So you've undertaken the responsibilities of becoming a vegan, but the major question is, can you still eat your beloved Sour Punch Straws?
To many, this may sound like a silly and unimportant question. Still, whatever your reasons are for becoming a vegan, many vegans want to know how to eat as they had before they converted- sour candy included!
The tasty candy straws covered in the crystalized sugar flakes that we all know as sour punch straws start sweet and then turn into the sharp sour punch flavor as you eat. They have actually been around since the 1990s, when the American Licorice Company began as one of the first to manufacture these delicious candies.
Our very first article in Glam Vegan's series, “is it vegan,” was, are sour patch kids are vegan? – and our experts answered that with cold hard facts.
So, the prevailing question is, are sour punch straws vegan or are there suitable alternatives for the growing number within the vegan community out there?
What Are Sour Punch Straws Made Of?
Note on Questionable Ingredients…
Here are some of the ingredients within sour punch straws:
• Corn Syrup
• Wheat Flour
• Citric Acid
• Malic Acid
• Tartaric Acid
• Glyceryl Monostearate
• Artificial Flavor
• Artificial Color Added (Including Blue 1, Blue 1 Lake, Yellow 5 (Tartrazine), Yellow 5 Lake).
Although Sour Punch Straws don't specify any animal ingredients some, include sugar, glycerine, artificial flavor or colors, which inevitably raise questions within the vegan community.
This is because some sour patch ingredients do not detail their origin or the processes used in their production, which raises questions about whether an animal has been used in this process or what each ingredient may actually contain.
What Type of Sugar Is Used With Sour Punch Straws?
Firstly, the vegetarian ingredient we could've all guessed- sugar! Sugar is typically derived from either sugar cane or sugar beets- each having a similar taste but uses different methods or ingredients in its processing- which is where its controversy lies.
One such example is the methodology used in the filtration of sugar beets, mixing it with additives and using a diffuser to achieve its full crystalization.
With sugar cane, however, in order to obtain the pure white Color, it can be filtered and bleached using bone char, which is the product of heating cattle bones at extreme temperatures to reduce them to a black powder similar to charcoal. Not so great for vegans, then…
As with any food product, it is dependant on the individual sugar company. To tackle this, some have adopted a new approach called ‘activated charcoal' which has proved to be highly effective in overcoming this problem.
The use of bone char is, in fact, a very popular method in the United States, and as Sour Punch are an American brand, it is very possible that their manufacturing process is similar to other sweet non-vegan sour candies with the use of bone char in filtering their sugar.
With Sour Punch Straws, the ingredients have to be clearly stated because of the strict legal requirements with vegan food, so therefore we must assume the punch straws are vegan. Phew!
Another ingredient you may have heard of, but may not know all there is about it, is glycerin- but what is it, and is it artificial?
Glycerin, otherwise known as glycerol, is a compound made of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon, making it technically sugar alcohol. It is typically used as a moisturizing agent, whether in cosmetics or in food, but in the sour candy market, it is usually added to such processed foods to moisten or keep them tender.
For the avid vegan, you'll often find it listed as an ingredient in foods such as baked goods, grains, beverages, sauces, and processed vegetables.
Its ingredients are usually derived from plant-based sources like palm or soybeans but can also be sourced from animals tallow or even manufactured from petroleum oils.
The Vegetarian Resource Group, a source of credible, practical, and scientifically-based information about veganism and vegetarianism, have stated in recent posts that it “is typically derived from plant materials when used in foods,” but it is not stated whether it is in sour punch candy specifically.
Therefore, the question becomes:
Is there Sour Punch Straws with glycerin vegan?
Much like the sugar cane and bone char questions, it's assumed that Sour Punch Straws are indeed vegan or non-vegan. Still, it is best to check whether it is explicitly labelled as ‘vegetable glycerin' or to contact the company directly in order to get the full scope of what each candy contains, as unfortunately, there is no definitive answer.
Artificial Flavors and Colors
The problem that arises from using artificial flavors is not within the ingredients themselves, but the procedures that are used within the sour candy-making process – such as the flavors of strawberry, watermelon or blue raspberry Sour Punch Straws we know and love to eat – very few of them are completely natural and don't contain artificial flavorings of some description.
There are strict regulations relating to any ingredients that are non-vegan or that are fully or partially man-made. So all ingredients of this nature are systematically and over extended periods of time tested to ensure all artificial flavor ingredients are safe for consumption.
Unfortunately, these methods in testing have been known to include experimentation on animals, including rodents, guinea pigs, rabbits- even dogs and puppies. To determine any potential side effects, tests can consist of the feeding of animals with such flavor ingredients or rubbing them against their eyes or skin.
For many vegans, not just the strict vegans, any candy brand that may contain artificial flavors or Color that is not derived from plants and in which animals may be used in the process- are not considered vegan.
As with flavors, candies with artificial colors added are controversial in the same way in the vegan community because of the manufacturing processes used.
As with flavouring, it is widely assumed that most, if not all, food colors are indeed vegan unless specified or because the Color itself is from an animal or insect origin such as Carmine.
For Sour Punch Straws containing the artificial colors Blue 1, Yellow 5 and Red 40 seen in the watermelon Sour Punch straws, for example, it is assumed but not definitively known that they are vegan.
Is there Gelatin or Pork in Sour Punch Straws?
A common ingredient in sweet and sour candies, straws, or bites like Sour Punch is gelatin- a protein that comes from the boiling of animal skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones with water generally coming from cows or pigs' remains.
In Sour Punch Straws, gelatin is not specified and therefore, on the surface, it is assumed there is no pork in these candies for vegans to worry about…
Conclusion: Are Sour Punch Straws Vegan?
From the listed ingredients alone, Sour Punch Straws can be considered vegan candies as there are no animal-based ingredients specified.
Although, in saying this, you can't argue the fact that there are ingredients that may not be of a vegan nature due to the processes used or the testing involved upon extraction or creation.
Therefore, to determine its vegan authenticity is dependent on how you define it yourself – if in doubt, do nowt!
If you're a staunch vegan, we suggest you give these sour candies a major swerve, however yummy they are because the ingredient contents are so vague.
GLAM Vegan's Recommendation
Get something that's good for you. As a registered dietician, I'm constantly trying to help my clients lose weight with vegan supplements, like Goli apple cider vinegar gummies, or just eating healthier foods.