The Problem of Sucrose
The two major types of refined sugar produced in the United States are beet
sugar and cane sugar. Cane sugar is mainly grown in Florida, California,
Louisiana, Hawaii and Texas. Beet sugar is grown in states located in the middle
part of the U.S. Much sugar cane is actually imported.
According to beet sugar producers, beet and cane sugar are nutritionally
equivalent and one cannot usually taste any difference between them. They are
both composed of sucrose. The production and sale of each type of sugar are
Beet sugar refineries never use a bone char filter in processing, because this
type of sugar does not require an extensive decolorising procedure. Beet sugar
can be refined with a pressure lead filter and an ion exchange system. Beet
sugar is popular in the Midwest because it is grown in this area. It is often
labeled Granulated Sugar. Beet sugar is becoming more prevalent in the United
States because the Federal government subsidizes this industry.
Almost all cane sugar refineries require the use of a specific filter to
decolorise the sugar and absorb inorganic material from it. This whitening
process occurs towards the end of the sugar refining procedure. The filter may
be either bone char, granulated carbon, or an ion exchange system. The granular
carbon has a wood or coal base, and the ion exchange does not require the use of
any animal products (cf. Refined Sugar Inc.).
Bones from cows are the only type used to make bone char. According to the
Sugar Association and several large sugar producers, all of the cows have died
of "natural causes" and do not come from the U.S. meat industry. Bone char
cannot be produced or bought in the United States.
Bone char is derived from the bones of cattle from Afghanistan, Argentina,
India and Pakistan. The sun-bleached bones are bought by Scottish, Brazilian,
and Egyptian marketers, who sell them to the U.S. sugar industry after the bones
are first used by the gelatin industry.
Bone is heated to an extremely high temperature, which results in a physical
change in the bones composition. The bone becomes pure carbon before it is used
in a refinery.
Refined sugar does not contain any bone particles and is therefore
certified. The bone char simply removes impurities from the sugar, but does not
become a part of the sugar. However, this entails that the sugar, because
it has come into contact with something that is metame', becomes tame', and by
Torah law is prohibited.
Individual pieces of bone char, like granular carbon, can be used for several
years. They must be continuously washed to remove the sugar deposits. Companies
that use bone char claim that the char is more economically feasible and
efficient than other types of filters.
Many cane refineries use bone char. Domino, the largest sugar manufacturer,
uses bone char in the filtration process. The cane refineries of Savannah Foods,
the second largest sugar manufacturer, also use bone char. California and
Hawaiian Sugar employs bone char filters in addition to granular carbon and ion
exchange filters. All these companies use the bone char in the refining process
of brown sugar, powdered sugar (sugar mixed with corn starch) and white sugar.
Some cane refineries do not use bone char. Refined Sugar, producers of Jack
Frost Sugar, claim to use a granular carbon instead of bone char for economic
reasons. Florida Crystals sugar is a cane sugar which has not passed through the
bone. Although Florida Crystals sugar has a straw color, the impurities still
have been removed.
Some labels on sugar packages seem to indicate that the product is raw sugar,
but all commercial sugar has undergone some refining. Genuine raw sugar cannot
be bought and sold to the general consumer in the United States according to FDA
regulations, as it is considered unfit for human consumption.
Turbinado sugar is a product which is made by separating raw cane sugar
crystals in a centrifuge and washing them with steam. According to Domino Sugar,
turbinado sugar does not pass through a bone char filter because its brown color
Refining sugar involves a series of steps, including clarification and an
initial step where sugar syrup is added. The clarifying agents are calcium
hydroxide, phosphoric acid, and polyacrylomite. The sugar used in the initial
syrup is an intermediate, raw sugar which has not yet gone through the bone char
Refined beet sugar, which never involves bone char, is often labeled
fine granular sugar. C & H produces one sugar which has not gone through the
bone char. It is labeled Washed Raw Sugar. Cane sugar, which sometimes uses bone
char, is distinguished as cane sugar on the package.
As hinted at above, sugar has many different names, when detailed on a food label. These names
refer to specific types of sugar. The following types of sugar, which one
may be find on a food label, do not go through the whitening process:
- Raw Cane Sugar
- Molasses (any
type, except Sorghum)
sugars are not whitened (and, hence, are not filtered through bone char), this
does not mean they are tahor. Animal fats are still commonly used as
defoamers in the processing of these sugars. Therefore, these sugars
should still be considered tame’.
Molasses can be derived by
separating the sugar without bone ash filtration (called 'molasses
desugarization'), which is the vegan version, otherwise it may have animal
products in the process. Evaporated can juice does not
use the same filtration or defoamer processes. Beet sugar use gases,
evaporation, and screens to purify and filter (http://www.sbreb.org/brochures/SugarCoop/),
but is still questionable (http://www.sucrose.com/lbeet.html)
METHODS OF SUGAR PROCESSING
Tower Diffuser - A model
of a countercurrent cossette mixer, diffuser, and pulp press with press
water and juice heaters. The model is designed to allow for frozen beets
and to be self adjusting for changes in the beet slice rate.
Cane Factory - A model of
a complete cane raw sugar factory starting with milling and including all
process steps through crystallization.
Beet Factory - A model of
a complete beet sugar factory starting with diffusion and including all
process steps through crystallization.
Ion Exchange - A model of
an ion exchange process using stations in Sugars to account for the
different cycles that occur during ion exchange.
IS REFINED SUGAR VEGAN?
Desugarization - A model of a molasses desugarization system using a
chromatographic separator to separate sucrose from a molasses flow
stream and to concentrate the non-sucrose fraction using multiple
Anything that is truly vegan is also tahor. However, there is
no standard market definition of vegan, therefore the concerned consumer should
beware of the vegan label. Refined sugars do not contain any animal products, and so by
an ingredients-based definition of vegan, refined sugar is vegan. However, as
noted above, some refined sugar is processed with animal bone char. Thus, by a process-based
definition of vegan, refined sugar may not be considered vegan.
For more information, see the following: (http://www.vegan.org/campaigns.html)
WHAT IS SUCANAT?
Sucanat is a "natural" sweetener made by evaporating sugar cane
juice, then adding some molasses. It is processed only through evaporation,
just like maple syrup, to produce a more concentrated sweetness. Sucanat WILL
produce an insulin response, just like sugar, but it is released into the
bloodstream a little more slowly. Because Sucanat has molasses added in, and
most molasses (unless otherwise stated) is a byproduct of filtering out sugar
through bone-char, Sucanat is not permissable.
Caramel color is not a flavor; it is a food coloring
agent. Caramel color is used in almost any product that is brown. The top two
consumers of the color are Coca Cola and Pepsi. It is also used in rye and
pumpernickel bread, cereal, iced tea, syrup, dog food and pancake mixes.
Caramel color is based on a carbohydrate raw material. Most producers of
caramel color prefer to use glucose syruvp as the initial carbohydrate. Glucose
syrup is almost pure dextrose. While U.S. glucose syrup is usually corn syrup,
it can also be derived from potatoes, wheat or other sources.
Caramel color has no animal-derived components. Although lactose (a milk
sugar) is one of the permitted raw carbohydrate reactants,
to Sethness, the world's largest caramel color company, lactose is not used by
any caramel color producer in the world. Almost all industries begin the process
with glucose syrup. Caramel color is exempt from government certification, which
means that it is an approved food ingredient that can be added to foods without
obtaining government permission.
The initial carbohydrate reacts with chemicals such as food-grade acids,
alkalies and salts. It is then heated to a high temperature, put under high
pressure, and then processed to burn. The resulting product is a burnt-colored
liquid which has a high level of coloring power. For example, according to a
caramel color technician, ¼ teaspoon of caramel color would be used in a bottle
Refined beet or cane sugar can be used to make caramel color, but it is not
the preferred method. The only time sugar would be used is Passover, when
laws do not permit the use of corn syrup. According to
Sethness, products containing caramel color
derived from refined sugar are
labeled as such.
Therefore, foods containing caramel color are perfectly fine for consumption.
For more information on maple syrup, see our article: here
For those not interested in delving into the complex world of tahor
sugars, there are several tahor alternatives to sugar, such as:
- Barley Malt
- Rice Syrup
- Corn Syrup