Did you know that L-cysteine is often derived from human hair?
Yes, HUMAN hair!
L-cysteine is a non-essential amino acid, which means that humans can synthesize it. However, it is often used as a dough conditioner for bread and bagels, and for flavouring meat and other products.
So there could be hair in your soup - and your supplements. As two large supplement manufacturers confirmed to me recently:
"Unfortunately, our L-Cysteine powder is not suitable for vegetarians and vegans. It is derived from human hair."
Urgh - wait. What? Why? Not only is this weird, and according to some, constitutes cannibalism, but it's just wrong. Or is it? What do you think?
Apparently, human hair is cheap in China, where most of L-cysteine is produced. It's sweeped off the many barber shop and hair salon floors and shipped to factories to be converted into the white crystalline powder that is L-cysteine.
There are a couple of companies producing L-cysteine by fermentation, from non-animal and non-human sources. They are Ajinomoto and Wacker Chemie. Both have failed to respond to my numerous emails - very disappointing for companies trying to do something new and different, and advertising themselves as such.
Oh well. Just look out for human-hair, feather or pig bristle-derived L-cysteine in your bagel, soup and shampoo.