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Q: Sugar Filtration Through Bone Ash Filters ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Sugar Filtration Through Bone Ash Filters
Category: Science > Agriculture and Farming
Asked by: justadream-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 13 Feb 2005 15:43 PST
Expires: 15 Mar 2005 15:43 PST
Question ID: 474002
Sugar.In making sugar whiter and ridding the coloring in it,the
inudstry uses bone ash of dead cattle.Is it possible for anyone to
refine this to me,like in the process,and whether the sugar actually
touches the bone ash or not.This question is for Pafalafa-Ga

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 15 Feb 2005 19:02 PST
Hello justadream-ga, and thanks for directing this question my way.

I've had a preliminary look, and I can tell that, Yes, indeed, bone
ash is a fairly common filtration media for processing sugar, and --
pretty much by definition -- it does come in contact with the sugar
during the filtration process.

In fact, this is philosophical point of discussion among vegans, as to
whether they can consider sugar a strictly vegetarian food, since
there is an animal product -- bone ash -- that is often used in its
production to whiten and control the quality of the sugar product.

Beyond that general sort of statement, please help me understand what
you're looking for here.  What sort of details would you like as an
answer to your question?

I'm more than happy to give you a general overview of the information
available on the web on this topic, but I wanted to give you the
chance to elaborate a bit on what you really need here.  But if you're
tied up with other things, no problem.  I'll just answer as best I
can, and can always add more details later.

Anyway, let me hear back from you if you have the chance.



Clarification of Question by justadream-ga on 16 Feb 2005 17:00 PST
Nice to hear from you once again,Mr Pafalafa.Are there remnants of the
bone ash in the sugar??? Are there sugars that dont use this method???
Another very crucial question is that I heard that this particular
industry uses cattle that died themselves,and not from cattle that are
sent to slaughter for meat.I heard they bring these bones or dead
animals or whatever to a place in scotland that burns the bone and
sells it or etc.Is that true,The fact that they use cattle that werent
killed for slaughter,but rather died of other causes.Its an
interesting subject actually,I never thought of this and never saw it
coming.What How about all the filters we drink from,like Brita and
Pure home water filtering kettles??? Thank You.
Subject: Re: Sugar Filtration Through Bone Ash Filters
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 20 Feb 2005 16:43 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

Thanks (again) for posting such an interesting question, and for
directing it my way.  Sorry it took me a while to post an answer, but
I think you'll be pleased with the results.

As I mentioned earlier, bone ash is, indeed, used as a filtering agent
in the production of at least some sugar.  I'm providing here an
overview of the topic, along with information to address the specific
questions you asked.

As always, if you find you would like any additional information, just
let me know, and I'll be happy to do some more research on this.



First, a bit of terminology and definition.  Bone ash goes by several
different names.  It is sometimes called boneblack or bone-black, bone
charcoal, bone char, animal black, animal charcoal, and similar sorts
of terms.

A related term that it pays to be familiar with is "activated
charcoal", since bone ash belongs to this category of highly-absorbent
carbon material used as a filtering agent for many different types of

A list of definitions, synonyms, etc. can be seen here:

The Wikipedia definition calls for particular attention:

Bone char, also known as bone black or animal charcoal, is a granular
black material produced by calcining animal bones: the bones are
heated to high temperatures in the absence of air to drive off
volatile substances. It consists mainly of calcium phosphate and a
small amount of carbon. Bone char has a very high surface area and a
high absorptive capacity for lead, mercury, and arsenic.

Bone char is used to remove fluoride from water and to filter aquarium
water. It has been used in the sugar refining industry for
decolorizing (a process patented by Louis Constant in 1812 which is no
longer commonly used).

From the information at the above link, its clear that:

--bone ash is produced from animal bones heated to a very high
temperature.  The result is a product that bears little resemblance to
the original bone (just as charcoal or fireplace ash bears little
resemblance the material originally burned).

--bone ash is generally associated with sugar refining

--the use of bone ash as a filter agent for sugar has been around for
quite a while, and was patented in 1812.

The wikipedia definition also notes that, although the use of bone
black was a common process in the sugar industry at one time, it is
less so today. However, several other sources of information lead me
to believe this is simply not the case, and that the practice is still
fairly common in the modern sugar industry.

For instance, an interesting history of the discovery and commercial
development of the bone black industry can be found at the Ebonex
company site...Ebonex still manufactures bone black as a pigment.  The
history is provided at these two links:

Note that Ebonex states:  

"Today, bone charcoal is still the prime adsorbent used in the sugar
refining industry."

So, there's a bit of a discrepancy between the Wikipedia site and the
Ebonex site, but given the fact that Ebonex is in the bone black
business, I'm more inclined to accept their version. In fact, the
information from this next site certainly suggests that use of bone
ash for sugar refining is still in widespread use.

The site in question is a vegan (strict vegetarian) discussion site
devoted to the topic of sugar:
Veganism & Processed Sugar

Here's the issue:  Some processed sugar is filtered with charred bone.  

Does that mean that vegans must avoid all processed sugar?  Some say
yes, some say not necessarily....

We recently contacted C & H Sugar Company, which is one of the world's
largest manufacturers. This was their response, dated February 25,

Thank you for taking the time to contact C & H Sugar regarding our use
of carbonized bone charcoal. There are no animal products in the sugar
itself, which is certified kosher. Bone char is made from cattle bones
only, never from those of other animals. The function of the bone char
is to remove impurities from raw sugar.

The bones used are not the byproducts of the meat packing industries,
but are from cattle that have died naturally, in places like India,
Pakistan and Nigeria. The principal use for such bone material is for
gelatin production, and charcoal manufacture is a by-product of this
industry. In Scotland, they are burned in an enclosed atmosphere, at
1200 centigrade, to create activated charcoal. This bone charcoal is
used to remove color, impurities, and certain naturally occurring
minerals that could result in cloudiness when the sugar is dissolved.
The bone char is not "in" the sugar, but is used only as a filter,
similar to a coffee filter. Its use is a very common practice in sugar
refining, and is currently the best available. Vegetable charcoal does
not remove ash, so sugar produced using this type of carbon as an
alternative is likely to be of somewhat lower quality. C&H Sugar is
looking for alternatives. If a consumer finds the use of this bone
charcoal objectionable, an alternative would be a specialty sugar. C&H
Hawaiian Washed Raw is processed in the Hawaiian Islands, where lime
(calcium carbonate) is used a s a clarifying agent, rather than
carbonized bone char. It is then transported to our Mainland refinery,
where it is dried and packaged. It should be available in markets that
carry C&H Sugar.

So, the excerpt from the C&H Sugar Company adds a lot of useful information:

--bone ash (also called bone char) is made only from cattle bones --
no other animals -- and only from animals that have died naturally.

--the bones are burned at high heat to produce an activated-carbon form of charcoal

--sugar is filtered through the bone ash, hence it comes directly in
contact with the material

--use of bone ash in the sugar industry is reportedly "very common"

--filter substrates made from non-animal materials are not considered
to perform as well as bone ash, at least as far as decolorizing sugar

Other vegan sites carry on similar discussions, and some of them
provide useful additional information:
The Great Sugar Debate: Is it vegan?

Bone char, made from the bones of cows, is at times used to whiten
sugar. Some sugar companies use it in filters to decolorize their
sugar. Other types of filters involve granular carbon or an ion
exchange system rather than bone char.

The following sugar companies DO NOT use bone-char filters:

Florida Crystals Refinery
Labels: Florida Crystals

Refined Sugars Incorporated
Labels: Jack Frost, Country Cane, 4# Flow-Sweet

Makes powdered brown sugar

Supreme Sugar Company 
Labels: Supreme, Southern Bell, Rouse's Markets 

The following sugar companies DO use bone-char filters:

Savannah Foods

California & Hawaiian Sugar Company 

Supermarket brands of sugar (e.g., Giant, Townhouse, etc.) buy their
sugar from several different refineries, so there is no way of knowing
whether it is vegan at any given time.

...If you want to avoid all refined sugars, we recommend alternatives
such as Sucanat and turbinado sugar. Neither of these sweeteners are
ever filtered with bone char. Additionally, beet sugar--though
normally refined--never involves the use of bone char.

Again, this list seems to confirm that the use of bone ash in the
sugar industry is widespread, but not universal.

Another fairly detailed vegan-inspired article can be found here:

It adds some additional information about how each of the various
sugar companies use -- or avoid -- bone ash, and also discusses the
differences between cane sugar and beet sugar, in case this is of
interest to you.

A little historical wrinkle can be found at the Sugar Processing
Research Institute website, which discusses the history of (believe it
or not) the Bone Char Research Project:


The Sugar Processing Research Institute, Inc. has developed from two
preceding research organizations. In the late 1930's there was concern
on the part of some cane sugar refiners in the U.S. that their
refining process depended on bone char, a substance about which little
was known. A group of sugar refiners was brought together by John W.
Lowe of Revere Sugar to support research on bone char at the National
Bureau of Standards, Washington, D.C., where Frederick J. Bates worked
with the sugar industry on polarimetry. In 1939, Dr. Victor R. Deitz
initiated the work of the Bone Char Research Project (BCRP), on the
nature and reactions of bone char and other decolorizing carbons. In
1948, Dr. Frank G. Carpenter and Neil Pennington joined the BCRP
Director, Dr. Deitz, and investigations expanded into the chemistry
and processing of other areas of cane sugar refining. The BCRP Reports
and Proceedings of the seven Technical Sessions on Bone Char are still
the major source of information on decolorizing carbons in sugar

Lastly, you asked whether water filters such as the Brita filter use
bone ash filter materials.  I'm almost certain the answer is no,

--bone ash is used for sugar refining to remove large quantities of
gross contaminants, primarily to decolorize the sugar.  No such
similar step would be needed to filter water, which is relatively pure
and uncolored to begin with.

--companies wouldn't risk using bone ash in their home water filter
products due to the high "Ewwww!" factor if the public were to become
aware of its use.

Water filters typically DO use activated carbon filters as part of
their filtration process.  However, activated carbon can be obtained
from vegetable and mineral sources, as well as from animal bones, so
that there is no incentive that I can see for water filtration
companies to use animal-based products.

I trust this information fully answers your question.  However, before
rating this answer, please let me know if there is anything else I can
do for you.  Just post a Request for Clarification, and I'm at your

All the best,


search strategy -- Google search on:

[ sugar filter (bone ash OR boneblack OR bone char) ]

Request for Answer Clarification by justadream-ga on 20 Feb 2005 22:08 PST
Very Impressive Mr Pafalafa.You have answered many of my questions,I
will definately forward more questions to you in the future.However I
wish to ask something else before we conclude this episode.In what you
sent to me,it states that bone ash is able to take out impurities like
lead and arsenic and also mercury.In this,do they use the bones of
cattle??? or other animals??? and at all,do they use this to filter
our water,in the water purification plants that give us tap water??? I
heard they use synthetic membranes to filter and purify water that
goes to the public,but I would like to know if they use some form of
bone carbon filters as well.Thank you again,Mr Pafalafa.

Request for Answer Clarification by justadream-ga on 20 Feb 2005 22:34 PST
Im Sorry.I forgot to ask a very important question.Does the sugar have
bone ash remnants in it??? Howabout the water filtration plants,if
they use this method,are there remnants in what we drink??? And do
they really use only the bones of those cattle that died of other
causes other than normal slaughter,which I remind you sounds very
weird.I dont mean to get more than what I can with this,but will u be
able to tell me how does the sugar go through the bone to get
filtered??? Does it scrape against the bone or run through chunks of
bone or what??? They mention thet the sugar gets filtered "through a
coffe filter".What on earht does that mean???

Request for Answer Clarification by justadream-ga on 20 Feb 2005 23:16 PST
Heres something I found on google

Request for Answer Clarification by justadream-ga on 21 Feb 2005 13:06 PST
Heres another thing Ive found.My question for this is if all the water
plants follow this same method,that is,when they start the
process,that is when they add the "activated bone ash" and not in the
later stages of filtration and purification.I want to know if most
water plants follow this same method.And also,the ending filtration is
12 units of 2 cell filters,is this common,or rare??? do most water
plants follow this method??? You could say that my main question is if
in the initial stage of filtration they add the bone ash or "activated
bone ash".I want to know if thats how all or most of the water plants
clean their water.If I have to pay more for info,just tell me,or if is
this covered by my current payment.Let me know.

Request for Answer Clarification by justadream-ga on 21 Feb 2005 13:17 PST
Im sorry that I keep adding and adding,but ive just come across the
fact that it is possible that they add bone ash or whatever after the
process,however I found a very good question.In what you sent me
earlier,you wrote that bone ash is good for filtering water from
fluoride.But in the web site of the springfield water plant states
that fluoride is added to prevent tooth decay.If they use bone ash in
the ending process to filter the water from the fluoride,then why they
added it in the first place??? This leads me to think that certain
after market filters are sold that remove fluoride from the water,and
these special filters contain bone ash.Because during my search I saw
on the net one of these specialty filters that "Removes fluoride from
your tap water".Tell me what you think.Thanks.

Request for Answer Clarification by justadream-ga on 21 Feb 2005 20:29 PST
I forgot to add a very important factor to the question above.The
fluoride might be added to the water to remove anything that would
cause tooth decay,and then it is cleaned from the water with bone
ash.This is another possibility.What do you think Mr Pafalafa???

Request for Answer Clarification by justadream-ga on 21 Feb 2005 20:45 PST
This is funny,I keep adding and adding,I hope its of no
bother.Anyway,to cover all the strangeness of this whole question,Ill
try to put this question about water purification plants into a
perspective that you can understand what Im asking you about all
this.Simply,I wish to know if bone ash or activated bone ash or etc is
added in the begining of the purification process,and not again.If it
is added again elsewhere in the process,is it added to remove
fluoride,or is what you wrote to me about the abilities of bone ash
removing fluoride from water,and also what I saw on the net about the
water filter that removes fluoride,limited only to the specialty
filters I talked about earlier.Or perhaps like I mentioned earlier,do
they add fluoride to the water to kill whatever would cause tooth
decay,and then remove the fluoride from the water using some sort of
bone ash or activated bone ash or carbon or etc.Or do they simply put
fluoride into the water and leave it there till it gets to us in the
form of tap water,and we drink it,and thats when it prevents tooth
decay??? This is a tough one probably,but I found that website about
the Springfield Water plant and it showed some serious info on this.It
should be easier than our previous question about
astroquartz,hehehe.Hear from you soon.

Request for Answer Clarification by justadream-ga on 21 Feb 2005 20:50 PST
And before I forget,if there are actual remnants of the bone ash in the sugar.
Also if there are remnants in the water supply after the process.
I appreciate,I hope you will come up with some findings.

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 22 Feb 2005 17:04 PST

Whew!  You obviously have an active, curious mind.  Thanks for making
me part of the discovery process on this topic.

If you don't mind, I'm going to focus my follow-up comments on bone
ash and sugar.

I know you are also quite keen to know more about filtration at
drinking water treatment plants, and whether bone ash is used, and how
this affects fluoride.  If I may make a suggestion, this is probably
best left to a separate question, as it travels quite far afield from
your original question here.  However, you are certainly welcome to
post another question (or questions) on this topic, if you would like
a researcher to delve into it further.

As for bone ash and sugar, let me add a bit of information:

--just to reiterate an earlier point, the water isn't being filtered
through anything resembling bone.  The bone has been heated at a very
high temperature, burned, and is more like crushed charcoal than not.

--the sugar is in the form of a liquid slurry when it comes in contact
with the bone ash for filtration.  Basically it is poured through a
colum of bone ash, and therefore the sugar comes into direct contact
with the sugar slurry.  As the sugar slurry passes through the filter
colums, most of the undesirable color is removed.

--You asked about "remnants" of the bone ask in sugar.  Several of the
sites I mentioned earlier made the point that there isn't any actual
bone ash in the sugar.  For instance, the material from C&H sugar
stated that:  "...The bone char is not "in" the sugar, but is used
only as a filter, similar to a coffee filter...".  If I can offer an
interpretation here, this means that no bulk quantities of bone ash
are present in the sugar.  However, it seems inevitable that
microscopic quantities would, in fact, be carried along with the sugar
slurry and appear in the final product.  Again, though, I would expect
these amounts to be miniscule, and perhaps even undetectable.  I am
not aware of any sites that report on the actual presence of bone ash
remnants in sugar, though.

Finally, let me say just a bit about fluoridation, based on my own
knowledge.  Small amounts of fluoride are added to drinking water as
protection against tooth decay.  This fluoride is still present in the
tap water you drink (if your local water system is fluoridated, that
is).  Some types of water filters (whether from bone ash or from
another source) can remove fluorides from water.  But I imagine that
in systems that want the fluoride to be present, the water is filtered
BEFORE the fluoride is added, so as not to remove it.

That's my take on things.  I hope this additional information helps
you get a fuller picture of the use of bone ash in sugar processing.

All the best,


Request for Answer Clarification by justadream-ga on 23 Feb 2005 17:08 PST
Very Good Mr Pafalafa.Youve done well.I intend to ask many more
questions,and forward them to you.I am very greatfull.See you in the
next question.

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 23 Feb 2005 17:32 PST

Thanks so much for the kind words, and your splendid generosity.

This was quite an interesting -- if somewhat arcane -- area to dive
into.  I look forward to your questions to come, and to whatever topic
pops up next.

All the best,

justadream-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $50.00

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