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    OMG: Starburst Candies Have Pork in Them (vegan alternatives exist, though)


    Those chewy, sweet wonders are definitely not vegan-friendly.

    If you're trying to go more plant-based and shying away from meat and animal products, you may be suprised to know that some of the most popular American candies with fruity-sounding names and labels are anything but vegan-friendly. In fact, they're often loaded with pork, beef, and other animal products.

    "Starburst candies are not vegetarian or vegan friendly because they contain the ingredient gelatin," explains Kari Pitts, RD, LDN at Preg Appetit. "Since gelatin is an animal derived product made from animal carcasses and skins, it cannot be considered vegetarian or vegan."

    @starburst on Instagram

    Starburst in particular, one of the most popular candies in the country since it debuted on American shores in 1967, is loaded with a pork-derived form of gelatin, which means strict vegetarians, vegans, kosher, halal, and other dietary restrictions render them inaccessible. According to Pitts, "The food industry uses gelatin as a thickening agent which helps hold the candy together and gives it a gummy texture. Gelatin is typically made from collagen taken from the bones and skin of slaughtered animals like pigs, fish, chicken, and beef. The process to create gelatin involves boiling and grinding discarded bones and skins of animals that would have otherwise been considered waste during the animal slaughtering process," adding that, "Anything made with non-vegan gelatin comes from collagen containing animal body parts."

    So what's a candy-loving vegan to do? Well, steer clear of Starburst candy for one, and other gelatin-inclusive candy favorites like marshmallows, Junior Mints, Peeps, and Haribo gummy bears, worms, and other squishies. The other option is to actively seek out vegan-friendly versions of these popular treats. YumEarth, a Stamford, Connecticut-based candy maker with eyes on vegan and organic offerings, makes a product called Chewys, a Starburst-like candy that's free of any animal products and totally suitable for vegan lifestyles.

    YumEarth Chewys vegan-friendly candy squares, Amazon

    Sergio Bicas and Rob Wunder founded their better-ingredients candy company in 2005 in an effort to give their own children sweet noshes made with organic cane juice and syrups rather than high-fructose corn syrup, and are peanut, soy, gluten, and egg-free so they're generally classroom and birthday party safe in addition to being vegan-friendly.

    "To get started,  Wunder and Bicas donned aprons and took to Bicas’ home kitchen, experimenting with fruit flavors and healthy sweetness to satisfy Wunder’s lollipop addiction," according to "In 2006, they traveled to ExpoWest, a natural food products show in Anaheim, with 100 pounds of lollipops made in a borrowed industrial factory. There were five flavors: Cheeky Lemon, Googly Grape, Very Very Cherry, Strawberry Smash and Orange Squeeze,  all kosher parve, certified organic, without artificial dyes or flavors.  They are sweetened with organic cane juice and/or rice syrup rather than high-fructose corn syrup, and are peanut-, soy-, gluten- and egg-free." 

    Chewys, for example, use rice syrup and oil combinations to give a vegan gum-like texture. In a blindfolded taste, our editors weren't able to tell the difference between original Starburst and vegan-compliant YumEarth Chewys, which says a lot about the quality and versatility of vegan gelatin options.

    "There are plant-based alternatives to gelatin," shares Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, and author of Read It Before You Eat It - Taking You from Label to Table, and creator of "Products that use vegan gums are more suited towards kosher, vegetarian and vegan diets than those that would otherwise rely on gelatin."

    Available here on Amazon

    She cautions that just because a suitable vegan-friendly Starburst option exists, it doesn't give candy lovers a free pass to consume endless quantities of the sweet stuff. "There's a halo-effect of certain ingredients that are believed to be better for you, especially with candy," she says. "Organic, natural, kosher, vegan -- it's all still candy. Decoding the food's total nutrient profile is still important."

    Have your own thoughts or experiences with vegan-friendly fare you'd like to share? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below -- we may turn your ideas into a future article.

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