I went out and brought a starter beer brewing kit today. A lot of it came across as silly. A beer enhancer - sugar + a few other bits and pieces that aren't really needed. Carbonation drops - sugar. But the one that had me scratching my head was "finings". So I looked it up on the Internet.
It turns out that fining agents are used to remove the murkiness from beers by making those bits that are murky more solid so that they sink to the bottom of the barrel. Cool - I can have a clear beer. What really surprised me though are the sorts of things used as finings.
Irish moss - a derivative of seaweed. Gelatin. Silica gel. Isinglass - a collagen based additive that's extracted from fish bladders. PVPP - plastic. The pack that came with the starter kit said "collogen (E441)" on it (gelatin). Great news for those who don't mind so much - you'll find sachets of unflavoured gelatin at the local supermarket at pretty reasonable prices. But what if you're vegetarian? Okay - sure, if you're brewing yourself, you don't need to use it (it's only used to get a clear beer - if you don't mind it not being that clear, then it's fine) but what about commercial beers? You would have to assume that they all use fining agent of some kind. The page I looked it up on said that isinglass is used mainly by commercial brewers...
It gets worse though. I knew there was something like this in wine. Never listed in the ingredients BUT you'll sometimes find a warning about traces of fish or eggs on the back of a wine bottle - which had me wondering. So I figured, given that I'm now writing this blog post, I should probably look it up.
The list of things that could be in your wine, and not listed anywhere on the bottle, is astounding. A lot of those things on the list - I don't really know what they are.
So while we trust in a list of ingredients on our food products, it turns out that the ingredients on some food items don't need to be on there which just feels kind of disrespectful to vegans, vegetarians etc.