Consider the Vegan Society’s take on this issue:
Refined sugars do not contain any animal products, and so by an ingredients-based definition of vegan, refined sugar is vegan. However, some refined sugar is processed with animal bone char. The charcoal is used to remove color, impurities, and minerals from sugar. The charcoal is not in the sugar, but is used in the process as a filter. Thus by a process-based definition of vegan, refined sugar may not be considered vegan. For those who would prefer not to use refined sugar, there are several alternatives: raw, turbinado, beet sugar, succanat, date sugar, fructose, barley malt, rice syrup, corn syrup, molasses, and maple syrup. However, if one accepts a process-based definition of vegan, then many other familiar products would also not be considered vegan. For instance, steel and vulcanized rubber are produced using animal fats and, in many areas, groundwater and surface water is filtered through bone charcoal filters. So, is a box of pasta that contains no animal products, but has transported to the store in a steel truck on rubber wheels and then cooked in boiling water at your home, vegan? Under a process-based definition, possibly not. But according to such a definition, it would be difficult to find any products in this country that are vegan. There is another point about definitions that comes to mind. Perhaps, in the above example, the pasta maker also makes an egg pasta. The same machinery is used, and traces of egg are in the vegan pasta; would the pasta not be vegan? Again, we recommend that vegans concentrate their attention on the most obvious animal ingredients.