“I Keep Kosher, But I Eat Dairy in Restaurants”

How many times have you heard that one? Growing up, it wasn’t a big surprise: our family would go out to the local Chinese restaurant, only order things that began with “egg” or ended with “vegetables,” and we’d inevitably be surprised when a chewy, tangy piece of General Tso tasting suspiciously like chicken popped up.

My mother would call over the waiter. Profuse apologies would ensue. We’d get a free dessert (score!). And then, the next week, we’d go right back to the same place, and the exact same thing would happen.

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.

fake vegetarian food

The website QuarryGirl.com has been keeping track of a bunch of restaurants that were officially vegetarian or vegan. A bit of lo-tech hacking (okay, let’s just call it dumpster diving) resulted in discovering packages like the above. For the next phase of their plan, the QG team tested the actual food for traces of egg, dairy protein, and shellfish. And guess what they found?

not really vegan food
secret non kosher ingredients

Scan down about halfway, and you’ll find the juicy bits. Their investigation led them to a bunch of Taiwanese manufacturers who were linked to a news story — the headline, Over 50% of processed foods for vegetarians found to contain meat, really says it all. But just in case you need more elaboration:

DNA tests revealed that in the two most serious cases, the vegetarian patties and ham of one vendor and vegetarian dried shredded pork from another vendor contained at least 20 percent beef or pork, Pu said.

And their original investigations took place at restaurants that are supposed to be vegetarian. If you’re eating at a regular old non-veggie restaurant, and there’s shrimp sitting right next to that plate of Vegetable Kung Pao you’re ordering, what are the chances that your main course is going to have a few extra crustaceans in it?

Thanks to Milhouse for this one.

Posted on July 23, 2009

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