It is not really possible to grow up in America without experiencing Dum Dums. They can easily be called the favourite candy of your childhood and the one treat you’d want the children of today to love. Dum Dums taste of nostalgia, grandma’s pocket full of secret candies, and bounties of happy Halloween treats. They could easily be mounted in the museum of your happy memories, but are Dum Dums vegan?
Yes, they are. Although many ingredients in Dum Dums are considered controversial and avoided by some prudent vegans, most flavours of Dum Dums are considerably vegan. We’ll take you through the factors that place your beloved candy under scrutiny so that you can decide for yourself.
Your Dum Dums contain something you may not like
We know you are used to thoroughly reading the ingredient list in anticipation of accidental non-vegan constituents, even if the food is labelled vegan. There are some ingredients which are popularly considered vegan and contested in debates all over the globe. Dum Dums do not contain a lot of ingredients as per se. But it is essential for you to know what exactly you are letting into your diet.
Some of the controversial ingredients in your favourite childhood candy include processed sugar, natural and artificial flavours, artificial colors, lactic acid, and corn syrup.
Processed Sugar is not escaping doubts any time soon
For obvious reasons, processed sugar is heavily scrutinized and doubtfully treated by many prudent vegans. If you aren’t already aware, a large chunk of cane sugar in America is filtered using bone char in factories. Bone char is a product formed of animal slaughter and unimaginable cruelty and this is the sole reason for all the debates.
Bones obtained from dead or slaughtered cattle are burned at high temperatures to create this dark absorbing substance that can render brownish cane sugar free of all impurities and turn it pristine white. Sugar mill owners find this technique more economical as compared to other options, partly because of their age-old machinery set-ups. It is true that bone char is not present in the final refined sugar so we never actually consume the non-vegan bone char. But the unethical process of production is enough to drive some vegans away.
Some sugar mills indeed use other techniques to whiten and bleach their cane sugar. One of the most popular methods is by using granular activated carbon. This substance is equal, if not more adept in filtering cane sugar as per requirement. Many mills also produce organic sugar by deriving it from sources other than cane. This includes sugar derived from beetroot and coconut.
Now this is where confusion arises for the vegan community. We really don’t know which sugar enters our factory made foods. It could be filtered using bone char, it could also be filtered using granular activated carbon. The thing is, manufacturers receive huge batches of sugar from widely different sources which makes it difficult for them to trace the industrial processes used for each batch.
You can either choose to cut off processed sugar entirely. Or you can decide to decrease its consumption. According to us, you shouldn’t worry about processed sugar in Dum Dums since you’ll find it in every other food item and it is really so difficult to know if it is absolutely vegan or not.
Dum Dums have more than sixteen flavours and as many different natural flavours
The FDA has very clearly mentioned on numerous occasions that the natural and artificial flavours utilized in food products across America could be obtained from both plant and animal sources. Our problem is, manufacturers often don’t specify which flavours they incorporate in which products.
According to known patterns, animal based flavours are commonly utilized to enhance strawberry and raspberry flavours in candies and their use in Dum Dums shouldn’t come as a surprise.
We’d suggest you focus more on avoiding the obvious non-vegan foods like meat, dairy, and eggs. The impact of removing these major miscreants from your diet will be more impactful than researching endlessly about natural flavours and removing them in turn. A small percentage of animal life is, if it is, harmed in obtaining natural flavours. More significant numbers are killed on a daily basis through the meat and dairy industries.
Those vibrant colors do not seem vibrant when their truth is known
A lot of coloring agents are derived from animal and insect based sources. The colors used in Dum Dums include Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6.
It is not uncommon to confuse Red 40 with a color known as Red 4 which is obtained from beetles. Red 40 is an artificial color extracted from petroleum based sources. We would not call it an overreaction on your part if you have fixated over Red 40 and Red 4 equally.
Carminic acid or Red 4 as it is popularly known has grotesque origins not only from crushed insects, but also from gelatin, egg white, and from certain types of fishes.
On the other hand, Blue 1 color is entirely vegan as far as the sources are concerned. This product has been synthetically produced in a lab and is not derived from any natural source.
Tartrazine, also known as Yellow 5, is obtained from petroleum just like Red 40. This color was produced from coal tar at one time but it has never been produced from animal sources.
Based on their sources of origin, all these artificial food coloring agents can be easily considered vegan. But this is not their entire story.
All these colors are known to have numerous adverse effects in humans if not adequately tested and declared safe. It is essential to make them go through rigorous testing phases from time to time so that they aren’t toxic or threatening to human health at any point of time.
Here comes the worst part, these colors are tested for safety on lab animals. You heard that right. Many animals like rats, rabbits, monkeys, and dogs are subjected to dangerous doses of these colorants in order to ascertain their adverse reactions and effects on their bodies. Such animal testing qualifies these substances for safe use in humans.
Although the majority of artificial colors may be vegan when it comes to how they are derived. But their subsequent testing is an ethical challenge to humanity and cannot ever be considered vegan.
Many countries have recently banned the use of artificial colors in factory manufactured foods. One reason is to combat the rigorous animal testing entertained for their production. Another reason is the drastic impact of colors on human health. Scientists have recently uncovered the possibility of artificial colors being a cause of cancer in adults and ADHD in children.
If you are looking forward to eliminating artificial colors from your diet, you may have to let go of Dum Dums.
A few Dum Dum flavours may contain lactic acid
One popular Dum Dum flavour called Root Beer is doubted to contain lactic acid. Although many manufacturers claim to produce lactic acid from fermenting bacteria without any reliance on animal products, PETA has clearly marked lactic acid as an animal based substance.
Many researchers claim that even when the lactic acid is produced by bacterial fermentation, the bacteria are often fed on galactose which is always obtained from animals. Otherwise, the sources of lactic acid are always non-vegan. Some of them are animal blood, animal muscles, or milk.
Labelling a product vegan or non-vegan is based entirely upon your judgement. Like we have mentioned earlier, choosing to eliminate every minute animal based ingredient from your diet may take a toll on the practicality of being vegan. Manufacturers may not see profit in producing comparatively vegan food items if they have to reinvent all of their ingredients. This will not even help in reducing animal suffering as significantly as with direct avoidance of meat, poultry, and dairy.
Unknown to many, corn syrup is controversial too
The process of conversion of corn into corn syrup is not as simple as you might have imagined. Corn itself largely contains genetically modified organisms to boost its cultivation and make it safe from pest infestation.
Such large usage of chemicals in corn production makes it a contestant in vegan attributes. It is very less likely for manufacturers to use natural corn in the production of corn syrup.
If this fact makes you uncomfortable, corn syrup may not be listed as vegan in your list and this is one of the major ingredients of Dum Dums.
For once and for all, are Dum Dums vegan?
Dum Dums do not contain any direct animal-based ingredients. There isn’t any trace of animal meat, dairy, or poultry products in these heartthrob candies.
If you are a prudent vegan, the above list of controversial ingredients may you away entirely, and reasonably so.
Our personal recommendation is to not let go of your nostalgic Dum Dums. they are vegan according to most standards and there is only so much you can avoid.