Are Swedish Fish Vegan? A Thorough Investigation

The vegan candy industry is on the rise because more people every day are becoming conscious of what they consume and how they consume it. A crowd favourite is the ‘Swedish Fish’. Contrary to what the name might suggest, Swedish Fish is not a type of fish. It is a chewy candy made in the shape of a fish, hence the name.

Originally developed in the late 1950s by a Swedish candy producer, Malaco, the candy is sold under the name ‘pastellfiskar’ in Sweden, which literally translates to ‘pastel fish’.

But is the Swedish Fish candy vegan?

Well, yes and no. Depending on where and how they’re manufactured? Let’s dig in further to explore what makes the candy vegan and when it becomes non-vegan.

Getting Down To Business – Is Swedish Fish Vegan?

swedish fish

The wrapper of the Swedish Fish classifies it as “a fat-free and gluten-free food”. Good news for people looking for fat-free and gluten-free foods. However, it does not specify if the candy is vegan-friendly.

So what do you do?

Well, there are two centres for the manufacturing and distribution of Swedish Fish under Mondelez International. The first centre is based in Canada, and the other is based in Turkey. The answer to the question, ‘Is Swedish Fish vegan?’, depends on where and how your Swedish Fish is manufactured. The distinction lies in the type of wax that is used in the ingredients. Let’s take a closer look!

Swedish Fish Ingredients

The US distribution packages list down the following ingredients for the Swedish Fish:

  • Sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Citric acid
  • Modified corn starch
  • Natural and artificial flavours
  • White mineral oil
  • Carnauba wax (Canada) or Beeswax (Turkey)
  • Red Dye #40
  • Yellow Dye #6
  • ellow Dye #5
  • Blue Dye # 1

Swedish Fish Ingredients: Breaking them down

Let’s break down each of these ingredients individually to understand if they’re vegan-friendly.

Starch and Mineral Oil

The starch contained in Swedish Fish is typically pre-gelatinized, and since starch is inherently plant-based, this ingredient is vegan.  Mineral Oil is a natural oil and is also considered vegan.

Grey Waters – A Closer Look at Food Dyes

Animal-sourced dyes, like carmine-sourced from bugs, are considered to be non-vegan. However, mineral and plant-based dyes are vegan. Red #40, Yellow #6, and Yellow#5 are among the most common types of food dyes used worldwide.

While the dyes mentioned in the ingredients list are not animal-based, they are often tested on lab animals to check whether they are safe for consumption or not. This raises an ethical conundrum for vegans, and it is what earns these artificial dyes, a controversial status.

However, an important point to keep in mind is that these tests are conducted by researchers to only check the safety of the dyes, and manufacturers are not involved in the process. This means that choosing to not consume these dyes won’t impact the testing of these dyes much and so the consumption of the dyes and their testing on lab-animals aren’t strongly correlated. This is the reason why these dyes are often considered to be vegan among the vegan community, and we are listing them down as vegan as well.

The Problem Child – Refined Sugar

Similar to food dyes, refined sugar is also a controversial ingredient because it is refined with bone char. While the end-product does not contain particulates of bone char, it is still processed with it. Hence, refined sugar is considered to be non-vegan in some circles.

While it’s true that some sugar manufacturers do not use bone char, consumers are unlikely to know where their Swedish Fish manufacturers are getting their sugar from. It might do you well to directly contact the brand and ask for clarification if you’re not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

None of Your Beeswax

The only strictly non-vegan ingredient in the list is beeswax, which is used to give the candy its characteristic waxy shine and adds to the candy’s consistency. Beeswax, or ‘cera alba’, is a natural wax produced by honeybees.  It consists of esters, fatty acids, and long-chain alcohols. Its ‘E’ number as a food additive is E901.

While beeswax is edible, it is an animal-derived product that effectively makes it non-vegan. This is because the sourcing of the beeswax often harms the bee colony in the process. The Turkish manufacturing centre of Swedish Fish uses beeswax to make their candy, and so the finished product is considered to be non-vegan.

A Happy Alternative – Carnauba Wax

Typical sweets manufacturers use gelatin as an ingredient for gummies and candies, however, edible waxes are a popular alternative to gelatin and are often used in confectionaries. The Canadian manufacturing centre uses the Carnauba wax as a substitute for beeswax. 

Carnauba wax, also known as Brazil wax and palm wax, is a wax derived from the leaves of the Carnauba Palm. This plant is native to north-eastern Brazil. As a food additive, its ‘E’ number is E903. The use of Carnauba wax instead of beeswax makes the Canadian-manufactured Swedish fish vegan.

 Is Swedish Fish Vegan? The Verdict

swedish fish

So, our final verdict on the matter is that we consider Swedish Fish vegan unless it contains beeswax.  Sugar is an ingredient that is subject to much controversy, so we’ll leave it up to you to decide whether you’d like to avoid the product altogether based on this fact or not. You can reach out to the brand and find out where the Swedish Fish brand sources its sugar from if you are passionate about the candy and are concerned about its vegan-friendly status.

The next time you want to enjoy Swedish Fish as a sweet addition to your cocktails or just on its own, just look at the package and see where the candy was manufactured, and whether it contains beeswax or not. Then you’re good to go!

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