Ingredient Topics

People’s relationship with food is changing. Increasingly, we want to know more about the foods we eat and feed our families. We think that’s a good thing. That’s why we’re doing more to provide you with information about what’s in our products.

Below you’ll find a detailed response to frequently asked questions we’ve received about ingredients that are – and aren’t – in our products. We hope this information answers any questions you have. If it doesn’t, just let us know here or on Twitter @AskHershey.

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Q. What are GMOs or “genetically engineered” ingredients?

Farmers have used selective cross-breeding of genetically superior plants for thousands of years to improve the quality and productivity of crops. Today, plant biotechnology has enabled the development of plants with genetic traits that create a more reliable and affordable food supply.

Q. Are GMO or “genetically engineered” ingredients safe?

Yes, GMO ingredients are safe.

The international scientific community, including the U.S. American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, Health Canada, the National Academy of Science and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations have all examined the health and environmental safety of genetic modification in plants. These organizations have concluded that these methods are safe for human consumption.6-9

Q. What are common GMO ingredients?

Seventy to 80 percent of food and drinks consumed in the United States use ingredients that are produced from crops that were developed using genetic modification, a practice that has been used for the past 20 years. These include ingredients from common crops such as corn, soy and sugar beets.

Q. Do Hershey products contain GMO ingredients?

Yes, our agricultural system in the U.S. doesn’t commonly separate crops based on how they were grown, so many Hershey’s ingredients come from the same ingredients broadly used throughout the food and beverage industry.

We understand that non-genetically modified ingredients are important to some of our consumers, therefore we are working with suppliers and manufacturing teams to increase our use of non-GM alternatives.

Q. Do you have any products that do not contain GM ingredients?

Yes, these currently include Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars, Hershey’s Kisses Milk Chocolates, Scharffen Berger Chocolates, organic Dagoba Chocolates, Hershey’s Cocoa Powder and Hershey’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate, Brookside Fruit & Nut Bars and Sofit Snacks.

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Q. What is High Fructose Corn Syrup?

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) comes from corn starch, and is very similar in composition, taste, and sweetness to table sugar (sucrose)18.

High Fructose Corn Syrup is used in many products such as yogurts, baked goods, canned and packaged foods, candies, beverages, and other sweetened foods, not only as a sweetener, but for a variety of other functions described below.

Q. Why is High Fructose Corn Syrup used?

High Fructose Corn Syrup has many functions that help improve qualities of food and beverages. In addition to enhancing the flavor of foods and beverages, high fructose corn syrup also provides shelf stability, promotes browning in baked goods, improves texture, and helps protect and preserve food longer18. High fructose corn syrup is commonly used in place of table sugar because of ease of use and cost effectiveness.

To learn more about High Fructose Corn Syrup, visit: Internal Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC)

Q. Is High Fructose Corn Syrup safe?

Yes, the FDA has recognized high fructose corn syrup as safe, in part because of its similarity to table sugar (sucrose). In fact, our bodies metabolize high fructose corn syrup in the same way we metabolize table sugar and honey18.

Q. Are you considering reducing the use of high fructose corn syrup in your products?

As a consumer-centric company, Hershey continually looks to meet the needs of its customers and consumers. One of the things we are actively exploring is replacing high-fructose corn syrup with sugar in some products. This work is underway.

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Q. What is Aspartame?

Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener that makes foods and drinks sweeter without adding many calories. In terms of its make-up, aspartame consists of two amino acids (the building blocks of protein) – phenylalanine and aspartic acid. These components aren’t synthetic additives; in fact they naturally occur in common foods, such as meat, milk, fruits, and vegetables.1-3

Q. Why is Aspartame used?

Aspartame is actually about 200 times sweeter than sugar, so just a small amount of it can provide the same sweet taste as a lot of sugar, without the calories. Aspartame is often used as a tabletop sweetener and in a range of everyday products, like soft drinks, dairy products, canned fruits, desserts, sauces, dressings, and much more.1-3

Q. Is Aspartame safe?

Yes, aspartame is safe and that’s why it’s found in a lot of everyday products. It has been studied extensively, including by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA), the World Health Organization, and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). All of these studies have come to the conclusion that aspartame is safe.

There are people with a rare hereditary condition called phenylketonuria (PKU) who can’t metabolize phenylalanine, an amino acid that is found in aspartame, and it’s therefore recommended they avoid it. But it’s worth noting that people with PKU also have to avoid meat, beans, and many other foods due to the same amino acids.1-3

Q. Do Hershey products contain Aspartame?

Aspartame is used in a number of our sugar-free gum and mint products in small amounts, including Ice Breakers Ice Cubes Gum, Ice Breakers Mints, and Breath Savers Mints.1-3

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Q. What is rBST?

rBST is a synthetic version of a growth hormone that cows naturally produce.22 rBST helps cows increase the level of a protein that facilitates milk production and helps farmers produce more milk from the same amount of resources.

Q. Is rBST safe?

Yes, it is safe. Any veterinary product used on American farms undergoes extensive regulatory review to make sure it’s safe for humans, animals and the environment. rbST has been approved for use by the FDA in 1993 after assurance the product is safe and has no detrimental effects on cows or people. rbST has also been affirmed as safe by the regulatory bodies of over 50 countries. Reviews by independent organizations, including the World Health Organization, have confirmed its safety.

Q. How do I know if a product contains rBST?

The U.S. FDA does not require special labels for products produced from rBST-treated cows, but some processor and brands independently decide to label their milk as rbst-free. When they do so, the U.S. FDA recommends, the label be accompanied with a claim stating that "no significant differences have been shown between milk derived from rBST-treated and non-rBST-treated cows" to avoid misleading consumers.

Products that have been certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) only contain milk ingredients from non-rBST-treated cows.

Q. Do you have any products made with dairy ingredients that do not contain rBST?

For those with a preference for foods that do not contain milk from cows that have been treated with rBST, a licensee of The Hershey Company offers Hershey’s Shelf Stable Milk products, in unflavored (white), chocolate and strawberry flavors, and Dagoba Organic Chocolate We have been working closely with our milk suppliers since 2015 and now source a majority of our milk from cows that have not been treated with rBST.

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Q. What is Palm Oil?

Palm oil is a vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of palm trees. It is often used in cooking19 and packaged foods, including treats. Palm oil can be used to improve a product's texture, increase its shelf-life, and is used in place of trans fat-containing oils because it is semi-solid at room temperature.

Q. Does Hershey's palm oil come from sustainable sources?

Hershey works closely with suppliers and industry experts to ensure our palm oil comes from traceable and sustainable sources. In December 2013, Hershey announced achievement of its commitment to source 100% mass balanced RSPO20 (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) certified palm oil by the beginning of 2014, a year ahead of our original 2015 commitment.

Taking our commitment a step further, Hershey has also committed to working with suppliers to achieve 100 percent traceable and sustainably sourced palm oil by the end of 2016. Suppliers are now required to independently verify that their sources20:

1. Do not contribute to deforestation or the destruction of wildlife habitat
2. Do not clear high carbon stock forests
3. Do not contribute to peat land expansion
4. Operate in compliance with local laws and regulations

To learn more about the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, visit: RSPO






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Q. What is PGPR?

Polyglycerol polyricinoleate, more commonly known as PGPR, is an emulsifier that comes from castor bean oil. It’s used in cooking oils and fats, stick margarine, spreads, low fat dressings, ice cream, and flour.

Q. What is an emulsifier? What other emulsifiers are used by Hershey?

An emulsifier is an ingredient that is typically used to keep fat and water from separating in the product. When cooking at home, egg yolks are often used as an emulsifier. They also facilitate the molding of chocolates into various shapes. Another emulsifier used by Hershey is soy lecithin, which is commonly obtained from soybeans. It is not a substitute for the cocoa butter of fats used in chocolate.

Q. Is PGPR safe?

Yes, PGPR is a commonly used and a safe ingredient. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA) and other international regulatory authorities have reviewed PGPR and indicate that it is safe and suitable for use in food production.21

Q. How much PGPR is in our products?

The amount of PGPR used is quite small (as is the amount of soy lecithin). For example, in our milk chocolate, it is less than 1% of all ingredients.

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Q. What are BHA and BHT?

BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are widely used antioxidants that help preserve food so it stays fresh.4-5 They work by limiting fats’ and oils’ exposure to oxygen in certain ingredients, which can cause food to get stale or rancid.

Q. Are BHA and BHT safe?

Yes, they’re safe. 

The U.S. FDA has determined that products containing BHA and BHT are safe for consumption.4-5 And we strictly follow all regulatory requirements of the countries where our products are sold. 

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Q. What is caffeine?

Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant found in various plants, coffee beans, tea leaves, and – in small amounts – cocoa beans. The amount of caffeine present in chocolate and cocoa-based products differs depending on the type and amount of cocoa used.

Q. Is caffeine safe?

Yes, most adults can consume moderate amounts of caffeine safely. On average, this means 300 mg per day, or about three 8-ounce cups of coffee (24 oz. total).10

Of course, women who are pregnant and individuals with heart disease should check with their doctor to see how much caffeine they can consume.

Q. How do I know how much caffeine is in Hershey's products?

The amount of caffeine in chocolate products will vary depending on the amount of non-fat cacao in the product. Most people are surprised to find out that milk chocolate contains relatively low amounts of caffeine. For example, a 1.55 ounce (43g) Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar contains about 9 mg of caffeine (for comparison, an 8 oz. cup of coffee contains 65-110 mg of caffeine).10

Q. What is theobromine?

Theobromine is a naturally occurring substance found in cocoa beans. Due to its natural occurrence in cocoa beans, theobromine is also part of chocolate products, though the amount will vary depending on how much and which ingredients are used.

Q. Is theobromine safe?

Yes, theobromine is safe and has been part of the human diet for many years.

It can, however, be dangerous to animals, especially dogs. Dogs lack a specific enzyme that breaks down theobromine properly. If you suspect that your pet has eaten chocolate or chocolate products, immediately contact your veterinarian.

Q. Is there a lot of theobromine in chocolate?

Dark chocolates, unsweetened baking chocolate, and cocoa powder contain more theobromine than milk chocolate and chocolate syrups. For example, a 1.55 ounce (43g) Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar contains about 64mg of theobromine. In comparison, a 1.45 ounce (41g) of Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate contains about 176 mg of theobromine. 

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Q. What are resinous glaze and confectioner’s glaze?

Resinous glaze is a commonly used food coating that is actually derived from the lac bug.

Confectioner’s glaze refers to a glaze made without shellac as a component.

Q. Why is resinous/confectioner’s glaze used?

These glazes, which are used in a wide variety of hard candies, help protect the surface of foods and improve the appearance by providing a smooth, glossy finish.

Q. Are resinous and confectioner’s glazes safe?

Yes, they are safe. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA) has reviewed the ingredients used in resinous and confectioner’s glazes and approved their use in foods.

Q. Does Hershey use resinous or confectioner's glaze in its products?

Yes, Brookside chocolates, Reese’s Pieces candy, Milk Duds candy, and Whoppers Malted Milk Balls are examples of products which include a resinous glaze.

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Q. What are natural flavors?

Definitions for natural flavor can vary between countries. In the U.S., any flavor "derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional," is considered a natural flavor.11

Q. What are artificial flavors?

Artificial flavors are substances that add or enhance the flavor of food and beverages, but do not meet the definition of natural flavor.

Q. Why are flavors used in foods and beverages?

Flavors are commonly used to improve a product’s taste, much like adding spice to a dish. 

Q. Are artificial and natural flavors safe?

Yes, they’re both safe.

All our flavors have been reviewed and approved by regulators where our products are sold. 

Q. How do I know what flavors a product contains?

If a product contains a natural or artificial flavor, it will be listed in the ingredients statement as "natural flavor" or "artificial flavor."

Q. What happens when a flavor contains a food allergen?

We label eight major food allergens if they’re present in any of our ingredients. These include: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. For example, if an allergen is present in a natural or artificial flavor, it will be listed as part of that ingredient [e.g. "artificial flavor (milk)"].

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Q. What are artificial food colors?

Artificial food colors add or enhance the color of food and are commonly added to meet consumer expectations.

In the U.S., artificial colors include any substance added to food for color, regardless of the source of the color, including grape skin extract, fruit and vegetable colors. In addition to natural colors, The Hershey Company also uses a variety of artificial colors, all of which are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA).

Q. What is the difference between dyes and lakes?

Dyes and lakes are two different forms of color additives. Dyes are the pure, water-soluble form of color additives. They can be used in various forms such as liquids or powders. Lakes on the other hand, do not dissolve in water and are usually used in foods and beverages that contain fats and oils. They are often used to color coatings on candies.

Q. Are artificial colors safe?

Yes, they’re safe.

All our color additives have been reviewed and approved by regulators where our products are sold. 

Q. How do I know what colors a product contains?

All added colors are listed on the ingredients statement label of the product. 

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Q. What is FD&C Blue 1?

FD&C12 Blue 1, also known as brilliant blue or E133, is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA) certified artificial food color that’s widely used in food to provide a vibrant blue color.

Q. Is FD&C Blue 1 safe?

Yes, it’s safe. The U.S. FDA has reviewed and approved FD&C Blue 1 as safe for use in food, drugs, and cosmetics.13

Q. How do I know if a product contains Blue 1?

All certified added colors are listed on the ingredients statement label of the product. If one of our products contains FD&C Blue 1, it will be clearly indicated right on the packaging.

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Q. What is Caramel Color?

Caramel color is a food color widely used in the food industry and that results from the process of caramelization – i.e., carefully controlled heating of sugars or other carbohydrates.

Q. What is 4-MEI?

4-MEI, which stands for 4-methylimidazole, is a byproduct of caramelization that is formed during the making of some caramel colors. It can also be created while heating other foods, such as roasted coffee and baked goods.

Q. Are caramel colors and 4-MEI safe?

Yes, they are safe. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA) and international authorities such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), have concluded that caramel colors are safe for consumption.

Q. Does Hershey use caramel colors in its products?

We do use small amounts of caramel colors in some of our products.

In January of 2014, the U.S. FDA announced that it plans to take a closer look at caramel colors, and more specifically 4-MEI levels from caramel colors in certain soft drinks and other food and beverage products14. We will continue to closely monitor U.S. FDA's review and conform with any decisions made.

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Q. What is Carmine Color?

Carmine color, also known as cochineal extract or E120 (outside of the U.S. and Canada), is a food color extracted from the female cochineal beetle (Dactylopius coccus costa)15. Carmine provides food with a deep red color.

Q. Is Carmine color safe?

Yes, regulatory authorities have concluded carmine colors are safe.  They have also been used for centuries around the world16.

Q. How do I know if a product contains carmine color?

It will say it right on the label. U.S. FDA requires that carmine be called "cochineal extract" or "carmine"17 when shown on packaging. In other countries, such as Canada, it may be called by its E number, "E120." 

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Q. What is FD&C Red 3?

FD&C12 Red 3, also known as erythrosine or E127 (outside of the U.S. and Canada), is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA) certified food color used in lots of products to give them a vibrant red color.

Q. Is FD&C Red 3 safe?

Yes, it is safe for use in food products. The U.S. FDA has reviewed and approved FD&C Red 3 as safe for use in food and ingested drugs. However, the U.S. FDA banned FD&C Red 3 from being used in cosmetics, external drugs, and non-water soluble coloring agents called lakes13.

Q. How do I know if a product contains Red 3?

All certified added colors are listed on the ingredients statement label of the product. If one of our products contains FD&C Red 3, it will be declared on the ingredients statement label by name – e.g., "FD&C Red 3" or "Red 3".

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  1. Calorie Control Council (
  2. International Food Information Council Foundation ( Everything you need to know about Aspartame"
  3. Mayo Clinic (
  4. CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. CFR-Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 01 Apr. 2013. Web. 19 Jun. 2014.
  5. CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. CFR-Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 01 Apr. 2013. Web. 19 Jun. 2014.
  6. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).Genetically engineered plants for food and feed. 2012;
  7. World Health Organization. Modern Biotechnology, Human Health, and Development: An evidence-based study. 2005;
  8. Health Canada. Biotechnology and Human Health: Safeguarding and Enhancing the Health of Canadians. 2006;
  9. 4FAO of the United Nations. FAO statement on biotechnology. 2000;
  10. Everything You Need to Know About Caffeine, Food Insight - Your Nutrition and Food Safety Resource. 2015 Fact Sheet
  11. Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. CFR-Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 01 Apr. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2014.
  12. FD&C (Federal Food Drug & Cosmetic Act)
  13. Color Additive Status List (2009, December). In U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved May 22, 2014, from
  14. Caramel color: The health risk that may be in your soda.
  15. CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 Sec. 73.100 Cochineal extract; carmine. (2013, April 1). In U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved June 16, 2014, from
  16. Carmine. (n.d.). In CHR Hansen. Retrieved June 16, 2014, from
  17. Guidance for Industry: Cochineal Extract and Carmine: Declaration by Name on the Label of All Foods and Cosmetic Products That Contain These Color Additives; Small Entity Compliance Guide. (2009, April). In U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved June 16, 2014, from
  18. Fast Facts about High-Fructose Corn Syrup (2011, April 19). In Food Insight - Your Nutrition and Food Safty Resource. Retrieved February 20, 2014, from
  19. Palm Oil. (2014). In Merriam-Webster. Retrieved February 20, 2014, from
  20. Hershey to Purchase 100 Percent Traceable and Sustainably Sourced Palm Oil by End of 2014 (2013, December 17). In The Hershey Company. Retrieved February 20, 2014
  21. GRAS Notification for Polyglycerol Polyricinoleate (pgpr) in Vegetable Fat Coatings (2008, November 13). In U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved February 19, 2014, from
  22. Report on the Food and Drug Administration's Review of the Safety of Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (2009, April 23). In U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved May 20, 2014, from