Are tootsie rolls vegan?

Tootsie rolls are one of the most popular candies in the US and the world at large. They are described as mildly chocolate-flavoured taffy-like candies without being exactly confection and don’t melt.

The company has been manufacturing the little goodies since 1907 and chances are you’ve had them before. As a vegan, I have become conscious of every little thing that I consume and if you are like me, you’re probably wondering whether you can indulge in this delicious treat every once in a while.

Well, you have come to the right place for answers as a full analysis of this candy is covered in the following sections.

Are tootsie rolls vegan? Unfortunately, they are not. That’s because they contain a number of animal products, including condensed skim milk, whey, and casein. As if that wasn’t enough, they also contain some controversial vegan ingredients like sugar, palm oil, and more.

A plant-based diet doesn’t always mean healthy food choices and with the rising trend of vegan junk food, you don’t have to give up on your favourite treats altogether.

Of course, this has to be done in moderation for health purposes. More and more candy manufacturers are moving in the vegan direction to cater for the growing vegan population.

And, although tootsie rolls are not on that list, there are so many vegan-friendly candies to satisfy your sweet tooth or even have during Halloween. Read on to find out what these options are and why tootsie rolls shouldn’t be part of your vegan diet.

What Makes Tootsie Rolls Non-Vegan

The best way to answer this question is to take a closer look at the ingredients used to make this candy, and what better place to confirm that than from the company’s official website.

The ingredients for the original classic tootsie roll include sugar, corn syrup, palm oil, condensed skim milk, cocoa, whey, soy lecithin, artificial and natural flavours.

From this list, it’s evident that tootsie rolls contain animal products that make them undoubtedly non-vegan and they include:

Condensed skim milk

Skim milk is just regular cow milk that has undergone the process of having the milkfat removed. Condensed milk, on the other hand, is regular cow’s milk that has had water removed from it and mostly contains added sugars to form sweetened condensed milk.

The two terms, condensed milk and sweetened condensed milk, are often used interchangeably. The high-sugar content is what makes this milk ideal for making desserts like candy.

Enough of the explanation, what is clear is condensed skim milk found in tootsie rolls is an animal product. And, as we already know, the basic definition of a vegan is someone who doesn’t consume any animal product and by-products.

Female cows are kept under a permanent state of pregnancy so they can give birth and continue producing milk, which takes a toll on their physical and mental well-being. As if that wasn’t enough, they spend their entire lives in small confined spaces never to see the light of day or even breathe fresh air.

Ethical vegans will not consume any product that contributed to the suffering of animals as a nod for animal welfare.

Whey

Many food products contain whey because it improves texture and mouth-feel; plus, it’s rapidly digested. Another reason for its common use is it contains all of the essential amino acids, thus boosting the nutritive value of food products. Anyway, this ingredient is not vegan friendly because it’s made from cow’s milk.

Vegans should be on the lookout for whey, in general, as it has a surprising ability to show up in food products that would otherwise be vegan. In case you’re looking to add more protein into your vegan diet, you can go beyond whey protein and instead include vegan-friendly options like pea protein, soy protein, and hemp protein.

Health concerns

While traditional vegans do it to minimise or possibly eliminate animal suffering, others have joined the vegan journey for health purposes. Needless to say, a plant-based diet is much healthier than consuming meat and other animal products.

While an occasional candy bar is okay, eating sugar-based products regularly is bad for your health. Too much tootsie rolls will provide your body with large amounts of unhealthy substances like sugars and fats, which in turn, increases your waistline and your chances of developing serious diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

Another health concern is allergies. Tootsie rolls contain soy lecithin, which is extracted from soybean oil. Although allergens are found in the protein part of the soybeans, small traces of the allergens can be found in the soy lecithin. This means that those with extreme soy allergies may still react to the soy lecithin in tootsie rolls.

Controversial Ingredients in Tootsie Rolls

Aside from milk and whey, this candy contains a number of ingredients that are a bit controversial in the vegan world. Vegans generally don’t consume animal products and by-products but others take it a notch higher and don’t consume anything whose production involves animal cruelty –whether directly or indirectly. These ingredients include:

Sugar

Sugar itself is vegan but it is bleached and filtered with bone char, which is produced by charring animal bones, to achieve the pure white colour. Although some manufacturers are using alternative methods that use granular carbon instead, which is okay for vegans, Tootsie Rolls is a huge company that sources its sugar from different places. As such, it’s impossible to know what filtering agent was used for making the sugar in your candy.

Palm oil

This ingredient is also not animal-derived but its cultivation is believed to cause devastating environmental impact while harming many animals in the process.

Artificial/natural flavours and food colour

Natural flavours can be sourced from both plants and animals so it’s difficult to trace the origin of the one used in a tootsie roll you consume. Artificial flavours and colours, on the other hand, are all synthetic ingredients made from fossil fuels. They are routinely tested on animals like mice and rats to see how safe they can be for human consumption. It goes without saying that this doesn’t sit well with vegans.

Vegan Alternatives to Tootsie Rolls

As mentioned earlier, being vegan doesn’t mean you cannot satisfy your sweet tooth. There are plenty of vegan options out there that you can indulge in now and then. These vegan candies don’t contain the obvious ingredients derived from animals, including milk, whey, gelatine, casein, carmine, and butter. With that being said, here are a few treats that are fine to include in a vegan diet:

Sour Patch Kids

Unlike most gummy products, this candy doesn’t contain gelatine. They consist primarily of corn syrup, sugar, and food colouring. Though not a healthy food choice, Sour Patch Kids are sweet, sour, and free of any animal products.

Swedish fish

Unlike the name suggests no fish have to be harmed for these cadies to be made. And, like other chewy vegan-friendly candies, Swedish fish doesn’t contain gelatine but only animal-free ingredients like mineral oil and cornstarch.

Cocomels Sea Salt Coconut Milk Caramels

These are ideal for anyone craving a chewy caramel candy without the dairy. Cocomels candies are available in different flavours, all of which are made with coconut milk.

Jolly Ranchers

Feel free to keep enjoying these candies, both the tiny ones and the lollipops, since all that’s in them is corn syrup and sugar.

Dots

DOTS are vegan-friendly as they don’t contain gelatine or other obvious animal products. They also don’t have the carmine colour or confectioner’s glaze, which are two ingredients that are very controversial in the vegan world.

Airheads

These colourful, sweet, and sticky candies come in several flavours, all of which are vegan-friendly.

Skittles

These candies used to contain gelatine but have since been replaced with plant-based ingredients. They can be enjoyed in any vegan household and are officially my vegan trick-or-treaters this Halloween.

What to Watch Out For When Buying Vegan Candy

While the above candies are vegan-friendly in the traditional sense that they don’t contain any animal products, some of the ingredients used in them inhibit a grey area in the vegan community.

For starters, they contain sugar, which is oftentimes bleached and filtered with bone char to give it the white colour. Bone char is sourced from the bones of cows, making it an animal by-product. Vegan candies also contain artificial food colours and flavours, which are often tested on animals to confirm their safety status.

Some vegans are okay eating these vegan candies since they don’t contain any animal products but stricter vegans will avoid them since there’s some form of animal cruelty involved in their production.

There are different degrees of veganism, so whether candy is vegan-friendly or not will depend on your personal choices. For stricter vegans, you might want to contact the company directly about its manufacturing process.

Bottom line, whether you are shopping for candy to satisfy your sweet tooth or for Halloween, it is easy to find vegan candy once you know what to look for.

Robert Van De Ville

Robert Van De Ville is a registered nutritionist, he earned his degree in nutrition from California State University. Now based in London UK. An author of the upcoming book, researcher and dedicated vegan activist.

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