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Decoding Candy Ingredients: What Are Your Kids Really Eating?

Decoding Candy Ingredients

I have a love/hate relationship with Halloween.  I love getting my kids dressed up, seeing the Halloween parade in our little town and decorating the house with my kids.  But I absolutely HATE all the candy and junk that my kids will be exposed to and eat in one night of fun.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-candy, I love candy.  It's a fun treat every once in a while, but the fact that the majority of our candy in the US also comes with a slew of additives and chemicals that we should not be eating and exposing our children to, really makes it hard to enjoy it.  

Knowing what I know now about all of these additives and the issues they cause in our bodies, I have to share this with as many moms as I can!  We as parents, are a powerful force and we can make powerful changes in this world.  The things we spend our money has an impact.  Let's stop buying the junk that's poisoning our kids and show the candy companies that we will not stand for it and want and deserve better options for generations to come.  

This year when you go out Halloween candy shopping, or take your kids trick or treating, arm yourself with the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions with your dollars and as a parent so you can feel good about what your kids are eating.

There are thousands of food additives in our foods.  Some experts estimate that we eat about 4 pounds of chemicals annually!  Since there are so many additives and chemicals there's no way to go over all of them here, so let's just focus on the top 4 most common additives & preservatives that are lurking in candy.  

1.  Titanium Dioxide  -  this gives candy it's smooth texture and bright color.  It's used in Skittles, Starburst, Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish and Trolli gummies. 

Scientists have warned for years about the potential health risks of titanium dioxide because it can accumulate in the body and lead to DNA damage and hormone disruption.  The EU has banned it and labeled is as unsafe for human consumption.  (EWG)

2.  Tertiary Butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ - this preservative gives long shelf life to candies and snacks.  It's used in Reese's products, Pop-Tarts, Cheez-Its and more than a thousand other processed foods. 

It can harm the immune system, impair flu vaccine efficacy, and raise the risk of food allergies.  The Food and Drug Administration approved the use of TBHQ years ago and has not reevaluated it in light of new science that raises questions about its safety. (EWG

3.  Butylated Hydroxytoluene, or BHT - this preservative has been found to harm the neurological system of the brain, alter behavior, and increase the risk of cancer.  It's used in Rice Krispies Treats and Charms Blow Pops, as well as cereals, chewing gum, potato chips and vegetable oils.  

BHT is added to foods like gum as a preservative. However, it is synthetic and highly toxic. It's actually used as an embalming fluid and also as jet fuel. Even the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has labeled it as a carcinogen (cancer-causing agent), and it is banned in many countries

4.  Artificial Dyes - Synthetic food dye can be found in many types of food, candy and beverages. They can affect development and cause behavioral problems in children.

There are seven you need to be especially concerned about: Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, Blue 2 and Green 3.  (EWG

One study showed that exposure to just one milligram, or mg, of Yellow No. 5 affected the most sensitive children. A single serving of Lemon Lime Gatorade has three times this amount, and a serving of SunnyD citrus punch has more than 20 times as much. One serving of brightly colored cereal can contain more than 30 mg of food dyes, and an iced cupcake can have up to 50 mg. Dyes in children's over-the-counter medicine and vitamins can also be a source of exposure. (EWG)

Now that you know what's lurking in your candy, what can you do to make sure these additives and preservatives don't come into your home?

Here are some tips:

  • Read labels carefully.  Check the ingredients labels for the presence of these additives.
  • Choose fresh, whole foods when possible, and limit packaged foods, especially those that are artificially colored and marketed to kids.
  • Avoid ultra-processed foods, which often have high levels of chemical additives and preservatives.
  • Choose organic foods. The Department of Agriculture does not permit the use of artificial colors in foods it certifies as USDA organic.
  • Use EWG’s Food Scores to help you find better choices.
  • Check out my post:  Have You Met the Amazing Switch Witch? A Fun Family Tradition!  - my favorite way to enjoy candy at Halloween 
  • Grab our free resource on candy swaps to make your holiday safer and more delicious. Download it today and enjoy a toxin-free celebration!


Remember:  your actions have a compounding effect on your life.  It’s the little things you do every day that make big impacts on your health and your quality of life.  You can do this!