Quick Answer: For the most part, Swedish Fish meet vegan standards, but it's complicated. It kind of depends on how you define your vegan diet, which we're going to explain in full detail.
Image source: Walmart
Here are the ingredients as listed on a package of Swedish Fish:
Ingredients: Sugar, Invert Sugar, Corn Syrup, Modified Corn Starch, Citric Acid, White Mineral Oil, Artificial Flavors, Red 40 And Carnauba Wax.
For most vegans, none of these ingredients particularly stand out as non-vegan. If you're wondering what carnauba wax is, it's a waxy substance derived from the leaves of a Brazilian palm plant. It's vegan, and it's a super common ingredient in candy.
Still, there are questions that many vegans have about some of these ingredients, including sugar and food dyes (the Red 40).
What You Should Know
The question of whether sugar is vegan has certain aspects that frequently arise for discussion in the vegan community.
It's not that sugar contains animal products. The problem lies in how the sugar may be processed.
Some refined sugars are filtered through animal bones. However, bone char is commonly used for filtering regular table sugar (and sometimes brown sugar) that isn't explicitly marked as vegan sugar—or organic.
USDA regulations do not permit animal bones to be used when filtering sugar. It's pretty difficult to ascertain how sugar is processed short of inquiring directly with the manufacturer, so some vegans prefer to buy organic sugar.
However, because many vegans prefer to minimize the million things they need to worry about in terms of potentialities, not everyone avoids regular sugar.
If you're new to veganism, it's best to simplify things as much as possible so that it doesn't become overwhelming.
Check out this vegan starter kit
Artificial food dyes are also concerning not for what they contain, but for how they're used before they make it to the market.
Most artificial food dyes undergo animal testing before they can be sold in stores for human consumption.
Avoiding products tested on animals is a huge part of being vegan. It's why we shop for cruelty-free household cleaners, personal care products and cosmetics.
There are certifiable vegan food coloring options out there, which vegans will usually go for when cooking and baking at home. But the artificial dyes can be hard to get around in prepackaged foods.
Vegans are forced to make a lot of decisions about what they're going to eat and not eat throughout the day—probably quite a few more than the average person eating a standard American diet.
At the end of the day, avoiding products like refined sugar and food dye doesn't do much for the animals in this day and age. Whether or not these products are still being tested is unknown.
The decision, however, is up to you. The Vegetarian Resource Group puts it on their "typically vegan" list.
Rumor has it that some Swedish Fish contain beeswax. For vegans who don't eat honey or any other bee byproduct, this will be problematic.
As you can see from the ingredients listed above, Swedish Fish are not necessarily going to contain beeswax. But many people in the U.S. report finding it in their Swedish Fish when they read the labels.
It seems like it could go either way. But if you know that you don't want to eat beeswax and you get a package of beeswax-containing Swedish Fish, it's an easy decision to toss it out. If you don't avoid honey, it may not be an issue for you.
Again, if you're new to veganism, do some research to find out where you ultimately fit into the honey and beeswax discussion.
But keep checking the labels on those Swedish Fish, even if you aren't opposed to beeswax.
The ingredients in candies and other food products are subject to change from time to time. For this reason, it's good practice to double-check every once in a while, and brush up on your knowledge of company practices and federal regulations.
Whether you want to consume this candy as a vegan or not is pretty much up to you. If you're new to the lifestyle, I'd suggest giving up all labeled animal products and encouraging others to do the same rather than focusing on minute details such as those in Swedish fish.
That would have the most difference for the animals and for the planet.
Want to take all of the guess-work around going vegan?
Click here to check out the Vegan Starter Kit.