It Halloween time. The costumes, the candy, the candy, the candy, and lots of it. Maybe it's time to forget the calories for a movement and take a look at the ingredients. Charles Platkin, PhD, MPH, Executive Director of the New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College takes a look at a few or your kids favorite holiday candy and what's inside.
This popular Halloween candy has been around for more than 100 years, according to the National Confectioners Association. You either love it or hate it.
Nutritional Information: (per piece) 7.5 calories; 1.9 g carbs; 0 g fat; 0 g protein
Ingredients: Sugar, Corn Syrup, Confectioner's Glaze, Salt, Dextrose, Gelatin, Sesame Oil, Artificial Flavor, Honey, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Red 3.
What You Need to Know
Sugar. Too much sugar is not a good thing; however, in many circles it's considered better than alternatives such as high-fructose corn syrup.
Corn Syrup. Another name for liquid sugar. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest's (CSPI) Chemical Cuisine, corn syrup, which consists mostly of dextrose, is a sweet, thick liquid made by treating cornstarch with acids or enzymes. Corn syrup has no nutritional value.
Confectioner's Glaze. Lac-resin is a secretion made by a lac bug. According to the Shellac & Forest Products Export Promotion Council: "Lac cultivation is done by putting sticks of lac encrustations (broodlac) which contain mature female (gravid) insects, which are about to give birth to young larvae, on suitably prepared specific host plants. After emergence from the mother cells, the young larvae settle on the fresh twigs of the host plants, suck the plant sap and grow to form encrustations. The twigs containing these encrustations are harvested after they are fully grown to extract the lac res." Basically this is food grade shellac and what creates the candy's hard coating.
Salt. Used as a preservative and for flavor. Limit your intake,
Dextrose. Dextrose, more often called glucose, is a type of sugar that is not very sweet.
Gelatin. This is the same thing used to make JELL-O. It's a protein acquired from animal hides and bones.
Sesame Oil. An oil that is high in vitamin E.
Artificial Flavor: According to the Environmental Working Group: "The Food and Drug Administration defines natural flavors as substances derived from animals or plants and artificial flavors are those that are not. An artificial flavor must be composed of one of the nearly 700 FDA-allowed flavoring chemicals or food additives categorized as "generally recognized as safe," or any of 2000 other chemicals not directly regulated by FDA but sanctioned for use by an industry group, the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association of the United States. Most of these chemicals exist as natural flavors or can be extracted from them.
Honey. A natural sweetener.
Yellow 6. According to CSPI, "Industry-sponsored animal tests indicated that this dye, the third-most-widely-used, causes tumors of the adrenal gland and kidney. In addition, small amounts of several carcinogens, such as 4-aminobiphenyl and benzidine (or chemicals that the body converts to those substances), contaminate Yellow 6. However, the FDA reviewed those data and found reasons to conclude that Yellow 6 does not pose a significant cancer risk to humans. Yellow 6 may cause occasional, but sometimes-severe, hypersensitivity reactions."
Yellow 5. According to CSPI, "The second-most-widely used coloring causes allergy-like hypersensitivity reactions, primarily in aspirin-sensitive persons, and triggers hyperactivity in some children. It may be contaminated with such cancer-causing substances as benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl (or chemicals that the body converts to those substances)."
Red 3. The evidence that this dye caused thyroid tumors in rats is "convincing," according to a 1983 review committee report requested by the FDA. The FDA's recommendation that the dye be banned was overruled by pressure from elsewhere in the Reagan administration. Red 3 was formerly used to color maraschino cherries, but it has been replaced there by the less controversial Red 40 dye. It is still used in a smattering of foods ranging from cake icing to fruit roll-ups to chewing gum.
Nutritional Information (per roll): 25 calories, 0g fat, 6g carbs, 0g protein
Ingredients: Dextrose, citric acid, calcium stearate, natural and artificial flavors, colors (Red 40 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Blue 2 Lake).
What You Need to Know
Dextrose: See above
Citric acid: It's safe; used to create a tart flavor.
Calcium Stearate: It is used to make lubricants and cosmetics. It's not soluble in water and has been compared to the foam that is made when soap mixes with water. According to CSPI, "Stearic acid is a fatty acid that occurs in virtually all fats."
Natural and artificial flavors: See above
Colors: According to CSPI Lake "is the technical term for the water-insoluble form of a dye, often used in fatty foods and low-moisture foods." Basically, you should avoid it.
Red 40 [Lake]: According to CSPI this is the most widely used food dye. While it is one of the most-tested food dyes, the key mouse tests were flawed and inconclusive. An FDA review committee acknowledged problems, but said evidence of harm was not "consistent" or "substantial." Red 40 can cause allergy-like reactions. Like other dyes, Red 40 is used mainly in junk foods.
Yellow 5 [Lake]: See above
Yellow 6 [Lake]: See above
Blue 2 [Lake]: According to CSPI's Chemical Cuisine, "Animal studies found somebut not conclusiveevidence that Blue 2 causes brain cancer in male rats, but the Food and Drug Administration concluded that there is "reasonable certainty of no harm."
Dum Dums Original Pops
Nutritional Information (per lollipop) 26 calories, 0g fat, 6.5g carbs, 0g protein
Ingredients: Sugar, corn syrup, citric acid, malic acid, salt, artificial flavor, color added (includes Red 40, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Blue 1).
What You Need to Know:
Sugar and Corn Syrup: See above; not good, obviously.
Citric acid: See above
Malic Acid: Safe, brings out tartness in foods and is abundant in apples.
Salt: See above
Artificial flavor: See above
Red 40 Lake, Yellow 6, Yellow 5: See above.
Blue 1: According to CSPI: "One (unpublished) animal test suggested a small cancer risk, and a test-tube study indicated the dye might affect neurons. It also causes occasional allergic reactions. Blue 1 might be safe for people who are not allergic, but it should be better tested."
Materials provided by Hunter College, NYC Food Policy Center at HUNTER College. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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