Are Swedish Fish Vegan?

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Swedish fish may look like fish but they don’t contain any fish or other ocean-dwelling creatures. These sweets are mostly vegan but there are a few ingredients in Swedish fish that might not always be vegan, depending on your personal definition of veganism.

In this article, we take a closer look at some of the non-vegan ingredients in Swedish and we find out what Swedish fish are made of.

Are Swedish Fish Vegan-Friendly?

All Swedish fish candies are suitable for vegans and vegetarians. They generally meet the standards for vegan. However, Swedish fish may contain a few ingredients that could be deemed controversial by the vegan community, such as white sugar and artificial flavoring.

What Are Swedish Fish?

Originally created by the Swedish candy maker Malaco in the 1950s, Swedish fish are candies that have a chewy texture and the shape of a fish. Swedish fish candies are also marked with the word Swedish. 

The original sweets were only available in red but today, you can also find them in green, yellow and orange at garages or vending machines.

While many candy enthusiasts believed that Swedish fish had a cherry flavor, this tasty sweet is actually ligonberry-flavored.

This berry grows just in Europe and it was the main flavor of the original single color Swedish fish. With the different colors of Swedish fish, there are also new flavors, such as lemon-lime and orange.

Controversial Ingredients In Swedish Fish

While Swedish fish are commonly seen as vegan as they don’t contain any animal-based ingredients, there are a few controversial ingredients which might have an animal source.

Palm Oil

Palm oil has become a heavily-debated ingredient in many foods due to the way it is harvested and processed. Palm oil comes from the palm oil tree, so it is originally a vegan ingredient. 

However, the harvesting processes of palm oil contribute to the destruction of a range of forests and wildlife habitats.

In addition, the production of palm oil is also a big contributor to methane emissions and greenhouse gases. While palm oil may come from a plant-based source, its production processes are not environmentally friendly.

Refined Sugar

Sugar is one of the most common ingredients in different types of foods. You can even find sugar in savory foods but it’s most common in larger amounts in sweets and desserts.

Swedish fish contains a high amount of sugar. While sugar doesn’t have to be derived from animal products, food sweetener is often produced in controversial ways.

Additionally, white sugar also contains a certain amount of bone char to filter the sugar, turning it into beautifully white crystals.

Bone char, however, is derived from powdered bones of cows or pigs. Although the final sugar product does not contain any bone char, the filtering process of sugar uses animal-based products.

This means that, strictly speaking, any sugar that is used in Swedish fish may not be vegan. Saying this, it’s not always easy to find out whether a manufacturer uses sugar that was filtered with bone char.

Artificial Coloring

Artificial coloring is another ingredient that is hotly debated in the vegan community. Although most artificial coloring is safe for vegans, these colors often undergo animal testing to make sure that they are safe for humans.

Typically, vegans also avoid any products or food additives that have been tried on animals. This includes candy as well as other foods that contain artificial colors.


Beeswax is what makes your Swedish fish shiny and it helps your candy not to stick to each other. Beeswax is comes from the honeycomb of bees. While it doesn’t contain any animal-based ingredients, the harvesting process of beeswax is exploitative.

It is often linked to the decline of the number of bees. This means that beeswax is seen as a non-vegan ingredient. This means that vegans should avoid Swedish fish that have beeswax listed in the ingredients. Saying this, some Swedish fish brands also use the vegan-approved carnauba wax as a beeswax alternative.

Natural Flavoring And Artificial Flavors

Many flavors in your Swedish fish candies come from natural flavorings which are derived from vegetables or fruit. However, some brands also use fish and meat for flavoring and still label them as natural flavors. This is usually listed on the packaging, so make sure that you check the ingredients of your Swedish fish carefully.


Swedish fish are a super sweet candy treat which is often believed to be vegan. While Swedish fish are vegan on the surface, make sure that you check the packaging carefully.

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