Halloween is a scary time for health-conscious parents because there are over 10 thousand chemicals, food additives, pesticides, and dyes that are approved by the FDA. And according to the clinical dietician at New York-Presbyterian, Shira Sussi, “These additives range from harmful if consumed in excess to additives that provide no nutritional value other than calories, like corn syrup.”
So what exactly is TBHQ or carmine and why are they in candy at all?
TBHQ is found in Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Butterfingers.
This synthetic antioxidant helps keep the candy on the shelves longer by delaying oxidation. The FDA has strict regulations on this one as too much can be toxic or even fatal.
Carmine is found in Mentos and almost all red and pink candies.
This is a pigment derived from dried cochineal bugs and creates a brilliant red hue. Carmine can cause an allergic reaction to some people and is called out on all labels. It’s great for making lipstick red, not so good for kids.
Ingredient: High-Fructose Corn Syrup
High-Fructose Corn Syrup is found in Snickers and the holiday favorite, candy corns.
A sweetener made from high fructose corn syrup does not have the same chemical make up as natural cane sugar. It is highly processed and goes into the liver and is stored as fat rather than the cells for energy, like natural sugar. HFCS directly contributes to obesity in the United States as well as diabetes, fatty liver and high cholesterol.
Ingredient: Artificial Flavors
Artificial Flavors are found in almost all candy.
Because certain flavors are too expensive to replicate in processed foods, companies use synthetic flavors to imitate the real taste of natural food. Surprisingly, the chemical ingredients of the flavors are not listed.
Ingredient: Hydrogenated Oils
Hydrogenated oil is found in Snickers, Reese’s Pieces, and even Skittles.
Hydrogenated Oils are oils that have been turned from a liquid into a solid. It’s used to increase shelf life and give goods a soft texture. This man-made trans fat has been proven to raise bad cholesterol levels that result in a higher risk for heart disease. The FDA has mandated that this ingredient be removed from all food products.
GMO’s are found in almost every candy.
Unless a candy is certified Non-GMO or organic, it’s most likely made with genetically modified ingredients that were sprayed with Roundup. The sugar in most processed foods comes from GMO sugar beets and if a product doesn’t specify “cane sugar” it is definitely made with GMO’s. This Roundup sugar is linked to cancer and other diseases and should be avoided at all costs. Hershey’s is the first mainstream candy brand to announced they are removing GMOs from some of their chocolate products, but not all of them.
Can we still have fun without chemicals and GMO’s?
You bet we can! It’s time to rethink how we celebrate Halloween. The processed food industry is reluctant to change because “candy” is an indulgence and they hope that America will just turn a blind eye to ingredients that are reprehensible. They argue that just because candy is not considered “healthy” in the first place, they can continue filling it with chemicals, petroleum, and GMOs.
Every single adult who makes household purchasing decisions has the power to change this cycle. If we work together and collectively stop buying these products then they will stop adding harmful ingredients.