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LA vegan restaurants test positive for non-vegan ingredients

Green Leaves's Vegan Quesadilla is overloaded with casein according to tests

Green Leaves’s Vegan Quesadilla is overloaded with casein according to tests

Earlier this week Quarrygirl posted the findings of Operation Pancake, their investigation to determine whether LA-area vegan restaurants serve food containing casein, egg, or shellfish. With painstakingly careful testing, they found that selected dishes at seven out of 15 restaurants contained non-vegan ingredients.

The tests—true-to-life egg, casein, and shellfish testing kits that work kind of like pregnancy tests and are used in the food industry—offered five results: invalid, negative, positive, high, and overload. (The testing process is kind of complicated, so I suggest reading the blog for details.) The single restaurant whose food tested overload for anything is Green Leaves Vegan, where the quesadilla contains casein. Quarrygirl hilariously excerpts an image of the menu, which claims the quesadilla contains “casein-free (non-dairy) melted vegan cheese.”

Here’s a chart (via Quarrygirl) detailing the results:

While disappointed by the results, I can’t say I’m terribly surprised. Recall a time in December, when Rudy asked readers to call bullshit on restaurants that misrepresent non-vegan food as vegan. Reading his post, my first thought was of Quantum Leap, where the sauerkraut is laden with honey and the buns occasionally contain whey depending on the brand, reported my favorite (and ex-vegan) waitress. Le sigh. Is there no place for vegans to go where they don’t have to read every label or interrogate every employee? At least we have the 10 restaurants that passed Quarrygirl’s test.

Never having been to that most glorious fair-weather land, I don’t know any of these places. But I bet you do. So tell us, what does this mean to you? How will it affect your dining routine, if at all?


  1. Comment by


    on #

    I’m a health journalist and I blogged about this investigation as soon as QuarryGirl published it. (

    I’m a New Yorker, and long-time vegan…and this totally changed my perspective on where I’ll eat. It seems like a lot of pre-packaged, imported items aren’t actually vegan. So yes, that changes my perspective on restaurants I’ll visit.

    I wish someone would do this in NY. I’ll put in some money and time if others want to contribute too.

  2. Comment by


    on #

    i agree, i would love if someone would do this in NY. i’d totally put time into it as well. it definitely is scary & messed up too! if we cant even trust places that claim to be vegan who can we trust? & there are definitely places in nyc that had said things were vegan then months/years later it came out they had eggs.. & i do know of certain veg places in nyc getting their mock meats from Taiwan as well..

  3. Comment by


    on #

    Even without any lab tests done in NYC, it seems safe to say that there is an overwhelming chance that any restaurants serving mock meats made in Taiwan that are listed as vegan, are not vegan. This would include all the Chinatown restaurants, Red Bamboo, VP2, Soy & Sake, and many others.
    I seem to recall that Red Bamboo was caught many years ago lying about using egg whites in their chicken nuggets, which they claimed were vegan. Should restaurants that knowingly lie to the vegan community deserve continued support from the vegan community, or should they be boycotted?

  4. Comment by

    Laura Leslie

    on #

    Edita, I think you’re thinking about Vegetarian’s Paradise 2. It turned out that they had lied about a bunch of items on their menu and eventually updated it to reflect that those things have eggs or dairy (now they have stars next to them). I remember because I used to order the corn nuggets all the time and was always reassured that they were vegan… only to discover later that they were made with eggs.

    I agree with your conclusion that vegans would be best to avoid mock meats made in Taiwan, at least until they get their labeling issues sorted out. I don’t think most restaurant owners serving these items are being malicious–they’re going by ingredient lists which don’t mention eggs or dairy–but the ingredient lists are wrong. *sigh*

  5. Comment by

    Patrick Kwan

    on #

    Note that there are many different vegetarian food manufacturers in Taiwan. The NYC/East Coast market uses products from May Wah and VP2/Red Bamboo’s own line, Absolute Vegetarian.

    The California/West coast market is taken up by VegeUSA, and is the main culprit in QuarryGirl’s investigation.

    An NYC investigation needs to be done.

  6. Comment by


    on #

    I’ve always loved my visits to May Wah, but they’re a distributor, not the manufacturer of the mock meats they sell?which are made in Taiwan. I called Absolute Vegetarian, and it seems the same is true for them: the products are made in Taiwan, and they just distribute them. Because the difficulty and confusion arises from the labeling laws in Taiwan, the problems are potentially the same as for the West Coast VegeUSA products. It seems the doctrine of caveat emptor applies here; better safe than unintentionally eating egg and whey….

  7. Comment by


    on #

    i used to live in LA and i’m glad to see that the vegan restaurants i ate at were the ones that PASSED the test. this does really make me think about all the vegans in LA who don’t know that they are going to restaurants that are serving non-vegan food. i do think that some of the restaurants don’t even know they are serving non-vegan items, especially if there are mistakes on ingredient labels

  8. Comment by


    on #

    does anyone know which restaurants in nyc use products from may wah?

  9. Comment by


    on #

    This is precisely why I started cooking my own meals when I first became a vegan. It kinda sucks, yeah, but at the time I was too terrified to trust anyone. It seemed like the whole world was getting a thrill out of hurting those yummy animals, and I was too scare to ask a lot of obnoxious questions that nobody really wanted to hear or answer.

    One side benefit of making your own meals is that it’s a lot easier to go organic, and support farmers who actually care about you, their employees, and the land that bears their crops. Another benefit is that you can invite your friends over and impress them with your culinary talents.

    So I don’t eat out as often anymore. Sometimes I miss it, but the payoff is more than financial. I’m supporting businesses that I believe in, and in doing so I’m making the world a better place (in my view), one meal at a time. That to me is a huge part of what being vegan is all about.

  10. Comment by

    on #

    Wow, I LIVE in LA & am bummed out to see this!! I also have a feeling as others have mentioned, that many of these restaurants may not KNOW they’re serving ingredients made w/animal products…perhaps the manufacturers are misleading them or (apparently mis-labeling) things themselves)!Luckily for me, I’ve never really been a fan of meat-imitations (they gross me out for whatever reason, maybe because I never liked meat)! However I definitely have vegan friends who really like them so I’ll spread the news & make them aware. Also, just wanted to mention that we’re having a raw, organic, vegan cheesecake giveaway via – just to the end of the week for a-n-y eco-friendly wedding idea! for details! Thanks & keep up the vegan love!!! Blessings,
    :) Candy

  11. Comment by


    on #

    i`m a vegan til about 3 years becaus of my healthiness and for love to the animals i personaly have 5 animals 2 rabits 1 cat and 2 dogs. So many people answered me why do you were a vegan that is a very simple answer for me because i love the food i become new power my hair gets stronger, my skin were better. for my it was the best thin gwhat i could do, not only for my for the world, animals and for spending resources!