Are Dum Dums Really Vegan?

Dum Dums are a classic in the world of lollipops. I grew up eating them every chance I got, always managing to grab a handful from the bank teller. They come in a variety of flavors—about 16 at the moment—with new flavors being rotated in pretty regularly.1

Are they vegan? Yes, all flavors of Dum Dums are considered vegan. The product actually comes with surprisingly few ingredients overall and none are animal-derived.

Basic Ingredients (All Vegan)

The basic ingredients listed on the mixed bag covers the whole gamut of flavors.

These ingredients include:2

  • Sugar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Citric Acid
  • Malic Acid
  • Salt
  • Artificial Flavor
  • Red 40
  • Yellows 5 and 6
  • Blue 1

Why Dum Dums Are Considered Vegan

Dum Dums Contain Red 40 (Not Red 4)

Red 40 or Allura red is often confused with Red 4. The former (Red 40) is an “azo” dye which is a class of food coloring agents that are derived from petroleum. Red 4, another popular food colorant, is derived from beetles.3

Red 4 aka carmine derives from carminic acid which is a compound found abundantly in certain bugs.4

Unethical and even kind of gross if you think about it.

Not only is carmine derived from beetles, but a popular method of producing the compound often involves other non-vegan ingredients like fish glue, gelatin, and egg white.5

So, yeah not exactly vegan-friendly.

Again, Red 40 tends to be petroleum derived, and can even be acquired from a hybrid species of strawberries.6

It’s one of the most commonly used dyes in the US and you’ll often encounter Red 40 in sodas, candies (lollipops and cotton candy), and children’s medicine.

Blue 1 and Yellows 5 and 6 Are Vegan

Blue 1 or Brilliant Blue FCF is a synthetic dye used as a blue coloring agent in dietary supplements, medicines, cosmetics, and processed foods.7

It’s a really bright, vibrant blue so it’s popular for use in blue raspberry, etc.

Because it’s synthesized chemically without any animal-derived precursors, it’s considered vegan.8

Yellow 5 or tartrazine is a lemon-yellow food colorant and is a type of azo dye like Red 40.

It was first manufactured via coal tar, but these days tends to be derived as a byproduct of the petroleum industry. As such, it’s not animal-derived, so it’s suitable for vegans.

It’s used a lot in food products like ice cream, popsicles, confectionery, and hard candy.

Yellow 6 or Sunset Yellow is also a petroleum-derived azo dye. Like Red 40 it can also be obtained from strawberries.9,10

Dum Dums Don’t Contain Milk Products

Some lollipop brands like Original Gourmet Medley Lollipops contain milk ingredients.11

A lot of food products including some hard candies contain milk if the flavor calls for it. Milk derivatives are also often used for the properties they impart such as added flavor and improved mouthfeel.12

Milk contains certain proteins like whey and caseinates that contribute to emulsification and stabilization of the ingredients, and whey proteins assist with gelling. The milk sugar lactose is often used to contribute color as it aids with browning.

So, milk and it’s derivaives are very popular in candy making. Thankfully, this is not an issue for Dum Dums.

Is the Mystery Flavor Vegan?

You’ve probably noticed that some Dum Dums have wrappers bearing a question marks where the flavor is normally displayed.

Hate to ruin the mystery flavor, but it’s just a combination of all of the other flavors. In fact, it’s just the result of the end of one batch mixing with the next. Instead of stopping production for cleaning of the machines (which usually takes place between flavors), they just whip up a batch of mystery flavors.13

So, yea it’s just a marketing strategy that makes the production process run smoothly while making Dum Dums more fun.

Is the Root Beer Flavor Vegan?

Root beer is a popular flavor in the Dum Dums lollipop line. Often times root beer-flavored candy and treats contain lactic acid.

Lactic acid is kind of a grey area and is listed as an ingredient on PETA’s list of animal-derived ingredients.14

It’s an organic acid that’s found in blood, milk, and muscles, so it can be derived from animals. Industrially, it tends to be produced from bacterial fermentation.15

It can be completely vegan-friendly depending on how the galactose (a simple sugar used to feed the bacteria) is sourced. It can be sourced from dairy products or veggies such as beets.16

This is not an issue for Dum Dums, as the root beer flavor doesn’t contain any lactic acid.

Also, keep in mind that the presence of lactic acid wouldn’t necessarily render the candy non-vegan. Most vegans don’t scrutinize such ingredients too heavily as there’s no way of knowing how they’re derived aside from asking the manufacturer.

But, that’s one less ingredient you have to worry about with this particular candy.

That’s about it for Dum Dums. Thanks for reading.

You may also want to check out the following related articles:


  1. “Dum Dums Flavor History”. Dum Dums. Spangler Candy Company. Archived from the original on 25 February 2015.
  2. Dum Dums – 30 Lb Bulk Red Box
  3. Bug-Based Food Dye Should Be Exterminated, Says CSPI.
  4. Carminic Acid
  5. Carmine
  6. Potera, C., 2010. Diet and nutrition: the artificial food dye blues. Environ Health Perspect. 118 (10), A428–A431.
  7. “FD&C Blue 1 (Brilliant Blue)”. International Association of Color Manufacturers.
  8. El Ali, Bassam M.; Bassam El Ali; Ali, Mohammad Farahat (2005). Handbook of industrial chemistry: organic chemicals. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-141037-3.
  9. Committee on Food Chemicals Codex (2003). Food chemicals codex (5th ed.). Washington, DC: National Academy Press. ISBN 9780309088664.
  10. Diet and Nutrition: The Artificial Food Dye Blues. Carol Potera. Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Oct; 118(10): A428.
  11. Original Gourmet Medley Original and Cream Lollipops.
  12. Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (Page 211). Amy Brown – Wadsworth Cengage Learning – 2011
  13. “What is the Mystery Flavor of Dum Dums?” Article. Mental_Floss.
  14. Animal-derived Ingredients Resource | Living.
  15. H. Benninga (1990): “A History of Lactic Acid Making: A Chapter in the History of Biotechnology”. Volume 11 of Chemists and Chemistry. Springer, ISBN 0792306252, 9780792306252
  16. Galactose.