What's the deal with Swedish fish?


Recently a couple people alerted me to the existence of Oreos filled with Swedish Fish. I laughed, because I have a thing for Swedish Fish and use them to garnish my glass of ouzo, as in ancient Greece. But then I pondered. Are they indeed Swedish? Are they fish? And are they actually food? Let’s argue this as if I were writing opposing briefs.

Swedish Fish are Actually Edible Fish From Sweden

In the 1950s , a Swedish candy company called “Malaco” decided to celebrate Swedish seafood culture with a fish-shaped candy.

A. It Is Swedish:?According to Malaco’s official website: “Visste du att namnet Malaco kommer från de inledande bokstäverna i Malmö Lakrits Compani och grundades redan 1934 som Sveriges första lakritstillverkare?” This roughly translates to “Jah, we are Swedish, you !@#$% Malaco.” If you look closely at a piece of “pastellfiskar”  it has the word “Sweden” embossed on its side. This proves conclusively that Swedish Fish are, in fact, Swedish.

B. It is Fish: While Plaintiff concedes that Swedish Fish are not ectothermic aquatic organisms, they are shaped like fish in homage to the vast Swedish fishing industry. This is preferable to eating the pungent “Surstromming,” a traditional herring dish that ferments for months in wooden barrels, preferably eaten outdoors — as far away from one’s friends and family as possible.

C. It is Food: The original recipe was made of wine gum (which contains neither wine nor gum) and licorice, and plenty of sugar. There is no gelatin in Swedish Fish. Its gummy nature is a big fat secret. While Nabisco’s recent experimental “Swedish Fish Oreos” may be stretching the concept, Swedish Fish are, in fact, a beloved confectionary food.

 Now let’s give Defendant a turn.

Swedish Fish are Neither Swedish, Nor Fish, Nor Food

Plaintiff’s proofs are clearly insufficient to support its premise. There is no evidence that Swedish Fish are what they claim to be.

A. They Are Not Swedish

Swedish Fish are made by Mondelez International, headquartered in New Jersey, a spin-off of Kraft Foods and founded in 2012. They are manufactured in the exotic climes of Hamilton, Ontario, home of Canadian Football’s Tiger Cats, and a short drive from Buffalo.

B. They Are Neither Fish, nor Food

“Swedish Fish” are made of “sugar, invert sugar, corn syrup, modified corn starch, citric acid, white mineral oil, artificial flavors, red 40 and carnauba wax.” [Id.] Clearly, they are not fish; and Plaintiff has advanced no evidence they are food, in the sense that food author Michael Pollan tells us, “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” Swedish Fish are instead an “edible food-like substance” that violate Pollan’s “64 Rules” of eating, including not eating things with ingredients you can’t pronounce [Viz., carnauba wax, also known as “Brazil Wax;” say no more].

In conclusion, ipso facto, clearly there is no evidence that Swedish Fish are Swedish, fish, or food.

Opinion and Order

The briefs of the parties having been carefully considered, the court will take the entire matter under advisement, while enjoying Swedish Fish Oreos, chased by a glass of ouzo garnished with a Swedish Fish.


Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht & Roumel, PC.