Oct 25 2013
Halloween Candy: The Good, Bad, & The Ugly
By Dee Saale, HoneyColony Original
Halloween is quickly approaching and with it comes oodles of candy that will be handed out in epic proportions. In 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
Although most people understand that candy may lead to obesity, dental cavities, and possibly an upset stomach, many may not know the hidden dangers found in some candy. Popular candy brands contain at least one, if not several, potentially harmful ingredients. In many cases, studies have shown that these ingredients may lead to various forms of cancer, hypersensitivity, or hyperactivity.
Fortunately, there are alternatives. Smaller candy companies have emerged. These companies are acutely aware of the pitfalls in mass-produced candies. They are focused on avoiding problem ingredients in their products, giving people options.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
Used to sweeten candy and other processed foods, high fructose corn syrup is a product made from milled corn. Through a multi-step process, various enzymes and a fungus are added to the concoction until the end product—high fructose corn syrup—is created. It has been reported that most of the corn in the United States is a genetically modified organism (GMO). GMO-corn is tolerant to large amounts of pesticides and it produces its own insecticide. This corn has been sprayed with chemicals that are so potent that they would normally kill the crop; however, as a GMO, it can survive and produce high fructose corn syrup. Studies show pesticides used on corn are harmful to humans, leading to reproductive, kidney, and liver damage, as well as non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Found under the names sodium benzoate, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), or butylated hydroxytolune (BHT), chemical preservatives may do more harm than good in our candy. One of the biggest offenders, sodium benzoate, depletes cells of oxygen. This, in turn, prevents them from warding off various diseases, such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease. When combined with vitamins C or E, it creates a cancer-causing carcinogen, benzene. BHA, most often found in chewing gum, is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicity Program. BHT, a preservative in some candy bars, is created from petroleum (link to petroleum story). Studies have shown that it may be a carcinogen and cause organ damage, at least in animals.
When candy companies want to enhance the flavor of a product, they turn to laboratory-created concoctions such as artificial flavoring. Typically, these chemicals are designed to mimic the flavor of the real thing, but they may taste stronger and are cheaper. Benzaldehyde or artificial almond flavoring, for example, is known to affect the central nervous system, cause allergic reactions, and cancer in laboratory mice. Yet, it is still commonly used in many candies and has been determined “safe” for human consumption.
Think of any of the brightly colored candies on grocery store shelves. Unfortunately, the majority of those fun treats contain artificial coloring. Only seven artificial dyes are legal for human consumption in the US, and some of these are undergoing research. For example, yellow #5, which is banned in Europe, has been linked to cancer, anxiety, and hyperactivity. In 1980, the FDA recently decided that products containing Yellow #5 must be labeled because of its link to respiratory issues, such as bronchial asthma. Scientists are also studying Red #40, since it has been linked to hyperactivity and has produced hives on some consumers’ faces and mouths.
Luckily, even though some candy may frighten us, Halloween is not doomed forever. There are plenty of alternatives this year to make the holiday a healthful success. Many of these products are made using only non-GMO ingredients. In addition, these alternative candies do not contain high fructose corn syrup, chemical-based preservatives, or artificial flavors and dyes. While some of these chemical-free candies provide a healthful twist on familiar favorites, others are completely unique.
This sunflower butter chocolate cup may initially remind consumers of certain traditional types of candy; however, nothing could be further from the truth. “Sun Cups are made with very simple ingredients. We are focused on being Non-GMO Project-verified, certified gluten-free, peanut, tree nut, soy and corn allergen-free,” states SunCup spokesperson David Lurie.
Sun Cups do not contain highly processed ingredients and chemicals sweeteners. “We use organic cane sugar and organic powdered sugar, eliminating any and all corn based products,” says Lurie. As a result, Sun Cups avoid all the questionable ingredients. Available in individual snack-sized packets, they are ideal for Halloween trick-r-treaters, classroom parties, or simply as a special treat. The sunflower cream literally melts in your mouth. These are decadent and delicious.
Reed’s Ginger Chews
These candies are also made from simple GMO-free ingredients and they are unlike most candies on the market. Chris Reed, founder and CEO of Reed’s Inc., says that Reed’s Ginger Chews are “made simply with organic ginger, sugar, and tapioca starch—nothing else, and no GMOs.” He also describes the value of ginger in people’s diet. “I’ve always believed that ginger is an important and essential ingredient for the human body,” he says. “It’s long been regarded as an essential remedy in the East, and nowadays we’re seeing it a lot more in the Western diet. Ginger has been said to aid in nausea relief and have mood-elevating benefits and anti-inflammatory properties.” These candies are individually wrapped, making them an easy candy to hand out during Halloween.
While Sun Cups and Reed’s Ginger Chews are great samplings of better-for-you Halloween candy, there are countless other options, as well. For example, organic gummy worms, organic lollipops, and organic licorice are easy to find. Chemical-free candies can be purchased from specialty retail stores or grocery stores, such as Whole Foods. For people who want to avoid candy altogether, individual packs of organic popcorn are available at most grocery stores. Non-food items can also be handed out, such as Halloween-themed pencils or even a few shiny pennies or nickels.
Dee Saale is a freelance writer and resident of the beautiful state of Colorado. She graduated from college with a degree in English Literature. She then went on to law school and earned her Juris Doctorate. After the birth of her first child, she decided to step away from the legal arena and step into the world of freelance writing.