I know that many animal products contain vitamin B12 and that it's very hard or even impossible to get enough from plant-based food. There are supplements which vegans should take.

But what are these B12 supplements made of? Are they actually vegan?

  • 1
    People are interpreting the question incorrectly. It isn't whether microorganisms (which would be present in ALL foods) are vegan or not. It is whether B12 supplements, and whatever bacteria produced it, were extracted from animals or animal biproducts at any stage in the production process.
    – Cato
    Commented Sep 1, 2018 at 15:58

3 Answers 3


The B12 in supplements is made from bacteria and sourced from bacteria cultures. It is not from animal products.

However, some supplements can contain gelatin in the capsule, which you should look out for.

Streptomyces griseus, a bacterium once thought to be a yeast, was the commercial source of vitamin B12 for many years (8, 9). The bacteria Propionibacterium shermanii and Pseudomonas denitrificans have now replaced S. griseus (10). At least one company, Rhone Poulenc Biochimie of France, is using a genetically engineered microorganism to produce B12 (11).


Since bacteria are not animals, this should be vegan.

Also, if you don't consider this vegan, consider that eating bread made with yeast is more or less equivalent.

  • 2
    +1, but it would be completely ridiculous to consider bacteria not vegan. They are even less complex than yeasts (which raise bread). They don't even have a nucleus. Our bodies harbour and slay billions of them without our intent.
    – Zanna
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 8:26
  • To be clear, no animals are being hurt for gelatine production. It's made from collagen tissues and bones of already-dead animal carcasses that would otherwise be discarded anyway. For some, that might not matter, but I thought I'd toss that out there.
    – Alexander
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 2:43
  • But that bacteria was cultured from a sample taken from an animals intestines... maybe long ago, maybe it's a genetically engineered decendent, maybe a poorly run factory needs to constantly get a new sample every time they lose power and the old samples go bad... Also, to make B12, you need Cobalt. Cobalt is mined in a few places on earth, not least of which the Democratic Republic of Congo. DRC is notorious for child and slave labor, dangerous working conditions and environmental violations. To get the cobalt, the cobalt rich material (the fossilized bodies of ancient sea organisms pressed i Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 20:56

Artificial vitamin B12, also known as Cyanocobalamin is produced by bacterial fermentation, as indicated here.

Technically, bacteria are far from being considered animals, so this method should be vegan-safe:

Once regarded as plants constituting the class Schizomycetes, bacteria are now classified as prokaryotes. Unlike cells of animals and other eukaryotes, bacterial cells do not contain a nucleus and rarely harbour membrane-bound organelles.


The vegan society states the following:

In choosing to use fortified foods or B12 supplements, vegans are taking their B12 from the same source as every other animal on the planet - micro-organisms - without causing suffering to any sentient being or causing environmental damage.

Now, it's up to every person to decide for themselves whether or not they consider this ethical, but typically your average vegan will eat other microorganisms such as yeast.

Source: https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/nutrition-and-health/vitamins-minerals-and-nutrients/vitamin-b12-your-key-facts/what-every-vegan-should-know-about-vitamin-b12

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