Peeps are marshmallows, which ― aside from a few vegan-friendly exceptions ― are made primarily of sugar and gelatin. For vegans and vegetarians, the word “gelatin” should be setting off an alarm in your head.
Original Marshmallow Peeps ingredients:
Sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, contains less than 0.5% of the following ingredients: Yellow #5 (tartrazine), potassium sorbate (a preservative), natural flavors, carnauba wax.
Gelatin is made by boiling water with the skin, tendons, ligaments and bones of animals. It’s obviously not vegan, but it’s also not vegetarian: The definition of vegetarianism isn’t always clearly defined, but most vegetarians don’t eat anything that requires an animal to die, and an animal has to be dead in order to use those body parts.
Even if you’re not vegetarian or vegan, there are a couple of other ingredients in Peeps that you should look out for: carnauba wax and Yellow #5.
If the thought of eating carnauba wax makes you nervous, it may be because you’ve seen it on labels of car wax. It’s made from the leaves of the palm tree and is used to provide a glossy, waxen sheen to things like fruit chews, shoes (in the polish), dental floss, surf boards and floors.
Yellow #5 may also put off consumers. The food coloring has been known to cause serious allergic reactions, particularly for people who are allergic to aspirin. In 2008, the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency issued a warning that Yellow #5 may cause hyperactivity in some children. And according to board certified family physician Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Yellow #5 poses risks of cancer.
So whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or omnivorous, proceed into this Peeps season armed with this knowledge.