you can count on everything at my restaurant to be 100% vegan.
I do not use any of the fake meats.
My foods are authentic Ethiopian foods.
I only use legumes, vegetables, and grains.
Vegans should easily be able to feel comfortable dining here.
I am baffled by all the vegetarians that are fascinated by “fake meats.” But that is just me because I never liked meat yet alone have a desire to eat something made to resemble or taste like it. ” I would never eat a cute, pink pig but one that smells like it and looks like it but no heartbeat- oh yes! Sign me up! That way I can fantasize that I’m indulging in that cute, pink pig…but not really”
Anyway- back to the argument @ hand: We live in a country where you can’t rely on anything being what it claims to be… 100%. Always be aware that the only control you have is what you cook in your kitchen. Considering the quality control and food safety issues we have in the US and the negligence in what we import and the polluted water we have available in our taps and contaminated bottled water… It should not be that alarming that manufacturing companies cheat, at times and misrepresent their products.
I am lactose intolerant and allergic to wheat, gluten and oh too many items to list. So misreprentation is a problem. I’ve learned to deal with it and be xtra observant and ask tons of questions… I take full responsibility for what I put in my mouth. If I’m too tired to go through all the questions, smelling, poking and probing then I deal with the consequences…
With all that being said, I thank QuarryGirl for calling restaurants out along with manufacturing companies. This is what will truly motivate companies to walk the talk and stop mis-presenting and faciliate the shedding of ignorance. On the flipside: if you are testing make sure your testing tools are 100% accurate or you could be slandering and unfairly hurting an honest business.
*gasp* The Healthy Choice Shrimp Dinner tested “Overload” for shellfish! The horror.
Anyone who says humans were made to be vegans needs to take a look in the mirror, smile and explain what those canines are for.
You are out of your fucking mind with this testing
Uhm…I have to agree with Anon, above…just precisely WHAT are our teeth for? So that we can not-use them? That’s like saying that not-collecting stamps is a hobby! I’ll say what teeth were for, since nobody else probably will: RIPPING INTO MEAT!!
I mean, you all live how you want and all, that’s fine, but if you think about it…”natural selection” means “letting animals eat each other”. Or we can eat them ourselves. Either way, they’re gonna get eaten. And which way involves less waste? That’s right my friend, there’s less waste if we eat them ourselves.
And uhhhh…yea, if you’ve “never even thought of eating casein” or are “horrified” at the prospect…just exactly what do you think is in all-natural mother’s breast milk? Orange juice? Tofu? Whiskey? Gasoline? HELLO! It’s MILK!
Get it through your skulls please my friends, we need to go back to the all natural way. I am not a hippie but we need to get back to the all natural way.
Oh and next time you’re any of you in SC, tell me. I’ll make you a bacon egg and cheese English muffin with whole milk to wash it down. And you’ll know what’s in it because I’ll make it in my own kitchen! A deal?
I stumbled onto this thread this afternoon (work is boring today )and I have a question. Please know, I’m not being snarky, this is an honest question as someone who loves animals but eats meat. It may even be a stupid question and for that I apologize.
How is eating eggs and drinking milk cruel? Is it because chickens are in chicken coops? If this is why, aren’t there free-range places where they don’t coop them up?
For those of you who seem to have trouble understanding the term “carnivore” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnivore – note that it is not someone or something who happens to eat some meat. Humans are omnivores – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnivore.
I think the intent, shown above in a number of places, is to use the word “carnivore” to disparage those who eat meat – but, reallys does cut into your credibility by showing ignorance.
Thank you for this excellent info. It is well written, easy to read, and has interesting facts. Job well done!
May these be the biggest problems you encounter in your life.
Your argument is so bad, it has its own name: The Appeal to Nature Fallacy.
Here’s a Wikipedia article on it:
To everyone else, I’m sorry, but even the trolls have to eat!
I’m not vegan, but I think restaurants that advertise themselves as such have an obligation to make sure that their products be in fact vegan.
That being said, what could have been an excellent article falls apart at the end. (The follow up post helps considerably, however). Failing to contact the restaurants and let them speak for themselves was unacceptable from a journalism point of view and does expose you to lawsuits. Your methodology is terrible, testing a small number of menu items one time each. You could destroy someone’s business and throw their family into turmoil over an outlier supply issue or employee error. You rushed this story out, including speculation in your analysis of the results instead of following up and ascertaining whether the problem is one of restaurant laziness or greed or something whether 100% purity is logistically nearly impossible. It seems that Green Leaves has more than this one data point against it, but if I had been your editor I would have insisted on follow-up visits to corroborate your initial findings.
I appreciate that people with sensitive allergies have a reason for their purity trip, but there is no evidence that anyone has ever gotten sick from eating at these establishments. You didn’t have the financial resources to run the study you wanted to, alas. That doesn’t make it acceptable to perform a one time test and then accuse them of lying. Most of the article includes qualifications and a lot of transparency, but you fumbled it at the end and exposed yourselves to litigation even though you are probably correct about Green Leaves based on the additional context provided in the follow-up post. There is no reason to accuse them of a blatant lie. If your study had to be small-scale for budget reasons, then publish the results and let your readers come to their own conclusions. I seriously hope you do not face a libel action.
P.S. I just had one of those “hit myself on the head” moments regarding the whole egg issue… Obviously the eggs would someday turn into chickens! Sometimes I’m a little dense. HOWEVER, this led me to wondering whether all vegans were also pro-life vs. pro-choice. Of course, the chickens don’t have a choice… boy, this could go on and on.
Still, it doesn’t explain milk. So here I sit – waiting.
People are starving around the globe and we indulge in this kind of obsession. Have we lost all sense of perspective?
On a different topic,
I’m embarrassed by some of the mean-spirited and ignorant things stated here by my fellow omnivores, but I also think that some vegans in the comment thread have lost perspective as to what is realistic and how they sometimes come across to a wider audience. Making the perfect the enemy of the good is one thing, but it is also clear that some vegans see the world through a “you are either with us or against us” mentality.
Part of me thinks, well, if 99.9% isn’t good enough for you, that’s your business. Yet what that amounts to is putting that .1% ahead of so many other concerns, be they animal rights or otherwise. As with everything, there are diminishing returns in play here. It costs nothing (and in fact saves resources) to go vegetarian. It is relatively cheap and easy to enforce a vegetarian code on one’s self and hold vegetarian businesses accountable. Generally being vegan is a bigger commitment but I respect the effort since you are the ones making it. But as you approach 100% perfect veganism the cost and trouble of doing so gets progressively more expensive for increasingly miniscule effects on animals. Eventually one has to wonder if this is really about the animals or more about the social/psychological needs of the humans.
The insistence on absolute purity creates the perception that many vegans are not just making an ethical choice for themselves on behalf of animals but also are people that have contempt for people who don’t make the same choice. Getting upset over restaurants who are sloppy and disrespecting their clientele is different from getting upset over the possibility of ingesting a few grams of animal products on occasion as if it were unnatural. Working with restaurants and making them accountable is not my issue. It is with the attitude of disgust towards the possibility of accidental ingestion of the slightest bit of anything impure. There is just no way for someone to center their identity so strongly around the .1% and also be respectful of people who don’t make the same choice. I am not talking about people with super sensitive allergies, of course, but those who deride “pescatarians” and such. The last thing the vegan movement needs to project a PETA-like attitude towards non-believers.
PETA is the least effective advocacy group of all time as they turn potentially sympathetic people against them with their tactics and holier than thou bullshit. It is clear to me that some of the PETA folks have psychological issues around needing to be part of a meaningful group, to be part of something they find important, to be part of something bigger than themselves and so get lost in groupthink and self-righteous socially exclusionary sense of superiority.
Focusing on the .1% projects a lack of perspective about what is realistic as well as a lack of perspective about other social problems, you know, like war, disease, corruption, and hate.
Veganism is a symptom of an affluent society. That doesn’t make it right or wrong, but I don’t think it is in your collective interest to come across as spoiled rich Westerners with too much time on your hands, purifying yourself to the Nth degree. Most vegans I’ve known have had a healthy respect for other social justice causes as well as their non-vegan friends. Then again, most vegan’s I’ve known have quit attempting to be 100% vegan or dropped it entirely because they weren’t healthy and because it was enormous trouble. And then there are those true believer types who can barely disguise their contempt. The same dynamic exists within every minority group and I don’t think for a minute that most vegans have such a militant attitude. When I encounter it, however, my emotional reaction is to push back. I suspect some of the above comments are flowing from the same place. I also suspect some of the above comments are made by people who have never questioned anything about themselves and are just plain a-holes.
“nice strategy: green leaves has been lying about their cheese for years, and it’s been a major topic in the LA vegan community. people have seen non-vegan ingredients in their dumpster and kitchen. all we did was put their “soy” cheese to a scientific test. it failed.”
That might be the word on the vegan street and you have every reason to believe your sources but it is still hearsay as presented in the original post. Had you simply put their cheese to the test and reported it, you’d be fine. Accusing them of using real cheese on purpose — accusing them of lying — is what exposes you to liability. Maybe you should ask a lawyer, or edit your post before you get sued. I teach journalism and this is basic libel law. The owner of a restaurant is not a public figure, so if they have halfway decent records (receipts, purchase orders and such) and you have this one test then you could easily lose. It is complete garbage that people with money can use the mere threat of a lawsuit to extract a settlement, but on the surface they could have an actionable claim that wouldn’t be worth risking in court, and that could cost you — big time. Don’t shoot the messenger. I don’t want you to get sued, so lose the attitude and protect yourself.
Seriously, go ask a lawyer. You have not shown sufficient proof to accuse them of lying. It is a very risky claim that adds nothing to your story. That’s journalism 101. And not getting their comment before publication is weak. I take it investigative journalism isn’t your reason to live, it is an understandable mistake, but leaving the claim of lying on your site without more backup is stupid. If it is that important to you, make some calls to the people who actually saw their garbage and get them to give you an on the record quote. One piece of evidence simply will not do.
What’s so hard? If you want to cut out meat and cheese from your diet, CUT OUT MEAT AND CHEESE.
Processed foods can’t possibly be good for you – all the aweful chemical-laden denatured proteins.
Eat real food, and you won’t have to worry about where it comes from.
Really, this will be my last post. There is a graphic of one menu item with the caption: “Blatant lie from the menu on the Green Leaves website.”
Thus, you are accusing them of lying.
Yes it seems crazy but it only takes one false statement to make a libel claim. “Blatant lie” ascribes venal motivation to the restaurant. If they have a paper trail of purchases of genuinely vegan cheese, they could give you a hard time about it. If you want to prove that they purposefully and systematically lie about their products, you need more than one piece of evidence. The end.
It would have been nice if you had taken your findings to the restaurants in question prior to publicizing their names and your results on the internet, then you could have affected positive change without causing potential harm to businesses that may have been willing to acknowledge and remedy their (quite possibly unintentional) faults in trying to serve a particular population. Now you’ve become the vegan version of Geraldo Rivera. Are all vegans this unethical?
Well, lucky me… I’m allergic to soy and tree nuts, and therefore I HAVE to avoid pretty much everything listed as suspect in this article.
I can’t really be vegan, as allergies leave me with not many other sources of protein besides milk and beans. Soy is in so much, everything (and the line that people with soy allergies can eat soybean oil is such a crock) that I can eat at very, very few restaurants.
Anyway, interesting research, and great article!
If, in fact, the “cheese” @ Green Leaves has been a topic of speculation among vegans, why do you all continue eating there? Just asking…
Keep your yuppie $$$ away and they will change the cheese.
wow. you people are just as fanatical as the orthodox jews. this is truly sad–unless you have an allergy, what do you care if your vegan food was processed ON THE SAME EQUIPMENT (OMG) as shellfish and cream? just another holier-than-thou load of crap from the vegetarian version of the taliban. the FDA tolerance levels for insect and animal parts are considerably higher than the sensitivity levels of your tests. if you really want to eat a strictly vegan diet, stop eating out and buying food from the supermarket and grow all of your own food. no one is claiming that this food meets your ridiculously exacting standards, so all you’re really doing here is contributing to the popular perception of vegans/vegetarians as overgrown finicky children pushing away their plates because there’s something other than pasta on them. if you really have this level of beef (no pun intended) with these restaurants, then stop eating food that you haven’t produced or tested, cause the levels of purity you’re demanding are WAY beyond rational limits. if you can afford to eat a healthy vegan diet and patronize these yuppie slop-dispensers, you can afford to grow your own food, so stop demanding that the whole world adhere to your standards of purity and start doing something about the presence of minute traces of casein in your own diet.
All three of the tests you used are immunoassays. That is, the target molecule interacts with an antibody to it which was raised by injecting the target into–yes you guessed it–ANIMALS, and the interaction triggers a visible chemical effect. If the antibody was raised in a bioreactor it may be vegan, but the reaserch that made it was not.
More to the point, the egg-test (chicken ovalbumin) and the milk-test (bovine casein) are most likely species-specific; most immunoassays for proteins are. That means the restaurants could be using goat’s milk and duck eggs and you’d never know. And soon it will be possible to grow transgenic cows which make porcine casein, and transgenic chickens that make duck ovalbumin, and your tests will miss them.
Dear Quarrygirl & Mr. Wishbone, and the rest who were involved in this undertaking of restaurant testing, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’ve been a vegetarian for forty years and this truly was an impressive, informative article. It makes me wish I could read Chinese.
Nice presentation….are you that mad and retarded?
Seems kind of silly…do you wear leather shoes?
High standards…high IQ and a waste of energy.
Youre simply fucked
This posting in and of itself is not vegan
Fossil fuel powers them there internets
Mr. Meaner, I’m not at all surprised to learn that you are a dropout. It shows.
Seriously, you have obviously put a lot of time and energy and money into this project. Do you really not care about how the testkits work, and how this might affect the meaning of the results you published?
More generally, how do you feel about the fact that without sacrificing animals for research we would be unable to conduct the tests you used (and probably would not have any tests to measure unvegan-content AT ALL)?
BTW I also am a dropout. I dropped out of med school.
As far as “mainstream” is concerned, there are ostrich farms all over Australia and New Zealand, for meat and skin (ostrich-leather is nice although not long-lasting). Duck farms all over the world, and squab, quail, turkeys, and geese. What do you think happens to the unfertilized eggs? Couldn’t they be used in creamy-sauce mixes and noodles and batter-mixes and everything? You seem awfully sure this is not happening and ending up in your restaurants, even though you say you were driven to do this project because of misgivings about suppliers including some very foreign, questionably-regulated ones.
Oh, almost forgot: “assay” means what’s in the test-kit and how it works, “ovalbumin” is to the egg-test what casein is to the milk-test–the stuff in the milk or egg which the test detects, which more generally is called the “target-molecule”, “analyte”, or, if the assay is an immunoassay like yours, “antigen” or “immunogen”. “Immunoassay” means an assay (see above) which uses an antibody (see below). An “antibody” is stuff made by white cells in the blood of a mammal (or bird) that has been injected with antigen. Each antibody sticks to the antigen but not to other things. Antibodies are part of what makes vaccines work. The antibody is one of the molecules the blood makes to defend itself from the antigen, which the blood thinks is part of an invading organism (infection). This tags the antigen for other killer cells in the blood. Think of the meter maid who tickets the illegal cars and the tow trucks that come tow the ticketed cars away. The antibodies are the tickets. We kill the animal, steal the cells that make the antibody, grow them, harvest the antibody they make, and ruthlessly exploit the now-dead animal’s natural defenses for our own nefarious purposes like making test kits. We use the fact that the antibody sticks to antigen but not to other things to DETECT, specifically, antigen in the zillion-compound mush which is food.
I trust I make myself perfectly obscure. If not, maybe smoking a joint will help.
PS A “bioreactor” is a machine for growing cells in liquid, usually in order to harvest something the cells make. That means the bioreactor liquid must be chemically similar to what the cells naturally live in (usually blood), body temperature, supplied with oxygen and cleared of carbon dioxide. A bioreactor can be anything from a gently-rotating flask in a warm case to a chamber packed with cells with an artificial pump circulating growth-liquid through porus tubes through the chamber, fluid-dynamically designed by teams of engineers in well-tailored suits to maximize chemical exchange with the cells but minimize mechanical stress on them.
THANK YOU SO SO SO SO SO MUCH for this informative post!! I think I recognize those testkits…and I am shocked that Pure LUCK OF ALL PLACES had any casein in their food. THIS SUCKS<<<<<
On the positive: I like seeing citizens doing investigative journalism, and taking pains to use scientific methods when they do.
On the negative: you seemed to tackle this in a way I would call “adversarial”. Another approach would have been to engage all these entities directly–instead of posing as someone who’s posing as a blog persona. It sounds like you generally would have found out all the same things and not been out $1 grand!
At worst, these restaurants are offering a few items that are vegetarian (not vegan) and failing to label them correctly. I agree that needs to be fixed. But this plastic-bag cloak-and-dagger isn’t doing a lot for making veganism look like a viable way of living.
And it’s tough to effect change if you go into it with a divisive us-vs-them attitude.
FWIW, I worked the counter at an “all-organic” “raw-food” establishment for a bit. I’m personally all in favor of educating consumers about the nuances of the supply chain, and the esoteric details of why you can’t get organic wasabi. But neither the owner nor the customers appreciated my efforts to get people to understand the details. Sigh.
This office represents Green Leaves Vegan In Los Angeles Ca.Your website quarrygirl.com indicates that my clients food registers “overload” for Casein in my clients cheese dishes.and registers high for egg content in both it’s chicken and fish dishes.Your site continues to allege that my client is misleading it’s customers. The facts are that Green Leaves Vegan is vegan and is verified by the Los Angeles Health Dept. Green Leaves has passed all city inspections regarding it’s vegan menu. The information yoou have provided is false, malicious and defamatory. My clients business has suffered as a direct result of you website.You have 10 days to retract your comments about my clients restaurant on your website in a clear and noticable way. My client is even willing to allow you to retest his food. Failure to perform the above will result in legal action against you.Please be guided accordingly. Jeff Mann Attorney at Law. 3660 Wilshire bl. #522 Los Angeles Ca 90010 213-930-1902.
Mr. Meaner wrote:
“nice strategy: thanks for posting no more! I’m glad you teach journalism, because:
a) it’s a dying profession
b) “those who can do, those who can’t teach”
c) you are an American, right? Running to your pathetic legal system to protect you as you did to your “mom” when things were not right as a child.
d) The end.”
a) Journalism is a dying profession because people like you don’t think it’s useful/relevant to actually be informed about the world they live in. They’d rather hang out with and read stuff by people who think exactly like them. Why bother having an open mind when you know it all already. I’m going to guess this also explains your anger, inferiority complex(es?) and resentment of college graduates.
b) An insightful and rarely used quote whose systematic accuracy has certainly NEVER been debunked by experiencing a solid prof/teacher. BTW, aren’t you trying to teach your readers something via this blog as well as this specific post? Guess you can’t “do”…
c) Yeah, you used that same line about Americans wanting their “mom” (why the quote marks?) to protect them a bit higher up in the page. It made no more sense then. Yeah, Americans make you sick, we get it. So move to fucking Nicaragua*. You’ll be missed, but think of all the good you can do there. (Further, if you are American it’s your pathetic legal system too pal. And if you aren’t, what’s your deal?)
d) Now that’s what I call WRITING!
FYI: Let me preempt your comebacks: I dropped out of college, left the US on the day of Bush’s re-election and, though I am omnivorous, agree that products sold as vegan should indeed be vegan. I also think this is actually a fascinating and amazingly thorough piece of… what’s the word? Journalism? So props to you all on that. It’s just that the other people involved in this post seem to be reasonable and articulate people, whereas you just come off as a miserable cunt.
Would any of the other writers mind explaining to me why you put up with this guy?
*Nicaragua chosen at random, no hate mail from Nicaraguans who don’t want this dumbass in their country please.
Thank you for amazing report and as a vegan restaurant, we take it very seriously.
Even we didn’t intend to use non-vagan ingredients, it is not excusable if we provide food with non-vegan ingredients by selecting wrong products.
We contacted vendors or manufactures, and the following “vegan” products. Today, we confirmed all of them are 100% vegan (dairy and casein free).
We will talk and post what and how we create our menu in the blog.
Thank you for the investigation. I will definitely keep that in mind the next time I dine in LA.
Wow, thanks for this eye opener. As a Vegan, I can always tell if I’ve eaten something accidentally because I break out whether it’s casein or a veggie cheese that says “less than 2% of …”
I do everything I can to ensure I’m eating only Vegan so this is really great work you did. And it’s really wrong of these restaurants to be dishonest. Luckily, I’ve only been to California Vegan and thought the food was terrible so I never went back.
I agree with those, who like me, think over processed foods either vegan or not is just wrong and damaging to your health. I don’t eat at any of those restaurants (I live and work in the coastal Southbay area) and wouldn’t based on the visuals alone. They just look nasty. I think I will just stick to plant/tofu/rice/rice-yam noodle items at asian vegan restaurants…there are so many.
Thank you so much. For some people, like my 4 y.o. daughter, eating traces of egg is life-threatening. You have opened my eyes to the dangers of eating out in vegan restaurants, which I assumed would be the first place she would eat out when she is older. For now, i do buy a lot of vegan products from Whole Foods. Do you know if any Vegan certified products manufactured in US have ha problems? Also, there is a new state law here in MA that requires restaurants to list all the ingredients of all their dishes. Wonder if that would help “certain types” take this much more seriously!!
As I understand it, Vin Loi Tofu in Sherman Oaks and Native Foods make their own tofu and seitan (respectively). So, not all of the “fake meat” comes from Taiwan. Native Foods also makes its own tempeh (simply awesome).
You guys are effing nuts. I thought I was “impressive” with the scope and extent of the research that I do, but it’s tinker toys compared to this kind of investigation. I hope you’ve managed to get this published somewhere (other than your own excellent blog, I mean).
OMGOMGOMGOMG NOT REAL CHEESE….FUCK ME THE WORLD IS ENDING =/
Grow up, shit happens, dont “out out for vegan” if your so fucking worried about it, goto the fucking market, but your shit and make it hippyfuck.
Hey I’m not sure why my last post points to my blog (I swear I didn’t mean to!), but I just wanted to say I applaud Quarrygirl’s efforts and I am really glad there is someone on the vegan side doing her due diligence in making sure the vegan food we eat is indeed vegan.
BTW, thanks for the flurry of the latest vegan resto recs. I’m so behind the times!
thank you so much for doing this, posting this. i recently in the last year had been getting the feeling that these places were bad news… not only due to high amount of GMO’S used in most vegan restaurants, but also bcuz some of the food was seemingly not vegan. i have had my random moments of a weird taste, vibe, and often wondered where that was coming from. you have just prooved my already intuitive decision. THANK YOU. i will pass/post this around!
Yeah not the best news, but the biggest problem is getting people to go vegetarian.
Actually the biggest problem is first educating people on factory farms, too bad soooo many shitty vegan activists that fret over the crumbs gets in the way of helping the majority of animals.
Question….Forgive me if this is ignorant but if an establishment lables their food “Vegan” isn’t it considered ilegal if they serve you food that wasn’t? Assuming for a moment it is… couldn’t we get people to go in their, and straigten them out..or close them down hopefully with alot of fines for posioning us. im discusted by this persoanlly.
i’ve listed my email..and would appreciate it greatly if you new the answer to email me. thank you so much for exposing this.
i’m a vegan in aust an hav only just read this. i no its in LA but its made me wonder bout the ‘vegan’ places here. i am no the weirdo who takes her own food – at least i no thats vegan!
It’s good to see the food is being tested.
Wow! This is amazing!! Such great investigative journalism. I love the fact that you looked beyond the restaurants at the distributors and where the food ultimately comes from.
I know this was an expensive process but I’d love to see it done on a wider scale. Maybe get Peta or another organization with decent funding to do the testing.
Processed “vegan” foods from China have always been suspect. Frankly, meat analogues are a poor substitute for real food. They appeal to vegetarians who don’t really want to be vegetarians, the sort of people who think that the best vegetarian food is that which appeals to omnivores (refined, high-fat, salty, etc.). It should now be obvious why kosher certification of a restaurant requires that all processed ingredients used by the restaurant be certified kosher at their source.
what a great test! all that work, and what results! thank you for doing this. that’s brilliant.
After reading all this, I’m curious why you went to the Thai buffet in London.
As a vegan Taiwanese American, I’m ashamed by the actions of the Taiwanese manufacturers.
I like the mention in a post above suggesting that PETA would actually care about any of this.
A company that endorses a place like KFC just because they gave the chickens an extra 2″ of cage space doesn’t care about things being completely vegan. Just like how they don’t care about bone-char refined sugar (not the hottest button issue to me, but important to many), they’re not strict, nor are they truly concerned with animal rights.
That’s all I’m saying. Off-topic, but the notion that PETA would care about this made me laugh a lot.
I would stick to eating at home, using Gardein, Tofurky, Artisan and other vegan grain meats made by vegans. The Asian faux meat stuff I’ve know for several years has egg in it as a binder, they just don’t care enough. A restaurant in Santa Rosa stuck real cheese on the vegan pizza. Sucks!
That is terrible news about some of these restaurants. There are lots of people who are allergic to eggs.
MAN. I am really angry about this. Especially, because I have eaten at Green Leaves Vegan with my son… I feel cheated that they would lie about what is in their food. I mean seriously, here I am with my four year old who is all excited about this place and their “chicken nuggets” and me about the price thinking; wow, we can eat here even once a week, because it’s so inexpensive. And they have all their “ingredients” posted like this is all we use… and I believed them. I can’t even begin to express how angry I am… I feel sick.
Thank you for this and your other posts. My son has allergies to egg and dairy so we eat vegan when out and about. It is sad to see vegan products turn out not to be vegan.
When you do test again, I suggest also testing pre-processed foods you can buy in the market. I think many of them are not actually vegan. For example, we have a feeling some soy milks do in fact contain dairy based on my son’s reactions. If you test soy milks, also test the fresh soy milk companies such as Tan Nam and VK foods (you can buy still warm at many asian markets in Alhambra/Monterey Park). Tan Nam was caught with dairy in its soy milk in about 2005. These fresh soy companies supply many restaurants with soy products.
I regularly eat at the Vegan House and California Vegan. Or should I say I used to regularly eat there. What a bummer. Thank you for the info. I hope you guys can include Veggie Grill in the future!
Mmmmm, Vegan House! We finally called them for delivery the other night, and I LOVED their Spicy Eggplant with tofu! Don’t know whose Spicy Eggplant is better: Vegan House’s or Green Leaves’! Both are fantastic! Veggie Grill is great, too; my favorite dishes to order there are the Bali Burger fixed Kale Style and macaroni & cheese.
I want to say thank you so much for this article. it was so informative and i sent it to all my vegan friends. Great work.
Thank you for the investigation. If a restaurant masquerades as VEGAN, it needs to have its license revoked–plain and simple. Their willful negligence in serving animal protein endangers the lives of vegans and non-vegans alike.
I have been 100% vegan for over 20 years and after all these years, eating out is still stressful. When we go out, we go to restaurants in which we know the owners, chef and staff. Our favorite restaurant is Native Foods.
Whether one chooses to be vegan for philosophical, religious, health or allergy reasons, the choice needs to be respected. It is not for others to cynically ruin our lives by surreptitiously or negligently serving animal-protein food.
I’m so glad that Green Leaves—the one in West Hollywood— is near enough for my partner and me to call for delivery! The food is consistently delicious, the staff is very polite, and the delivery time is impressive! And I have no doubt that the soups, salads, and entrees I order are vegan, as I don’t eat faux meats anyway. Green Leaves continues to be my favorite restaurant to call for delivery!
Thanks so much for all of the work that you guys did. I will be looking out for East Asian foods.
By the way, I remember having a conversation on an Amtrak train with a guy who works for an FDA lab in LA. He worked with East Asian foods – seafoods and soy products. So he mentioned testing tofu and counting little pieces of rat hair…
Thank you sooooo much for taking it upon yourself to perform these tests!
I am so happy to see my 2 favorite restaurants passed the test…Native Foods and Real Food Daily!!!! Wooohoooo!
I went vegan 2 years ago and try to keep to it as best as I can. My real worries are with my daughter who is severly allergic to caesin.
I will for sure stay clear of the restaurants that you tested that use caesin in their products. I feel these eateries should be held accountable for falsely claimng that they are vegan. They should be forced to change their claims to vegetarian!
Awesome project! Can you come to NYC and do this at vegetarian joints? I swear some of them use meat in their sauces. How can I test for this on my own?
I especially love Green Leaves’ Rock & Roll noodles with tofu! We normally call Green Leaves once a week for delivery, and the food is close to perfection even after reheating it in the microwave. So good to be able to get fantastic vegan entrees such as the Rock & Roll Noodles at a reasonable price!
I won’t debate that humans are naturally omnivores, nor will I debate that the food chain is made up heavily of predator and prey relationships. I’m not a vegan. In fact, I hunt and I raise chickens. But I eat a lot of vegan food, because factory farming is NOT the food chain. Eating animals and animal products isn’t necessarily wrong (in my eyes), but raising animals the way we do isn’t good for us, isn’t good for our planet, and certainly isn’t natural the way you’re implying.
If you want to use those canines like they were really intended, go out in the woods with a spear instead of going to the grocery store.
All you over-obsessed leaf eaters need to realize that ur stupid eating habbits will kill you sooner than us meat eaters. In fact, most of u leaf could really benefit from a chunk of meat, especially between ur legs. Now go shave ur pits & legs and start looking like women again, ok?
Thank you for your dedication. As a vegan, I have made a choice to be compassionate to all beings, to the planet, & finally to myself. So, if there is a vegan retaurant that is serving animal products I need to know, so that I can avoid dining there.
I am saddened by the malice displayed by some posters regarding this topic. All great ideas that require change may illicit a fear reaction. This is normal, but can be overcome. To those who feel it is their duty to harrass vegans, why not read The China Study or watch Earthlings? Then perhaps you can, at the very least, understand that vegans are trying to be kind…to everyone.
Finally, I am pretty poor, and yet I am a vegan & and an environmentalist. We cannot afford to continue eating 10 billion animals a year and expect to survive as a species. The decision is kind & sustainable: Go vegan.
Wow, thats interesting. Has anyone heard of Mr David Wolfe? Hes a notorius vegan that teaches the most effective way to eat and prosper with your nutrition!
It’s amazing to me that some meat-eaters can be SO insecure and defensive that they actually bother to seek out vegan sites just so they can spew their vitriol here. And they seem unaware how inadvertently funny they are sometimes, when they counter with cliched arguments that have been debunked so many times before. What sad, small-minded people.
I actually wanted to compose a comment to thank you for the splendid tactics you are showing on this website. My extended internet look up has at the end been paid with reasonable content to write about with my good friends. I would claim that most of us visitors are quite blessed to dwell in a useful community with very many awesome people with very beneficial methods. I feel really lucky to have come across the web pages and look forward to so many more enjoyable minutes reading here. Thanks a lot again for all the details.
Animal traces are compatible with a vegan diet.
Human traces are compatible with non-cannibals.
Traces are not compatible with people who are allergic.
I love Rahel Vegan Cuisine!
So the Egg Replacer can possibly mimic real egg, I wonder if Quarry Girl thought of testing the egg replacer to verify? Gotta be thorough!!
Reply to California Vegan as to his recipe containing Egg Replacer:
“So the Egg Replacer can possibly mimic real egg, I wonder if Quarry Girl thought of testing the egg replacer to verify? Gotta be thorough!!”
Yes, I would consider that hurtful and slanderous if the Egg Replacer wasn’t tested with the egg testing kit. And the other “foods” too, like shellfish, find out what could cause a food to test positive or overload…. They could just be MIMICS!!
1. Teeth… Have you tried to eat an apple or a hard fresh carrot without them?
2. Mother’s milk…. Do YOU drink your mother;s milk now, it’s for BABIES, not adults!
Is this threat an “empty” threat? Once on the internet always on the internet, it cannot be erased….
82 Trackbacks / Pingbacks
[...] Baio links to Quarrygirl’s undercover investigation of the dubious ingredients in LA-based vegan [...]
[...] Undercover investigation of Vegan restaurants. [...]
[...] LA’s Quarry Girl took things a step further. Actually many many steps further – they actually did laboratory tests on menu items from 17 different eateries that claim to be vegan. Seriously. This is the most in depth trial and investigation on this kind of thing I’ve ever [...]
[...] passed this blog report along detailing some vegan restaurants in the L.A. area that are using non-vegan ingredients in [...]
[...] some people get called on this because false advertisement sucks. Basically a team of people from quarrygirl.com decided to buy a bunch of food testing kits (testing for casein, egg and seafood) to test food from [...]
[...] Quarry Girl took things a step further. Actually many many steps further – they actually did laboratory tests on menu items from 17 different eateries that claim to be vegan. Seriously. This is the most in depth trial and investigation on this kind of thing I’ve ever [...]
[...] Well then you’re probably failing. No offense. It really isn’t your fault. It’s not because you’re not trying. It’s just that it’s so hard to avoid eating animal products, that even “vegan” restaurants can’t avoid them. Wondering why that vegan taco tasted so good? That was probably because it contained casein, which comes from cows. Curious how chicken made from tofu could actually taste decent? Well, that’s probably because it had a decent amount of egg in it. For more info, check out the full article here. [...]
[...] I’m still on eggs and dairy myself, but if I were a vegan I would be pretty pissed at these results. Read all about it here: Quarrygirl’s Operation Pancake. [...]
Non-vegan ingredients at L.A. vegan restaurants exposed….
Before you eat another bite of food at any Los Angeles vegan restaurants, especially of the Thai variety, you MUST read the investigation just posted over at the quarrygirl.com website, “Operation Pancake”. Even if you don’t live in L…
[...] Armed with lab kits and a contamination-free testing environment, the Quarrygirl team tested some of Los Angeles’ favorite (and sketchy) vegan restaurants to see just how vegan their food really is. The results my shock you. [...]
[...] blogging team over at QuarryGirl.com launched the ambitious effort: sterile lab conditions, industrial food testing kits and airtight [...]
[...] Read the article for yourself here http://archives.quarrygirl.com/2009/06/28/undercover-investigation-of-la-area-vegan-restaurants/ [...]
[...] laboratory tests of vegan restaurants in la [...]
[...] Quarrygirl.com has uncovered a major story out of Los Angeles: [...]
[...] laboratory tests of vegan restaurants in la [...]
[...] laboratory tests of vegan restaurants in la | vegan food and living in Los Angeles – very interesting blog post that tests a number of LA restaurants to see if their food was really vegan. (fyi: i’m not and my wife is a pescatarian) although there were some meals that were obviously misrepresented as vegan, it seems the biggest culprit might be the mislabeling and mistranslation of food from the taiwan to us markets. [...]
[...] Thanks to the THREE! friends who posted this on FB! So not surprising, and another reason to eat real food, duh. Leave a Comment [...]
[...] for an outstanding piece, one that deserves a Pulitzer for vegan investigative reporting. Link. Spread the [...]
[...] I am still in a state of shock right now so excuse me if this post is a little disorganized. Two days ago quarrygirl.com, a popular Los Angeles vegan blog, posted a story about running a lab test on 17 different vegan restaurants in the LA area to see if they are really vegan as they claim to be. Apparently, it costs them $1000 in lab expenses, so mad props to them for making this sacrifice for the vegan community. You can read the whole article here. [...]
[...] Quarrygirl.com details their testing of specific dishes from seventeen area restaurants. It turns out that TEN had traces of animal protein (you know — eggs, milk, and shellfish) in their food. [...]
[...] Update: Thanks to Dag for sending me this link to an article about meat and dairy turning up in the food at many LA “vegan” restaurants. Quarry Girl [...]
[...] Labeling laws aren’t as strict in other countries as they are here, and we eat imported foods at our own peril. A Los Angeles area blogger conducted an investigation and discovered that local vegan restaurants were serving items containing meat, egg, or dairy. She also found that there is a great potential that the majority of imported mock meats sold in this country may also contain mea… [...]
[...] Tags: junk food, Los Angeles, oopsies — Feòrag @ 08:42 A vegan blogger in LA decided to go completely over-the-top and test food from their local allegedly-vegan eateries, and the results were terrifying. 10 of the restaurants came out okay, with no evidence of [...]
[...] What’s in your vegan meal? Quarry Girl [...]
[...] vegan world has been buzzing with some upsetting information. Quarrygirl.com did an undercover investigation on 17 vegan restaurants in LA to see if they were as vegan as they [...]
[...] y una seriedad dignas de emulación y estudio por parte de los medios ‘profesionales’. Los resultados, como es obvio, son escandalosos: buena parte de las comidas contienen huevo, leche o marisco, lo [...]
[...] See the rest here: laboratory tests of vegan restaurants in la | vegan food and … [...]
[...] Not sure about you, but that sounds like a pretty sound plan. Find out what happened here. [...]
[...] dat zonder de PvdA… Hoezo burgerjournalistiek bestaat niet?01-07-2009 om 22:45 door Grobbo Dit zou volgens de gevestigde kranten niet bestaan: Hardcore amateur onderzoeksjournalistiek naar ho… Burgerjournalist, journalistiek, Los Angeles, Media, veganisme, Waan v/d Dag Terug naar het [...]
[...] item from one of our favorite LA-area vegan restaurants, we knew that we were on to something with Operation Pancake. When POSITIVE readings gave way to HIGH and OVERLOAD results we were quite shocked. For us, [...]
[...] was reading this interesting article today on how items from vegan restaurants actually tested positive for animal [...]
[...] says, I guess they could be some kind of power bar for long rides. However, based on the “bombshell” out of LA regarding animal products in allegedly vegan restaurants and tainted ingr… (fake meats like you get at 99 Ranch), I think I’ll be taking a pass on this [...]
[...] years after his death, a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. would be perfectly applicable to the QuarryGirl.com vegan restaurant investigation? Link. Spread the [...]
[...] Quarrygirl.com report [...]
[...] Not sure about you, but that sounds like a pretty sound plan. Find out what happened here. [...]
[...] Quarry Girl: Operation Pancake (laboratory tests of vegan restaurants in la) [...]
[...] laboratory tests of vegan restaurants in la – "Is your vegan food really vegan? We pull out all the stops to test 17 LA area vegan restaurants for non-vegan ingredients, and to find out why seven of them failed miserably." i worked in a “vegetarian” restaurant once where they used gelatine. [...]
[...] probably didn’t even notice that I was gone, what with all the excitement going on over at quarrygirl (which you should read in case you live in a black hole and haven’t already) and tons of [...]
[...] Not sure about you, but that sounds like a pretty sound plan. Find out what happened here. [...]
[...] aren’t into the vegan lifestyle. I wonder if anyone has ever done the same thing in Portland. You can read the post here. From Mongabay.com, Madfish?: scientist warns that farmed fish could be a source of mad cow [...]
[...] we did an investigation on this place and found out their cheese is NOT VEGAN, but contains casein. other dishes at green leaves contain egg products. they have been lying about it for years. i [...]
[...] phones (comment here, some more general point on using mobile phones for citizen science is here), food composition and a Friendfeed discussion page_revision: 61, last_edited: 1247086783|%e %b %Y, %H:%M %Z (%O [...]
[...] for yourself here. I know I will think twice about serving my son “safe” vegan foods from now on. From [...]
[...] minority among vegetarians and vegans, which is why I thought I’d pass along this article: A blogger tests the food at several vegan restaurants in Los Angeles and discovers that almost half …. It’s worth a read. The conclusions of the testing make it pretty likely that this is not [...]
[...] the rest here: laboratory tests of vegan restaurants in la | vegan food and … | « Adventures in Shaw » FoodBuzz 24, 24, 24: Virginia Farmland Summer … Chef [...]
[...] Comment International tastemaker and occasional revolution-enthusiast Andrew Sullivan finds the rather awesome and intrepid debunking of L.A. restaurant claims to veganism [...]
[...] aren’t into the vegan lifestyle. I wonder if anyone has ever done the same thing in Portland. You can read the post here. From Mongabay.com, Madfish?: scientist warns that farmed fish could be a source of mad cow [...]
[...] Green Leaves Vegan (see below). You may recall that when we tested their food in the original Operation Pancake, samples from several food items showed as positive for Casein and [...]
[...] click here for the article! [...]
[...] Lots of (well-intentioned I’m sure) vegan and omnivore friends over the last month have sent me links to Quarrygirl’s investigative report on animal product ingredients in food purchased from self-declared vegan restaurants around LA (Operation Pancake). [...]
[...] But other signs are there. I go to the PETA.org website and check out the “Hottest Vegetarians over 50″ every year. I like Toby Maguire. I LOVE Chris Evans though apparently he is eating meat now, in order to bulk up (what a shame, he didn’t need to bulk up for me). I love whole grains, especially brown rice. Tofu also has never done me wrong. I love my dog, even when he smells. I even tsk tsked when I read Quarrygirl’s expose on LA “vegan” restaurants . [...]
[...] food bloggers in LA do some tests on food from their local vegan restaurants – with little of it turning out to be completely vegan. Something to think about if [...]
[...] organic or safe or non-GMO), how i feel about faux meats and cheezes (tho honestly, ever since reading this study, i’ve felt queasy about these things, particularly as these are produced in [...]
[...] in Los Angeles, the Quarrygirl vegan foodie blog had been doing an undercover investigation of supposedly vegan restaurants. They tracked fake meats that tested positive for egg and milk back to suppliers in Taiwan. [...]
[...] seems to be a thai restaurant with the word vegan in its name popping up on every corner. after a few of these restaurants turned up sketchy results when we tested their food for non-vegan ingredi…, i have pretty much been avoiding them all [...]
[...] actual lab results were nowhere to be found. well thanks to mr. wishbone, the stealth agent behind operation pancake (our undercover investigation of the ingredients at LA vegan restaurants), we were able to get our hands on rey ortega’s [...]
[...] new here, you may want to subscribe to our RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!After QuarryGirl’s groundbreaking but disturbing investigation of the vegan status of various LA restaurants, my heart sank when I saw her tweet this morning that [...]
[...] this very quickly: 1.) the food is inconsistent. somedays it’s better than others. 2.) the soy fish at pure luck may contain casein. (i avoid it just in case) 3.) pure luck used to have really comfortable seating and then they [...]
[...] delivery, and just a few blocks from my home? Yes, please. Despite the Operation: Pancake debacle, this is my neighborhood haunt. Super friendly staff, great food, fast delivery. All they need now [...]
[...] laboratory tests of vegan restaurants in la | vegan food and … [...]
[...] Breakers of the Year: Operation Pancake (Quarrygirl) Ecorazzi Says: If there’s one thing that vegan restaurants in and around Los Angeles learned [...]
[...] While a VegNews award isn’t quite as prestigious we’re also humbled that Operation Pancake, our investigation into Los Angeles area vegan restaurants, would win a “Scandal Breakers of [...]
[...] Technorati Tags : How to Spot a Fake Vegan Business Posted By: MarinaHanes In June 2009, QuarryGirl.com conducted an undercover investigation of vegan restaurants in Los Angeles, California. They tested [...]
[...] sure that your variety is vegan. Also, look for brands that are made in the USA; brands made in taiwan or china may not include all ingredients on the label, and may not be vegetarian at all. If I am using vegetarian “chicken,” I go to my local asian mega-mart and look there. [...]
[...] How vegan is your vegan food? [Quarry Girl, via [...]
[...] If you were a quarrygirl.com reader just about a year ago, you’ll probably recall reading Operation Pancake, where we investigated 16 Los Angeles area vegan restaurants, and found that six of them tested [...]
[...] when they removed curry from the menu, we may have called them communists at one point, and their baja tacos failed to pass our veganocity test. whatever, though! all that BS aside, we still looooooooooove pure [...]
[...] Research for Vegans Posted on August 26, 2010 by fuelyourlife So today I ended up on this article: http://archives.quarrygirl.com/2009/06/28/undercover-investigation-of-la-area-vegan-restaurants/. [...]
[...] Sure, there are some instances where vegan places are mislabeled (check out quarrygirls undercover Operation Pancake), but for the most part, you’re safe at a restaurant that says it’s [...]
[...] Grumpy Vegan’s initial reaction to this study was “Wow!” This was quickly followed by “Haven’t these people gotten [...]
[...] whether or not products are vegan. this was true for mr. wishbone (you remember him from operation pancake, right?) recently when he bought some agave-sweetened gummy bears at whole foods. here’s his [...]
[...] This is unlikely to mollify Quarrygirl, who insisted that “the laziness and outright lack of respect from Veg News toward animals and vegans undermines everything we stand for.” The blogger announced that she is cancelling her subscription, and returning the award that the magazine gave her – a 2009 “Scandal Breaker of the Year Award” for a stealth investigation into deceptive practices in Los Angeles vegan restaurants. [...]
[...] the other hand, remember when Quarry Girl did that expose [way too tired tonight to find accent aigus, my friends] of vegan Asian greasy spoons in LA and [...]
[...] sick. she called into question the vegan cheese, and even suggested that quarrygirl investigate it, after the success of operation pancake! we didn’t think much of it at the time, so it was even more upsetting when a forum thread [...]
[...] probably didn’t even notice that I was gone, what with all the excitement going on over at quarrygirl (which you should read in case you live in a black hole and haven’t already) and tons of [...]
[...] website highlights vegan restaurants, dishes and drinks while occasionally exposing vegan no-no’s. We chatted with Ms. Quarrygirl about the return of her LA Vegan Beer Fest, organized by [...]
[...] along with guest reviews from other places. She also has done some investigative reporting, uncovering so-called vegan restaurants serving animal products, restaurants that cruelly used animals in their marketing, and vegan magazines that used photos of [...]
[...] about using vegan cheese (suspicions date back to 2008, see the review by happycow user brittany). when we proved that they were deceiving customers by passing off real dairy as vegan, they threatened to sue us. since then, they’ve been under scrutiny by the los angeles health [...]
[...] in their name, that regurgitate the same tired menu of fake thai food and fake vegan food, which is usually neither. you know who i’m talking about—the “vegan thai” places that sell [...]
[...] Whenever you go out to eat, you’re putting your trust in the kitchen staff — not only that they won’t pee in the food, but that they’ll give you what you ask for. And when certain things don’t turn out to be exactly what was advertised — ending up with milk, eggs, and shrimp, as in the photo below — well, let’s just say we shouldn’t be surprised. [...]
[...] went so far as to bestow QuarryGirl with the “Scandal Breakers of the Year” award for their Operation Pancake investigation. In that investigation they tested “vegan” menu items from local restaurants for animal [...]