Getting the “Bugs” Out of Skittles

Kerria lacca

Kerria lacca
Photo: Jeffrey W. Lotz

Food is cultural. Culture dictates the acceptability of food. In some cultures, acceptable food must be vegetarian (specific animal products excluded) or vegan (no animal products). Food producers marketing to the masses will try to be as inclusive as possible to maximize sales. This includes food products such as candies that some consider “junk food”. Food production companies research markets to determine what makes their products acceptable or unacceptable to the general population.

Slight changes in ingredients can change product acceptability with almost imperceptible changes in the product. An example is the candy, Skittles. Prior to 2009, Skittles, was on the unacceptable list for vegetarians and vegans. The candies are mostly sugar, with a little oil and filler. Color and flavoring are added. Prior to 2009, gelatin, a protein that is processed from the cartilage of animals was used as a binder. Two insect products were also used. Carmine is a red dye used to create the red Skittles. Carmine is harvested from the cochineal scale insect. Shellac is a wax secreted by the lac insect, Kerria lacca. Food grade shellac is often used as a coating to seal the food and prevent transfer of the color dyes from the candy to the skin.

Since 2009, Skittles have been produced without the gelatin and the shellac. Red 40 substitutes for carmine as the red dye. These changes remove the primary reasons that make the candies unacceptable to vegetarians and vegans. The majority who have no cultural bias against consuming these ingredients do not notice much difference in the product.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Biomaterials, by jjneal, Food. Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Getting the “Bugs” Out of Skittles

  1. hbegum1 says:

    This is interesting … I’m trying to figure out skittles is haram and I think it is, after reading this.

  2. kiana says:

    I love skittles!!!!!!!!!and hope that’s not true but it is very cool

  3. AKR says:

    It is still made using E120, or carmines, in the UK so not vegetarian (or halal)

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  5. Anonymous says:

    this isi bumbuuumb

  6. Anonymous says:

    i looked for more information regarding that skittles are made with the shellac but i could not find a lot of other information on it from other sources.

  7. Anonymous says:

    As A muslim i want to know if its haram or halal to eat skittles cause i dont want to eat bug plus i dont think allah will be pleased with us eating bugs

  8. Anonymous says:

    is this real because i LOVE skittles please say it isn’t and is bugs only in red ones

  9. Anonymous says:

    hi will they replace bugs with some other things???
    by a cool girl

  10. Anonymous says:

    hi i relay ope this is so not true because I LOVE skittles!!!!!!!!

  11. Anonymous says:

    i relay hope that it isnt true

  12. jjneal says:

    The 2017 version of Skittles contains no animal products. No shellac. No carmine. No gelatin.
    They should meet most dietary requirements

  13. Anonymous says:

    Um… Maybe no more red Skittles…

  14. Anonymous says:

    I feel bad eating skittles

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  18. Anonymous says:

    Is this really true. I’m so scared of skittles now.

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  20. Anonymous says:

    Thank you

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  23. Anonymous says:

    I LOVE skittles and becuse they have taken out the insect taken red dye and wax seal i am much more HAPPIER!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. Livia Jolie says:

    Guys, the bug population is dying out! The Lac bug is about to be gone. No more candy 😦

  25. GETTRASHNOWOKDUHH says:

    Cool

Comments are closed.