Candy: The Questionable Ingredients


I will be the first to admit, I am guilty of having a sweet tooth. Throughout the day, I always find myself raiding my pantry for something sweet, sugary, and fruity to indulge in. There is no other treat that satisfies my cravings, like CANDY! Growing up we have been told to avoid these delicious sweets, or we will face the consequences of a painful drilling at the dentist. I am here to tell you that a filling should be the least of your concerns.

If you were asked to name an ingredient contained in candy, your first response would probably be sugar, or gelatin. I am sure most of your responses would not include Blue No. 2, Red No. 3, or Yellow No. 6. In fact, most of you have probably never even heard of these ingredients.  These three popular ingredients are actually food dyes, made of synthetic chemicals and petroleum.  So basically that means that the fruity, juicy, red color you see on a strawberry Twizzler, is actually not from a strawberry at all.

My main concern, surrounding these three main food colorings, is the side effects that result from consuming them.  During a study, male mice that were introduced to Blue No. 2 formed brain tumors.  After reviewing the study, the FDA concluded that the amount of brain tumors, found in these mice, was not drastically more than the amount found in a control group.  In similar studies, when rats were introduced to Red No. 3, there was a significant increase in thyroid tumors.  The FDA concluded that Red No. 3 is an animal carcinogen, but does not pose a huge threat to humans. Interesting enough, Red No. 3 is the same dye that is used to kill maggots in manure piles, YUM!  Yellow No. 6 can be found in beverages, sausages, baked goods, and gelatin.  It is common to have hypersensitivity to this dye, which can result in side effects that include abdominal pain, vomiting, and anaphylactic shock. In a study with Yellow No. 6, rats that received a high dosage of the dye developed adrenal gland and kidney tumors.  Even after the supporting evidence, the FDA concluded that the tumors were not a significant threat to humans.

So while we are all worried about getting a cavity, I suggest we start being cautious about more than just sugar. These harmful dyes can be easily avoided, by simply following an organic lifestyle.  There are also several candy brands which substitute gelatin for pectin, a plant based jelly.  It is time we become more aware of how safe FDA endorsed products really are. We need to protect ourselves and our children from harmful ingredients, even if the chances of a tumor developing are not significant enough in the eyes of the FDA.

Organic Candy Suggestions (all found at Whole Foods):

  • Annie’s
  • Surf Sweets
  • Go Naturally