Are Starburst Vegan? Why Is the Answer Complex?

are starburst vegan?

The square shaped chewy childhood dream, Starburst’s mouth watering fruit-flavoured candies have remained a beloved of children and adults across America since almost eighty years. But are Starburst vegan? We know this question haunts you since the time you grew up into a responsible and vegan adult. 

The answer is certainly complex. While avoiding the obvious dairy and honey based candies, you might confidently indulge in a fruity option especially Starburst that tastes just like original fruits. 

An interesting finding is that the ingredients of Starburst vary according to the country in which they are made or sold.

These juicy candies do not have all innocent constituents. Besides the basic fruit juice concentrate, they also contain sugar, palm oil, artificial colours (red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6, blue 1), and artificial flavours. 

Starburst manufactured and sold in the USA is reported to contain gelatin, though this is not the case for Starburst made and sold in the UK. Although Starburst in the UK imported from the USA might as well contain gelatin. 

It has been found that Starburst jelly beans do not contain gelatin but even that doesn’t make them safe for vegans. The Starburst jelly beans are reported to contain an ingredient known as ‘confectioner’s glaze’. 

starburst candy

So are Starburst vegan if they contain gelatin?

You’ll find gelatin printed in the list of ingredients on the back side of any Starburst candy pack in the USA. If you are not aware, gelatin is a special protein derivative obtained from animal bones, tendons, ligaments, and skin. The animals killed for this purpose often include cows, pigs, chicken, and fish. It is popularly known that the gelatin used in all Starburst fruit candies is derived from beef. 

Gelatin is a colorless and odourless substance that does not impart any flavour of its own to the food but is effectively utilized as a bonding and gelling agent. This ingredient’s role is to hold the candy together and give that soft feel when you bite into it. 

As a vegan, you should be aware about the cruelty undone on innocent animals to achieve this product. Animal carcasses have to be literally ground together in order to produce this Gary substance called gelatin. 

There are vegan alternatives like pectin that can replace and substitute gelatin in food manufacture but they aren’t utilized sufficiently probably to meet the production costs.

The UK is the only country where Starbursts do not contain gelatin. 

Well this is not the only animal derived product used in Starburst candies.

Have you heard about confectioner’s glaze? You have probably eaten it ignorantly.

An ingredient called confectioner’s glaze plays a role in making the outer side of Starburst jelly beans look shiny. This ingredient is derived from the shiny coating of insects known as shellac. So basically, eating confectioner’s glaze is eating insect secretions. You don’t consider that vegan do you?

We understand the surprise you’ve received on studying just a few ingredients of these apparently harmless fruit candies. Considering that you purchase the UK made Starburst candies that do not contain gelatin, there still might be a lot to worry about.

Your Starburst candy contains palm oil. Ethically, palm oil is not vegan.

No wonder palm oil may not be considered an animal derived product. It is instead extracted from commercial agriculture plantations which makes it essentially plant based. It is intriguing to know that the production process of this broadly utilized fundamental base in the food industry has created many ethical, environmental, and social difficulties. 

Rainforest habitats have been entirely uprooted for these plantations. This in turn has endangered the survival of many wild animals who were already struggling to seek food and shelter amidst capitalist mushrooming. The prominent species of fauna adversely affected by these plantations include the Orangutan, the Sumatran Rhino, the Bornean Pygmy Elephant, and the Sumatran Tiger. This green industry has conquered their sprawling natural homes and 

Clearance and uprooting of these rainforests works in a similar manner as choking a person’s lungs. Their rampant deforestation has led to a sharp spike in global warming. When these plantations dry out, they tend to fill their underlying soil with a product called peat which results in the release of gargantuan volumes of the greenhouse gas methane (methane is twenty three times more responsible for the rising temperature of the earth than carbon dioxide).

These palm plantations spanned across the whole world are hell for poor bonded labourers who are forced to drain their bodies untiringly for little or meagre meals while their families are often taken advantage of in socially horrifying scenarios. There’s more to seemingly inconspicuous ingredients in Starburst candies.

Artificial colours are not as friendly and bright as they appear

Many artificial colours are obtained from animal sources, commonly from insects secretions or crushed insect bodies. Just like confectioner’s glaze, you wouldn’t want these in your food. 

While none of the artificial colours utilized in Starburst candies are derived from animals or insects, you must be aware of their significant health concerns. Some studies have established that these artificial colours are a significant etiological agent in many types of cancers. Their role has also been linked to causing ADHD in children.

Ethically, artificial colours are not at all vegan because they are tested on animals. Poor animals like dogs, rabbits, mice, and monkeys have to sustain terrifying pain to prove whether these substances are safe for use in humans. When these animals develop diseases due to the adverse effects of these colours, they are killed. This happens if they survive the tests. This practice is insanely cruel and must not be supported for the welfare of so many voiceless beings.

White sugar? Not so white.

You may be pleased to know that Starburst candies do not contain dairy products. But are Starburst vegan if they use white sugar. You would know how cane sugar is filtered. 

A substance called bone char is obtained by burning the bones of animals at high temperatures so that they turn into carbon. This final product is used to filter cane sugar that is otherwise brown. Passing the natural brown sugar through bone char whitens it and offers it a pristine coloration.

Many manufacturers do not keep a track of their sources of sugar acquisition so the proper record of the type of sugar filtration utilized is missing. 

You should still be aware that every sugar mill may not be using bone char yo refine and filter sugar. Many sugar companies instead use granular activated carbon for the same purpose and it is also possible to find sugar derived from beet and coconut which is naturally white.

Bone char, although, is seldom transferred to the final filtered sugar. It is worth mentioning that the large amount of sugar in Starbursts is certainly not healthy for consumption. There are 5.5 teaspoons of sugar in a single serving of Starburst candy, What? Yes! A full pack contains 9 teaspoons. This could easily make up for one whole day of sugar consumption.

We told you. The answer is complex. But there are so many other similar options for you to choose from. We have brought for you vegan alternatives to Starburst candies. 

A fruity chew can be guilt free. Look up at these vegan alternatives to Starburst. 

  • Wholesome Organic Fruit Chews: You cannot miss out on good fruit candies by eliminating Starburst when there are Wholesome Organic Fruit Chews. All classic flavours of Starburst are available in just as magical fruit chews namely cherry, lemon, orange  and strawberry. And the good part is, no artificial colors are incorporated. Additionally, the sugar used in these candies is proven to be not filtered with bone char. These chews are certified to be organic and vegan. They are also gluten free and mouth watering.
  • Trujoy Organic Fruit Chews: The best thing about Trujoy Organic Fruit Chews is that they use organic sugar in their products. So there is no chance of bone char filtered white sugar entering your mouth. All ingredients utilized in the making of these candies are natural and organic. This also eliminates the unwanted and unethical artificial colors. On top of that, these candies are certified gluten free, trustworthy vegan, and also free of many common allergens.

So finally, are Starburst vegan? 

The answer is, they are not. Not at all in the US because they contain gelatin. The Starburst jelly beans contain confectioner’s glaze so you definitely don’t want to eat that either. 

The Starburst manufactured and sold in the UK may not contain gelatin, but they do have pine oil, artificial colours, and filtered white sugar. Ethically, they are not vegan either.

Another important thing to imbibe is that a product’s vegan status does not necessarily prove it is healthy for you. Almost all ingredients used to make Starburst are unethical and also unhealthy. 

There are numerous other varieties of candies that offer you the fruity feel and are also vegan. And lastly, you can always rely on original fruits for the fruity flavours.

Joe became a vegan after watching Cowspiracy. He always knew something was off with the way we consume animal products, but watching the documentary made him realized how bad it actually is. Joe is now making sure that every product he buys is 100% vegan!