By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS
The Vegetarian Resource Group received an inquiry from a reader asking for a sugar update. She wanted to know if cane sugar is still mostly processed in the United States through cow bone char as it was when we last reported on it.
We first asked the American Sugar Refining Group (ASR Group®), maker of C&H®, Domino® and Florida Crystals® Sugar. The company had told us in 2013 that the cane sugar processed in 2 of their 9 plants, in Yonkers, NY and in Orlando, FL, was bone char-free. We wanted to know if this was still accurate information, and if any other of their plants had converted to non-cow bone char methods of cane sugar decolorization in the last few years.
In July 2019, we emailed Domino these two questions through their web contact form:
- How much of your sugar is whitened through cow bone char?
- Can I know how your sugar has been processed from your package codes?
Here is the response we received from Domino Foods. [VRG Note: Please note that in this response, ASR Group refers to “bone char” as “animal-derived natural charcoal.”]
“…At ASR, we utilize natural charcoal to remove the color and impurities from the sugar liquor at our Chalmette (LA) and Crockett (CA) refineries. Natural charcoal is not used for decolorization at our Baltimore (MD) and Yonkers (NY) refineries…
The…refined sugar products manufactured from our process do not contain any actual impurity from the natural charcoal. We also market…Demerara Washed Raw Sugar and a certified organic sugar which are crystallized from pressed/filtered cane juice and not filtered via natural charcoal….”
In answer to followup questions, a Consumer Relation Specialist at Domino Foods said:
“…The production or lot code would determine which refinery our sugar is manufactured. Baltimore’s code starts with a 4 and Yonkers starts with a 1…”
“The code numbers for Chalmette, LA start with a 5, Crockett, CA starts with a 7.
Our refinery in South Bay, FL starts with a 6, which also does not use bone char.”
“C&H® Sugar from California is mostly in the West and some of the Midwest. Domino is largely in the East and Southeast. Florida Crystals® is South and East Coast.”
Based on all of the responses above, The VRG has assembled information received by the American Sugar Refining Group in the following table:
Table 1. ASR Group Processing Method and Plant Codes – August 2019
Plant Location Production (Lot) # Cow Bone Char Used U.S. Regions Where Sold
Crockett, CA 7 yes West, Midwest
Chalmette, LA 5 yes –
Yonkers, NY 1 no –
Baltimore, MD 4 no East, Southeast
South Bay, FL 6 no South, East Coast
Interested readers can check back to our website for more updates on cow bone char decolorization in cane sugar processing as we survey major sugar companies.
For information on other ingredients, see https://www.vrg.org/ingredients/index.php
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The contents of this posting, our website, and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.