Whether or not Swedish Fish is vegan for you largely depends on your personal definition of veganism and how strict of a vegan you are. Some ingredients present in this gummy treat, like sugar and palm oil, may seem vegan in principle, but the inverse may be true upon deeper consideration.
We’ll let you know all the ingredients that make up Swedish Fish to answer this question once and for all: are Swedish Fish vegan?
What is Swedish Fish?
Swedish Fish are fish-shaped candies with a chewy texture and the word Swedish across the fish body. They were originally distributed in a single color (red), but they have since expanded to include other bright colors, like yellow, orange, and green.
The original flavor of red Swedish Fish is lingonberry, a berry that grows exclusively in Europe (although some people were under the impression that this was a cherry-flavored snack). Other popular food flavors have also been added, such as orange and lemon-lime. There had been a grape-flavored fish in the color purple, but this was discontinued by 2006.
This chewy candy originated in Sweden by Swedish candy maker Malaco in the late 1950s to cater to the United States market.
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Are Swedish Fish Vegan-Friendly?
Most Swedish Fish are vegan friendly, and those that are available in gas stations and vending machines are considered vegan and meet vegan standards. However, a few ingredients in this food product are deemed complicated and controversial by the vegan community.
We’ll be discussing all of them in detail below.
Some Controversial Ingredients in Swedish Fish
You can almost always expect sugar to be one of the main ingredients in a packet of candy, but the question of whether or not sugar is vegan has been a hot debate in the vegan community for a while.
Sugar does not have any animal-derived product -- that much is true. However, the process in which this food sweetener is produced may be eyebrow-raising for some vegan purists.
The process of bone char filtering gives refined sugar its bone white color. In case you didn’t know, bone char is made from the ground bones of cattle, like cows and pigs. And although none of the bone char particles technically end up in the finished product, you can see why this ingredient is controversial to the vegan community.
Artificial colors are technically vegan as they don’t make use of any animal products. However, these will almost always need to undergo a round of animal testing before they are added into food products to ensure that they are safe for human consumption.
Strict vegans avoid all products tested on animals, including candy and other food with artificial colors.
Natural & Artificial Flavors
Most natural flavors in candies come from fruits and vegetables. However, there are times when “natural” might also mean meat and fish -- both animal-derived ingredients. But often, when this is the case, it will be indicated in the packaging.
Palm oil is extracted from the palm fruit that grows on the palm tree. So why is it on the controversial ingredients list?
Turns out, whether or not palm oil is vegan is not as black and white as it looks.
Palm oil plantations have notoriously displaced tropical forests across Asia, contributing to the habitat destruction of many animals living in the forest. It also emits methane in great quantities, one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases destroying the ozone layer. If that isn’t non-vegan, we don’t know what is.
Beeswax is the reason why the chewy Swedish Fish candy doesn’t stick to each other, as it provides a glossy, protective coating over each fish. However, not all Swedish Fish products list beeswax in the ingredient list (some list carnauba wax as an alternative, which is vegan-approved).
Beeswax is a product that comes from the honeycomb of bees and is considered non-vegan by many strict vegans, much like what they think of honey. Beeswax and honey technically don’t contain any animal products, but the process in which they are produced is exploitative and damaging to the bees’ health and is the reason why bee numbers have been falling in the past ten years -- and is the reason why they’re not considered vegan. 
Ultimately, whether or not you think beeswax (or honey) is vegan depends on you.
If you're craving sweets, here's our yummy vegan apple crisp recipe!
Swedish Fish Basic Ingredients
Regular Packaged Swedish Fish Vegan
Ingredients: Sugar, Invert Sugar, Corn Syrup, Modified Corn Starch, Citric Acid, White Mineral Oil, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Red 40, Carnauba Wax
Peg Bag Packaging
Ingredients: Sugar, Invert Sugar, Corn Syrup, Modified Corn Starch, Citric Acid, Palm Kernel Oil, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Carnauba Wax, Red 40, Beeswax
Assorted Swedish Fish
Ingredients: Sugar, Invert Sugar, Corn Syrup, Modified Corn Starch, Citric Acid, White Mineral Oil, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Carnauba Wax, Red 40, Yellow 6 (Sunset Yellow), Yellow 5, Blue 1
No, Swedish Fish does not contain gelatin (an animal-derived product). Instead of gelatin, Mondelez uses corn syrup, modified corn starch, and carnauba wax to achieve that gummy texture, which means Swedish Fish are vegan friendly.
Yes, Swedish Fish are gluten-free! However, it’s important to note that Mondelez has a large factory. They will be making Swedish Fish alongside other food items that contain gluten, so there will always be a risk of cross-contamination.
Personally, we do consider Swedish Fish to be mostly vegan friendly, but whether or not you think similarly is ultimately up to you. We’re here to simply present the crucial facts you need once you make the choice that would be best for you and the environment.
We love hearing your thoughts! What do you think?