Your Cheerios Might Not Be Vegan Depending on Where You Live — Here’s Why

Although Cheerios appear vegan-friendly, they contain animal products in the U.S.

Eva Hagan - Author

Apr. 8 2024, Published 2:30 p.m. ET

An angled photo of a row of Cheerios boxes next to Frosted Flakes.
Source: Getty Images

The next time you are at the store shopping for cereal, check the ingredients on the box of Cheerios before buying, because they might not be vegan. The ingredients and nutrient content of popular packaged food products often change depending on where you live.

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For instance, when walking down the breakfast food aisle at the store, Cheerios may appear as one of the safer cereals for vegans. However, when it comes to processed foods, you can’t always tell what’s in a product at first glance.

And even though Cheerios in the U.S. and Canada may appear identical, the cereal actually has different ingredient lists in different countries. Here’s what you should check for when trying to find out if your Cheerios are vegan,

A photo of someone pouring Cheerios into a blue bowl on a table.
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Are Cheerios vegan?

Depending on where you live, your Cheerios likely are not vegan, per Bree’s Vegan Life. For starters, Cheerios are not labeled vegan.

In the U.S., Cheerios are not vegan due to a specific ingredient on the label; but in other countries, such as Canada, many vegan consumers would view Cheerios as vegan.

A person pours a Cheerios into a bowl from a Family Size box.
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Why aren't Cheerios vegan in the U.S?

Although you might think the popular whole-grain oat cereal is made entirely from plants, there is a small amount of an animal-derived ingredient in Cheerios in the U.S.

That's because, in the U.S., many breakfast cereals are fortified to boost their vitamin and mineral content. According to Healthline, deficiencies in nutrients such as iron, calcium, and vitamin D are common in the U.S. Therefore, most cereals are fortified with nutrients in the U.S.

And according to Food Sense, regular Cheerios contain vitamin D3, which is most often derived from lanolin, a waxy byproduct of wool farming. Therefore, because of the presence of vitamin D3, regular Cheerios are not considered vegan in the U.S.

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Cheerios also contain sugar that may have been processed using animal bones, aka bone char. According to Vie De La Vegan, in the U.S., refined sugar is often whitened and decolorized using animal bones, therefore making the sugar in Cheerios non-vegan. However, it’s important to note that these are just trace amounts of non-vegan ingredients, and for the average vegan this might not be an issue. However, nonetheless, it’s good information to know.

A row of Cheerios boxes on a shelf at the store.
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Are Cheerios vegan in Canada?

While it doesn’t look like Cheerios are certified vegan in any country, there may be a few places that use different manufacturing processes that would make Cheerios vegan.

For example, in Canada, processed foods do not go through the same fortification process as in the U.S. Part of what makes Cheerios non-vegan in the U.S. is the fact that they are fortified with vitamin D3.

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According to the Government of Canada, voluntarily fortified breakfast cereals “may contain added thiamine, niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, folic acid, magnesium, iron, and zinc.”

Cheerios in Canada do not contain vitamin D3 — and even if they were fortified, they would not contain D3.

However, in Canada, some sugar refineries process their product with bone char, like in the U.S.

Some vegans are comfortable eating sugar that has been processed this way, since it's not technically in the final product; however, other vegans avoid sugar that is not labeled vegan (or organic, which is typically automatically vegan).

So if you are vegan, whether or not you are comfortable consuming potentially non-vegan sugar or vitamins in Cheerios is up to you.

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A display of stacked Honey Nut Cheerios boxes at the store.
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Are Honey Nut Cheerios vegan?

Honey Nut Cheerios are not considered vegan because they are made with honey. Veganism aims to end all animal cruelty and exploitation, and honey is made using animal farming, specifically bee farming, and therefore does not align with these principles.

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