Marshmallow Allergy or Gelatin Allergy?


Do you suspect that your child may be allergic to marshmallows? Marshmallows are basically composed of sugar, water, corn syrup, corn starch and gelatin. Since it is generally the protein in allergens that causes an allergic reaction, and gelatin is made up of protein, it is more than likely the gelatin that is causing the allergic reaction and not the marshmallow itself, especially if your child has shown symptoms of an allergic reaction when eating other things like gummy candies, fruit snacks and gelatin desserts. While a gelatin allergy is rare, it is not unheard of.

Most people, whether they have allergies or not, have heard of the Top 8 allergens: milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish and fish. These allergens are responsible for about 90 percent of allergic reactions. All other food allergies are considered uncommon, since they are not as well known. However, just because an allergy is uncommon does not mean that the reaction will be any less severe. Symptoms of an allergic reaction to gelatin include hives or rash, itchiness, swelling, shortness of breath and anaphylaxis.

What is Gelatin?

Gelatin is a colorless and flavorless food product that acts as a thickening agent, binder or stabilizer in both food and non-food items. It is a protein that is made up of collagen and is created by boiling animal skin, tissue and bones. When someone says gelatin, most people may think that it would only be found in Jell-O and other gelatin desserts. While it is found in those things, it is also found in many other foods, some of which you would not even think would contain gelatin.

Some food sources that may contain gelatin include:

  • Marshmallows

  • Peeps

  • Gummy candies

  • Other candies such as Skittles and Starburst

  • Fruit snacks

  • Jell-O

  • Gelatin desserts

  • Instant pudding

  • Ice cream

  • Yogurt

  • Cream cheese

  • Sour cream

  • Frosted Pop Tarts

  • Frosted cereals

  • Frozen bagged vegetables

  • Icing or frosting

  • Cough drops

  • Some juices


Gelatin can also be found in non-food products. It is often used on the shells of some medicine and vitamin capsules to make them easy to swallow. Gelatin is used in many cosmetics, hygiene products, shampoos and other hair products. It is also used as a stabilizer in many vaccines, including the flu vaccine.

Avoiding Gelatin

Since gelatin is found in so many things, both edible and non-edible, it is not an easy allergen to avoid. Lots of careful label reading must be done. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) is a law that states food manufacturers must label the Top 8 allergens by either listing them in bold or listing them after the word “contains” on food labels. Since gelatin is not a Top 8 allergen it could be listed anywhere in the ingredient list and will not be listed in bold. Non-food products will usually list gelatin as either “hydrolyzed animal protein” or “hydrolyzed collagen.”

Where vaccines are concerned, you must be extra careful. If your child has been diagnosed with an allergy to gelatin, or you suspect that they have one, the best thing to do would be to discuss their vaccines with the doctor first. Ask about the use of gelatin in each vaccine prior to making an appointment to get them. If you are unsure about the presence of gelatin and do not want to skip certain vaccinations, consult with your child’s allergist and have them administer the vaccinations in their office.

Do you know someone with a gelatin allergy? How have they managed it? How difficult is gelatin to avoid with it being present in so many things? Please let us know in the comment section!