Our taste buds love sweet things and even if you have chosen to be a devout vegan you may from time to time have a little craving that compels you to research them.
Now and then perhaps you find yourself on your favorite search engine typing questions like, “Are Starburst Vegan?”.
This google trend snippet shows the increase in the interest over time regarding the query:
This article is all about answering this question and exploring related areas.
Are Starburst Vegan?
Starburst are not vegan because of its gelatin content, sugar, and artificial coloring. However, there are different versions in the United Kingdom & in The United States. US versions are not at all vegan while in The United Kingdom, Starburst are devoid of artificial colors and gelatin but sugar, which is most likely cane sugar, can be a cause of concern for most vegans.
In this article, we will do a breakdown of why we believe Starburst is not vegan. We will of course have to first establish what Starburst is for those who may be new to it, and also analyze some of the ingredients.
As an alternative to starburst, you can consume Wholesome Organic Fruit Chews
What are Starburst Candy?
Starburst is a pack of chewable pieces of candy with flat-square shapes. The candy comes in different fruit flavors. It’s popular because it is quite easy to chew and thus has been a household name for many years.
The brand is currently owned by the Wrigley Company a known subsidiary of Mars Inc. However its history dates to a time when a gentleman known as Peter Pfeffer came up with the recipe of what we know in the present day as Starburst.
There are multiple narratives around how this came to be but since this is not a history class. Let’s zero in on the present-day ingredients.
Ingredients in Starburst Candy
Original Starburst (United States)
|Sugar||Corn Syrup|| Fruit Juice From Concentrate |
(Cherry, Orange, Strawberry, and Lemon)
|Dextrin||Citric Acid||Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil|
|Gelatin||Food Starch (modified)||Coloring (Red #40Yellow #5, |
|Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)||Artificial and Natural Flavors|
Original Starburst (UK version)
|Glucose Syrup||Sugar||Concentrated Fruit Juices 1.4%* |
(Apple, Orange, Blackcurrant, Strawberry, Lime, Lemon)
|Acid Citric Acid||Modified Starch||Acid Malic Acid|
|Palm Fat||Dextrin||Emulsifier Lecithin|
|Colors Anthocyanins||Beta – Carotene||Spirulina Extract|
|Maltodextrin||Flavorings||Antioxidant Ascorbic Acid|
Ingredients that make Starburst Non-Vegan
There are many non-vegan ingredients within Starburst, across different flavors and we will do our best to expose some of the main culprits in this section
Gelatin is animal-derived as it uses gelatin from animal body parts. This of course means the animals must be bred to produce enough material for the gelatin and then killed because they cannot take the gelatin whilst these animals are alive.
Popular sources are livestock such as cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, and fish. A lot of lands have to be cleared for livestock farming, meaning that biodiversity and ecosystems are threatened by the clearing vast amounts of land that would have sheltered other small animals. There is also high destruction for feed crops.
Needless to say, the water footprint for preserving such livestock is very high and animals basically have to consume a lot of vegetation to produce a single kilogram of their extracts.
So it is not sustainable or vegan friendly.
Confectioners glaze is used to add a shiny, smooth finish on Starbursts. It is an extract from the lac beetle. Reportedly, approximately 300,000 lac beetles are sacrificed to produce about 2.2 pounds of shellac/glaze. Thus this is not a vegan ingredient and has effects on the ecosystems.
In some circles though some would like to argue that it is from anal secretion by the beetles left on branches the verdict still remains that it is not vegan since it is from an insect.
Whilst Carnauba Wax is from plants it is considered non-vegan because of its impact on the environment. The argument is that it destroys a lot of vegetation as vast lands are cleared for farming carnauba palms.
The company that creates Starburst insists that they are committed to environmentally friendly practices and products.
Veganism is not only based on vegetarianism but the impact of any product directly indirectly on ecosystems. There has been an effort to put in place measures to better the situation such as The Initiative for Responsible Carnauba which is there to facilitate more ethical and sustainable practices in that field.
Ultimately whether or not Carnauba wax is vegan is subjective.
Palm oil is also one of the ingredients that have been under the microscope for unethical practices, deforestation, and environmental degradation. Vast woodlands have to be cleared in order to facilitate the farming of the palm trees which of course destroys the natural habitats for small animals and threatens biodiversity.
The burning of some of the vegetation in a bid to clear these lands increases emissions as well.
The company that makes Starburst is a member of RSPO, which focuses on sustainable Palm Oil production so the Palm Oil they use may be considered vegan friendly depending on how you personally evaluate the efforts that have been affected by RSPO in mitigating environmental destruction.
Mars has also got a page on its website to detail what measures they have taken as far as the environment is concerned. You can click here to read it yourself.
We can thus give it the benefit of doubt as vegan-friendly Palm Oil.
Other Controversial ingredients
There are other controversial ingredients that can be regarded as non-vegan. For some of them the verdict may still be subjective but let’s explore them together.
Refined sugar is non-vegan as often bone char is used to give sugar color. This means that animals are hurt for the production of refined sugar to be complete. Therefore it automatically is not vegan.
Additionally, there are also some environmental issues to observe when it comes to farming sugar cane. There are potential threats to the flourishing of ecosystems and biodiversity because a lot of lands have to be cleared by large plots of land. This also can cause leaching pesticides into the soil, runoff of nutrients, and water eutrophication from fertilizer.
The amount of water used exacerbates water stress. The water footprint for sugar is high. There are also pollutants from distilleries.
For artificial colors like Red 40 to be used, there is often a lot of ongoing and periodic animal testing. There are many animals sacrificed by scientists to prove if the food is safe for human consumption.
The usual victims of these tests are lab rats which are fed large amounts of these colorants and sometimes even killed and dissected for the effects on different organs to be observed. Rodents, dogs, and cattle are also on the long list of animals used.
In 2017 tests on Red 40 were done on cows whilst others were done on rats in 2018.
Red 40 itself is replaceable with vegan alternatives like Pomegranate juice. Raspberry, cherry, and beet juice can also be good alternatives.
Though citric acid is made from fruit and is vegan friendly, in recent years there has been citric acid imported from China. It is controversial because it usually uses genetically modified oranges.
China happens to make and supply the majority of citric acid. It often exports to the United States and European industries. Some GMO’s involve using animal genes in plants and it can be a tricky situation. Moreover, GMOs promote monoculture which hurts biodiversity.
Starburst is not clear where they obtain their citric acid. Hopefully, it’s vegan-friendly.
4.Genetically Modified Corn Starch
Another issue is the use of genetically modified corn starch. The ethical concerns are similar to those aforementioned on citric acid.
Make your own Starburst like candy
Below is the video from Feasting on Fruit that will explain to you to make fruit gummies similar to starburst candy. However, the texture might not be the same but it’s worth trying.
No, Starburst are not vegetarian in the USA because of the presence of gelatin or Confectioner’s Glaze. Gelatin is an animal-derived product usually sourced from livestock such as cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, and fish while Confectioner’s Glaze is an extract from the lac beetle.
The UK gelatin-free version is considered vegetarian whilst the rest are not vegetarian.
Yes, Starburst are Dairy-free as no dairy-derived products are used in making starburst candies. So, If someone is not vegan or vegetarian but lactose intolerant, can savor the candies without worries.
Yes, starburst are totally gluten-free candies. No need to worry about gluten allergies. You can consume starburst candies without worrying about gluten as no such ingredient is used for their manufacturing.
Starbursts made in the USA are not halal because of using gelatin as one of the ingredients. Gelatin is sourced from livestock meat like cows, pigs, etc.
Are there any Starburst vegan alternatives?
To avoid all the non-vegan ingredients that destroy the environment and bring untold suffering to animals. You can try Trujoy Organic Fruit Chews. Organic sugar is vegan, unlike refined sugar which involves bone char in its processing.
These sweet vegan delicacies are made using organic ingredients. They’re certified vegan and gluten-free.
You can also go with Wholesome Organic Fruit Chews. Also certified vegan and comes in many flavors.
So clearly if you are looking for something to chew as a vegan there are thankful. Alternatives.
Feel free to share this post with others.
We have explored different ingredients throughout this article in a bid to ascertain our initial position that Starburst is not vegan. We commend some of the strides the company is taking in trying to conserve the environment by having documented protocol.
However, there is still much to be done and I hope they can take heed to the larger conversation on the need for everyone to unite in creating a sustainable future. Veganism has been singled out as one of the most effective ways to stop world hunger and also sustain the planet.
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