Can Vegans Eat Swedish Fish? Or Does It Contain Gelatin?

Swedish Fish is a highly popular candy, and because it looks like a candy that would contain gelatin, most vegans probably ignore it. 

However, many brands are riding the wave created by the vegan movement, so they adapt their recipes to the rising trend, and certain products that were once non-vegan, might now be vegan.

Therefore, it’s worth checking if the Swedish Fish are suitable for vegans. 

Do Swedish Fish Contain Animal Ingredients?

swedish fish
Image provided by Per-Olof Forsberg

Swedish Fish is a fish-shaped, chewy candy available in different colors and flavors. 

According to its US distributor, Swedish Fish contains the following ingredients:

  • Sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Modified corn starch
  • Citric acid
  • Natural and artificial flavors
  • White mineral oil or palm oil
  • Carnauba wax or beeswax
  • Red #40
  • Yellow #6
  • Yellow #5
  • Blue #1

Swedish Fish candy isn’t always vegan, and that depends on where it’s manufactured; for example, the Swedish Fish distributed in the United States gets sourced from Canada and Turkey, and depending on the origin you will have two different ingredients. 

The Swedish Fish sourced from Canada comes in a theater box and contains white mineral oil and carnauba wax (derived from the leaves of the carnauba palm), while the one sourced from Turkey comes in a peg bag and contains palm oil and beeswax (a natural wax produced by bees) which is an animal derivative. 

Therefore, if you’re vegan and wish to eat Swedish Fish, make sure to only eat the version sold in a theater box, which doesn’t contain animal ingredients. 

Are There Controversial Ingredients?

Controversial ingredients are basically ingredients that may or not be vegan depending on how you view them, but this is difficult to determine because not everyone shares the same opinion.

Based on the research I’ve done over the years, there are few ingredients that have always been controversial, and the Swedish Fish candy appears to contain four of them. 

Sugar

This is probably not news for you, but in North America manufacturers sometimes process sugar with bone char, which is a black powder derived from charred animal bones.

I don’t know whether the Swedish Fish sourced from Turkey contains sugar processed with bone char, but it doesn’t matter because it has an animal ingredient. 

However, it’s likely for the Swedish Fish sourced from Canada to contain sugar treated with bone char. 

Companies in North America usually have a mixed pool of sugar suppliers, which means their products can contain sugar or traces of sugar processed with bone char (Oreo is a good example)

Because it’s difficult to trace back the ingredient to the source, many vegans ignore this issue and just consume the product, regardless. 

If you want to learn more about sugar and bone char, read my article on it

Natural Flavors

Natural flavors are tricky because they can come from plant and animal sources.

Here is what the FDA says about natural flavors in their guidelines:

The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means… which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice… or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products… etc.

Manufacturers can add animal products to foods and not have it labeled, unless it’s a major allergen like milk and seafood. The good news is that natural flavors are usually plant-based. 

I’ve written an article about natural flavors, so if you’re interested in the topic, please check it out. 

Colors

Colors are controversial for a simple reason: it involves animal testing, which is a cruel practice that often takes the lives of innocent animals. 

However, some people reason that it’s a necessary evil because it helps prevent potential health problems, so you will have vegans that consume foods colors, and others that avoid it. 

Most food colors come from plants or are man made, except for carmine which is extracted from bugs. 

Palm Oil

Palm oil is obviously plant-based but some vegans take an issue with the deforestation palm oil causes and consequences it has for animals and the environment. 

By losing rainforests, we’re harming existing biodiversity – and sentient beings like the Sumatran orangutans, tigers, elephants, and rhinoceros are among the species that might cease to exist. 

However, it’s also true that swapping palm oil with a different plant oil will not solve the problem because palm oil is actually the most efficient oil plant as it requires relatively fewer resources. 

Some organizations promote sustainable RSPO palm oil as the solution, but non-profit organizations like Greenpeace mention that it’s just a free ticket for further exploitation

I do not avoid palm oil, but I can comprehend why some people do so. 

Who Is Behind Swedish Fish?

Malaco, a Swedish candy producer, was the original developer of Swedish Fish; but today Mondelez International distributes the product in North America. 

Mondelez International is a multinational company that owns brands such as Sour Patch Kids, Oreo, Cadbury, Toblerone, Trident, and many others. 

Even though Mondelez International claims to not fund animal testing in places like the US or Europe, they still allow for animal testing in jurisdictions that demand it (i.e. China). 

This website has an ethical assessment on Mondelez International, the criticism outweighs the praise because they’re ultimately involved in practices such as deforestation, plastic pollution, improper supply chain practices in China, social exploitation, and so on.

Because of these practices, there are also “ethical” vegans that choose to avoid their products. 

Conclusion

Unlike the Swedish Fish that come in a peg bag, the Swedish Fish packaged in a theater box do not contain beeswax so they should be suitable for vegans.

With that being said, they still contain controversial ingredients like sugar, natural flavors, and colors, and they’re distributed by Mondelez International, a company that is not ethical. 

If you typically avoid the controversial ingredients above, or you refrain from purchasing products from multinational companies like Mondelez International, then Swedish Fish are probably not for you. 


Swedish Fish FAQs

Are Swedish Fish Gluten-Free?

While they’re not labeled gluten-free – Swedish Fish contain no gluten ingredients. However, if you only eat items that contain “gluten-free” on the label, you probably want to avoid Swedish Fish. 

Mondelez International points out that they take extra precautions to make sure their products are safe and properly labeled. Mondelez labels its products for all seven of the major allergens, including wheat, milk, peanuts, eggs, fish, crustacean, shellfish, soy, and tree nuts. 

They also track other allergens like sesame seeds, mollusks, celery, mustard, poppy seeds, and sunflower seeds, and they’re tested to ensure less than 10 ppm of any allergen.

When there is a risk of contamination, they also make sure they have it labeled, but Swedish Fish doesn’t have any warning of the kind. 

Are Swedish Fish Kosher?

No, Swedish Fish are not kosher. Even though the company might suggest they’re kosher, they are not officially kosher-certified. 

Are Swedish Fish From Sweden?

Yes, you could say that Swedish Fish are originally from Sweden because they were first developed by Malaco, a Swedish company.

However, Mondelez International is now in charge of its production and distribution in North America. 

You can find Swedish Fish in Sweden but there they go by the name “pastellfiskar”. 

How Many Calories Do Swedish Fish Contain?

Here is the nutritional content of Swedish Fish, including calories:

Calories (per five pieces): 110 calories
Total Fat: 0 grams
Sodium: 25 milligrams
Total Carbohydrate: 27 grams
Total Sugars: 23 grams
Total Added Sugars: 23 grams
Protein:  0 grams
Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than five years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

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