Are Sour Patch Kids Vegan? (Spoiler: Maybe, But Probably Not)

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sour patch kids

Every so often I see a post on social media or forum saying “Sour Patch Kids are vegan!”

Mainly because there are no obvious animal products like gelatin on the ingredients list, because of a comment someone left on this post claiming that there were some ingredients that were effectively hidden from the label.

Still, I both emailed and phoned Mondelez International asking “is there gelatin in Sour Patch Kids?”

The email was completely useless, but the rep on the phone said (I’m paraphrasing a bit):

There may or may not be gelatin in Sour Patch Kids. If there is, it’s considered part of a proprietary formula in this case, so it can’t be confirmed either way.

It was not a very definitive answer. If there is gelatin in them, they’re clearly not vegan.

On top of the gelatin, there are other potential non-vegan ingredients as well. I’ll go over them in case you want to learn what to look for in other similar candy.

Other Potential Non-Vegan Ingredients in Sour Patch Kids

Let’s take a look at the ingredients of Sour Patch Kids:

Sugar, corn syrup, modified corn starch, citric acid, tartaric acid, natural and artificial flavors, yellow 5, yellow 6, red 40, blue 1

Those are for the original sour patch kids, but all the other variations (like watermelon soft chews) have similar ingredients (no obvious animal ingredients).

All the main ingredients seem to be plant-based.

I contacted the manufacturers through their website to clarify if they were (particularly the natural flavors), but didn’t get a helpful reply:

Unfortunately, this ingredient information is not currently available.

So while no guarantees, they do appear to be plant-based. Technically natural flavors aren’t always vegan, but in this case I would guess that they are.

That leaves 2 potential issues.

First, the “sugar.”

Plain sugar is often refined using charred bones of cattle. Here’s a detailed look at why a lot of sugar in North America is not vegan. Not all vegans care too much about this, but many do.

Only the makers of sour patch kids knows for sure, but I suspect they don’t really care about this issue.

This alone makes me think that sour patch kids are not okay for vegans.

And what about those artificial colors (e.g., yellow 5, blue 1)?

  • Red 40 comes from petroleum or coal
  • Blue 1, and yellow 5 & 6 comes from petroleum

Seems kind of gross, but okay right?

Consider that all of these are extensively tested on animals (mainly mice and rats, but even on dogs).

animal testing

These animals are fed the dyes too see when health problems occur, and then killed after the testing is done (assuming they survive).

To me, and many other ethical vegans, this makes these artificial colors not vegan, which means Sour Patch Kids are not okay for many vegans.

As a side note, those ingredients are placed under restrictions and bans in certain European and Nordic countries because they’ve been linked to health issues like ADHD and cancer. Just something else you might want to be aware of.

Are Sour Patch Kids Vegan?

It seems that Sour Patch Kids are probably not vegan.

There are multiple potential issues:

  • They may contain gelatin  (that is hidden from the ingredients list and they won’t confirm/deny).
  • The sugar may not be vegan
  • Many vegans still won’t want anything to do with artificial coloring, which is often tested on animals (just not by the company that makes the candy).

Unfortunately, these are common issues many popular candies. For example, Skittles may also not be vegan, as they have the same potential problems.

There is a chance that Sour Patch Kids are in fact vegan, but it seems very far from a guarantee. If you’re okay with that, that is your choice.

About the author

Dale C.

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance writer. Trying to do my small part in making the world better by writing about the wonderful world of veganism.

10 comments

  • I can 100% assure you that sour patch kids are not vegan. I have alpha -gal syndrome which is a allergy to all mammal products including dairy . I have a severe form and will react to even trace amounts . I recently chowed down on a bag of these seemingly harmless treats. I quickly followed it up with benadryl. They . Are. Not . Vegan .

    • I have that same allergy and did not get get any reaction at all? And I ate way more than you did… like, an embarrassing amount over the course of a day. I haven’t actually eaten them again since though because I had eaten so many at that time I got sick of them, but I definitely did not get any allergic reaction.

      Is it possible you ate something else? Should I risk testing it out again?

  • Lol the artificial colors are not made from any animal based ingredients but are tested on animals, so I conclude its not vegan. Lol whoever wrote or listens to this is a joke.

    • I didn’t realize you spoke for all vegans, but I guess case closed!

      On a serious note, the complexity in this case is that colors that are being bought from artificial color manufacturers are not the ones being tested on animals. Researchers are testing them because of safety concerns, although you could argue that the industry in general is encouraging it.

      Imagine if I made peanut butter, but scientists test it on animals occasionally. Would that make peanut butter not vegan now?

      If you’d actually like to make an argument, I’m all ears.

      • Another question is how often are the artificial colors tested on animals? I am sure it happens during the development process, but after the formula is finalized, there really is no need to test it anymore on animals (by the manufacturer), since it has already been studied. So does it count if the dye was tested on animals 10, 20, 30+ years ago, but never again? (there was a scientific study done on Red Dye 40 in 1983, so the Dye has been around for at least 36 years). So, while Red 40 may have been tested on animals 20 years ago, the current sources may not test on animals since that testing is not needed (and is another expense for them).

        (And does the auxiliary testing by scientists not involved in the manufacturing process count? Because, in that case, almost every ingredient may have been tested on animals for various studies. )

        • I’ll just copy something I wrote on another post:

          But these artificial colors are controversial, because they’ve all been linked to one or more serious health side effects.

          Because of that, they are still routinely tested in study after study. I took a very quick look for recent studies involving red 40 and easily found 3 from the last few years involving animal testing:

          A 2017 study tested red 40 on mice.
          A 2018 study tested the effects of red 40 on rats.
          Another 2017 study tested red 40 using bovine serum (from cows).

          They’re still being tested on a regular basis, and that’s the real issue to me.

          Take something like aspartame on the other hand, that was tested on animals long ago and proven to be quite safe, and isn’t tested on animals any more (as far as I can see).

          Regarding the auxiliary testing, I think it has to “count”, because

  • I called the 1-800 number on sweedish fish and sour patch kids. I advised them that we were an analytical laboratory and our staff wanted candies in the lunchroom. I needed to know if there was gelatin or pectin used in the product. I advised that some employees have alergies to pectin and others are vegan. I advised the rep that numerous websites claimed they were vegan and this was odd as their website did not. As well, we haven’t found other products intentionaly omitting their gelling agent and it would misrepresent a product if animal products were used but omitted to appear vegan. We analyze a lot of products so I advised them we would run run tests internally if needed. I asked the rep why they didnt list the gel agent like every other gummy candy. The rep said their candies were not certified vegan and the gelling agent was proprietary.

    I advised that wasn’t good enough and I didnt want to “guinee pig” products on staff. They advised that while it was proprietary they said it included gelatin but couldn’t confirm if it was animal or “fish based”. They advised that vegans should not consume the product. I then asked about pectin allergies and they said we would have no problems there.

    The rep definitely highlighted at the end of the call that vegans should not consume sour patch kids, sweedish fish.

    We were a bit annoyed that this ingedient was omitted yet they allowed 20 top ranking we sites to claim it was vegan when it clearly its not. We dissolved the candies in some solvents including methanol, dichloromethane, ammonia, etc and found nothing proprietary in the gelling agent (gelatin) including the solvent that’s used to disperse the flavor and act as a plasticizer to provide physical characteristics. We broke down the crosslinking and did not see pectin fragments or byproducts so it has no pectin in it. This appears to be a classic gelatin-based candy with likely over 1% gelatin.

    • Well Samantha, you’ve made me feel quite stupid, somehow I’ve never realized that there was no gelling agent of any kind in the ingredients list.

      Thanks so much for doing all this work, I’ll update the post to reflect it.

    • I find that hard to believe as I have also recently contacted them through multiple methods and they did not say this. If you have evidence of any kind, please share it.