Is Lecithin Made From Pork? Understanding the Sources of This Versatile Additive

Lecithin is a common additive found in processed foods, supplements, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. It’s prized for its emulsifying properties that allow oils and water to mix uniformly. With growing consumer awareness around food ingredients, a question arises – is lecithin made from pork? The short answer is sometimes, but not always.

Lecithin describes a group of naturally occurring fatty phospholipids. As a food additive, lecithin can come from various plant and animal origins, both kosher and non-kosher. The most common non-pork derived sources are soybeans, sunflower and eggs. However, some lecithin does come from pork. Let’s take a deeper look at lecithin sources and how to tell if it’s plant, egg or pork-based.

Common Sources of Lecithin

Lecithin has a fatty, waxy texture and is made up of choline, inositol, fatty acids and glycerophospholipids. Here are the most prevalent sources:

  • Soybeans – The majority of commercially used lecithin comes from soybeans The lecithin is extracted from the oil using hexane solvents. Most soy in the US is genetically modified

  • Sunflowers – Sunflower lecithin is extracted using a cold-pressing method. It’s non-GMO and suitable for people avoiding soy.

  • Eggs – Egg yolks contain small amounts of lecithin. It can be extracted for supplements and cosmetics.

  • Canola – Lecithin derived from canola oil is sometimes used in Canada and Australia

  • Corn – Corn oil may be used to extract lecithin on a smaller scale.

  • Pork – Lecithin occurs naturally in pork fat or lard. It provides moisture and texture.

  • Other animal fats – Tallow from beef or mutton may also be a source of animal-derived lecithin.

Is Pork-Derived Lecithin Common?

Lecithin from pork sources is less commonly used in commercial applications today. However, it was once a major source of lecithin before solvent extraction techniques were developed for plant oils like soybeans. You may find pork-based lecithin in some older formulations of processed foods, baked goods and cosmetics, although this practice has declined significantly.

Meat processors may still use pork lecithin to enhance taste, moisture and texture in products like hot dogs, deli meats, pates, sausages and canned meats. It helps bind the meat and prevent it from drying out. This type of use is probably the main application where pork-derived lecithin remains common currently.

How to Know If Lecithin is Pork-Based

Since lecithin can come from both plant and animal origins, it’s understandable that consumers want to know if pork is used, especially for religious, vegetarian or vegan diets. Here are some tips to discern possible pork sources:

  • Check the label – Food manufacturers are required to disclose major food allergens like egg, soy, milk, wheat, fish and shellfish. If the label lists “lecithin” with no other qualifiers, pork is a possibility.

  • Call the manufacturer – Don’t hesitate to contact manufacturers and ask if their lecithin contains any animal-derived ingredients, including pork sources. Many are happy to provide this information.

  • Look for certifications – Kosher, Halal, vegetarian or vegan symbols on packaging indicates the lecithin used is plant-based. Lack of these certifications however doesn’t guarantee pork contents.

  • Buy egg or sunflower types – Opting for lecithin supplements made from eggs or sunflowers instead of “lecithin” ensures you’re getting non-pork sources.

Pork-Free Alternatives

Thankfully for those wishing to avoid pork, egg and plant-based alternatives to lecithin are widely available:

  • Sunflower lecithin – This is the most popular non-pork, non-soy lecithin used in supplements and packaged foods. It’s also environmentally friendly.

  • Egg lecithin – Sourced from the yolk, egg lecithin provides an animal-based option, but take note of egg allergies.

  • Soy lecithin – Despite issues like GMO crops and solvent extraction methods, soy lecithin remains a very common choice.

  • Canola lecithin – This is less common, but canola-derived lecithin offers another possible plant-based alternative.

Uses of Lecithin Beyond Pork Products

While pork sources were historically significant, lecithin today is utilized far more widely thanks to plant-based manufacturing methods:

  • Emulsifier – Lecithin is added to numerous processed foods, including ice cream, margarine, mayonnaise, chocolate and baked goods, to help bind ingredients smoothly.

  • Dietary supplements – Lecithin capsules and powders are taken to boost liver function, cholesterol, brain health, digestion and lactation.

  • Medications – It improves absorption of medications and prevents ingredients from separating.

  • Cosmetics and skincare – Lecithin moisturizes and nourishes skin, and makes body creams, soaps and cosmetics more homogeneous.

  • Animal feed – Added to livestock and fish feed for health benefits and efficient nutrient absorption.

  • Industrial applications – Functions as a release agent, antistatic and viscosity modifier in rubbers, textiles, oils and other products.

The Bottom Line

While lecithin was historically obtained from animal fat like pork, egg yolks and soybeans are now the predominant sources used in foods, supplements and industrial applications. As a versatile emulsifier and additive, lecithin from pork has become relatively uncommon compared to more efficient plant-derived options available today.

Consumers avoiding pork for religious, ethical or dietary reasons can look for sunflower, soy or egg lecithin if a product just lists “lecithin” in the ingredients. Or better yet, reach out to manufacturers directly to inquire about their lecithin sources if uncertain. With access to egg and various vegetable options offering comparable benefits, pork-free lecithin is easy to find in today’s market.

The 11 Benefits of Lecithin


What is lecithin made of?

The International Lecithin and Phospholipid Society defines lecithin as ‘a complex mixture of glycerophospholipids obtained from animal, vegetable or microbial sources, containing varying amounts of substances such as triglycerides, fatty acids, glycolipids, sterols, and sphingophospholipids.

Is soy lecithin pork?

Soy lecithin is produced from the soybean plant with no animal byproducts used in its creation.

What food additives contain pork?

Chewing Gum: Stearic acid is used in many chewing gums. It is obtained from animal fats, mostly from a pig’s stomach. Instant soup: Some seasonings in soup contain traces of bacon. Cream Cheese: In some products, gelatin is used as a thickener.

Is lecithin halal?

As a plant derived ingredients, Soy Lecithin and various other soy products (Soy Protein and Soy Dietary Fiber) is general recognized as halal.

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