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I Saw Three Shipments

Icon 202 posted      Profile for Parrot   E-mail Parrot   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post 
I heard somebody say the other day that most sugar in the US was filtered through Bone Ash. I wasn't sure if this was an urban legend or not, so I decided to do some research. I enjoy doing research and sharing it with others, and I thought that the people here would be interested.

I found several references from vegan websites. Some said that Bone Ash was used to filter the sugar, others said it was used to bleach the sugar. One person claimed that it was used in the 'clarification process'.

I couldn't find any information from reliable sources linking Bone Ash to sugar production though, about the only use I could find for it was in making bone china. But then I discovered that the term I should be looking for was 'Bone Char' rather than 'Bone Ash'. I believe they are 2 separate things.

Anyway, that's when I started getting good information. I found a good site here that gave me a lot of information about how sugar is made:

I looked through the entire thing and could find no 'clarification process'. I also found out that they do not bleach sugar. However, they do have a decolorization process.

So, here's the deal. Bone Char has been used to decolorize sugar in a process patented in 1812 by Louis Constant. It is no longer commonly used. (source:

The modern version of Bone Char is called Granular Activated Carbon, and it does not use animal bones (source:

I wrote to Phil Thompson at who gave me some additional information. Only cane sugar needs to use a decolorization process, beet sugar does not need it. There's no difference between the two types of sugar.

Phil told me that worldwide 30% of sugar was produced from beets 70% from sugar cane. In the US, though, he estimates that it's about 50% each between cane and beet sugar. He estimates that about 1/3 of the cane refineries in the states still use a Bone Char system.

Bone char is a legacy system and Phil think it's unlikely that anybody would consider using it if they're building a new refinery.

Phil's figures are estimates, but I don't think there's any hard data on this. I've looked but have been unable to find any. But according to these figures, just about 17% of the sugar in the US is decolorized using Bone Char.

Be assured, however, that absolutely nothing of the Bone Char ever makes it into the final product. Processed sugar is extremely pure.

So I've confirmed that a material made from animal bones is being used to process sugar. However, many vegan websites and the like actually claim that most of the sugar produced in the United States uses it. I think my research shows that this is not the case.

Posts: 84 | From: Canada | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
The Red and the Green Stamps

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Interesting! Thanks for sharing the fruits of your research with us.

-- Bonnie

Se non vero, ben trovato.

Posts: -99014 | From: Chapel Hill, North Carolina | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator

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