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Does Your Favorite Candy Have GMOs?

Before I knew anything about food and its effects on the body – I was a candy addict. To my family and friends, I was the queen of candy! I knew every brand, every flavor, and always had candy with me. And then, during my wellness journey years ago, when I discovered all my beloved candy had chemicals, trans fats, preservatives and petroleum based artificial colors added to it – I flipped. I immediately banned all major brands of candy and haven’t looked back.

Just look at the ingredients in Starbursts & Twizzler Twerpz and you’ll see what I mean.

I also found out these brands contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms) – something I hadn’t given much thought to until recently.

And then I thought about the upcoming holiday and how many people are going to be buying this junk and giving genetically modified candy to their friends, neighbors and families.

If you’ve already bought your Halloween candy and it’s one of these brands on the left of this chart below – you might want to start looking for your receipt.

I created this chart to help navigate better candy choices without the added chemicals, preservatives, trans fats, artificial colors and GMOs.  The brands on the right are amazing GMO free substitutes that are very similar tasting to the popular candy brands on the left.

Many of the better and GMO free candy options are available to purchase at local health food stores, on the internet and at even some mainstream stores like Target.

If we all take a stand and stop supporting companies that use these chemicals and GMOs in their products – eventually there will be a tipping point. A tipping point, where food manufacturers will willingly remove these ingredients from their products.

Tell all your friends, neighbors and family members you want a GMO free Halloween this year and share these ideas with them.


Food Babe

P.S. Don’t forget to read my full investigation on chocolate and my other favorite chocolate brands here.

P.P.S. If you’d like to keep your Halloween completely candy free and GMOfree – Check out these adorable jack-o-latern faced tangerines a fan posted on my Facebook page and 100 Days of Real Food’s 20 ways to do Halloween without candy.


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206 responses to “Does Your Favorite Candy Have GMOs?

  1. Thanks for posting this! Definitely important for us moms who’s children loves the occasional sweet treat. We are definitely trying to do our part and thank you for doing yours!


  2. I love the halloween faced tangerine idea! But I’m definitely craving some of those peanut butter cups right now. I’m really glad to be candy-free most of the time! Thanks for pointing out some great alternative candies!

    See you tomorrow at the expo!

    1. If you have a craving for peanut butter cups, then try NEWMAN’S OWN PEANUT BUTTER CUPS, in both milk and dark chocolate! YUMMY!!! I also love EQUAL EXCHANGE ORGANIC 55% DARK CHOCOLATE.

  3. Wondering if you saw page one of the business section of the LA times today about prop 37 and what your thoughts are?
    I’m disappointed that fresh meat, cheese, dairy products, eggs, alcoholic beverages and organic foods are excluded!

    1. The only one I politically have an issue with is alcohol as it really is a product containing GMO vs. meat/dairy which are products of animals that may have eaten GMO feed. I still wish I knew what the animal ate, but I can live without it for now JUST to get the ball rolling on this issue.

      1. Buying grassfed or pastured meats that are not finished on grain should take care of the GMO issue with feed. The reason it’s so important in pet food is because almost all commercial pet foods contain grains. No on 37 is doing a fantastic job of making the exclusions an “issue” with the way the bill is written, but if you dig you’ll see that most of the exclusions make sense and excluding them makes the bill much easier to pass.

      2. Animals are shot up with hormones and vaccines. Stick to grass fed organic meat.

  4. The tangerines are exactly what I am doing this year for my son’s Kindergarten class! He is excited about drawing faces on them for his classmates!

  5. I don’t feel I can make my son not trick or treat but he isn’t all that into it so we don’t bring home lots of candy. I am going to propose to him that he trades his candy for an amazon gift card! Love love love the tangarines!

    1. We do the same thing, either trade for a Mom Approved Sweet Basket/Bag or a Coveted Toy. I do feel bad that we donate the candy to the troops though…as they shouldn’t be eating either…

  6. Do you use permanent marker on the mini tangerines? We eat those all the time (the ones from California – I won’t buy the ones from Chile, ew).. I’m wondering if the marker soaks into the fruit or does it stay on the outside just fine? I wouldn’t want to contaminate the fruit! 🙂 Guess I can always try it on one… Thanks for sharing such a cute idea!

    1. I was wondering the same thing…would not want to give anything toxic but you might be safe using non toxic markers for children.

      1. You can buy edible markers near the cake/cupcake decorating isles at Micheals. Also walmart sells them as well. You can also look online. The work great for things like this!

      2. I wonder if instead of a marker- using a fun halloween sticker instead? I think I might do that, you can get bags of Cuties in bulk at Sam’s Club!

    2. I got a ton a stickers (somewhere) on the cheap that are just a grouping of eyes, noses, mouths, etc. I think I’ll use them. As for the markers, most of them say “non-toxic” right on them.

  7. We’ve been giving out the Yummy Earth lollipops and Bug Bites chocolate squares ever since the 1st halloween yummy earth was available! They are delicious pops! It’s really suprising there aren’t more natural and non-gmo candies available.

    Another AMAZING candy bar option is Angell Bars. They are divine taste wise and organic – the perfect occasional indulgence!

    West Coast based company so not distributed widely in our area but available on Amazon. Check it out and tell Suzanne Beth at Outta the Park sent you if you ever reach out to her. Could be a great blog post/story at Halloween time.

    1. Certified organic products must be GMO free. Some non-organic products such as Unreal candy will say GMO free on the package. You also can check out which has a list of verified Non-GMO products. It’s pretty hard to tell or verify otherwise.

      1. Anna & Kath, Read the label, sugar, soy lecithin, dextrose, corn syrup, maltodextrin etc are all GMO. Pretty much all candy that doesn’t say ORGANIC or GMO free are sadly GMO!

  8. I just found out that organic apples are waxed with a shellac wax!!!!How bad is that? I thought shellac was a paint product..Hope I am wrong…I have been peeling them..Can you answer this question?

    1. You are right according to Bulls Eye ”shellac is alcohol based solution of pure lac, a natural resin secreted by tiny insects on certain trees, mainly in India.” It’s used in rubber compounds, hat stiffeners, electrical insulating varnishes, playing card coatings, printing inks, gasket cements and nail varnishes. Well they say their is only about a drop on the apple it still is pretty gross. 🙁

  9. I noticed that the Yummy Earth Organic Gummy Bears have ‘natural flavor’ listed as one of the ingredients…do you think I should be concerned about this ingredient?

  10. After learning more about “natural flavor” I was disappointed to see today that the Annie’s fruit snack, even though “organic” contain Natural Flavor. Not cool! It’s also unfortunate because a lot of these healthier, “cleaner” versions for favorite snacks are not made to be safe for treenut allergic individuals which is also a downer for parents like me trying to find healthy alternatives without having to spend my life in kitchen. The full size Hershey’s chocolate bar and Starbursts are some of the only things I could assure were ok without spend a fortune, but those look to be off the list of possibilities now.

    1. I have problems with “natural flavors” too. I am anaphylactically allergic to strawberries. It’s easier to just make stuff most of the time with the nut allergies (I sent treats to school often until the last coupla years) to avoid any problems.

  11. I had not thought about candy containing GMO’s until today while finally getting around to go by CVS to get Unreal candy. I didn’t know about the company until reading on Feingold Facebook page. I bought the M&M type candy and the Snickers type. They were both very, very good! Thanks for ALL you do to keep us informed.

  12. Had to share this on my Facebook fan page. I wasn’t addicted to sweets but haven’t been able to lose the last few lbs I wanted to with exercise alone, so I decided to give up sweets 3 weeks ago. I plan on doing this over Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, so let’s see how well I do. The hardest part for me is that I help take care of my mom (who has dementia) and have my parents over for dinner up to 3x per week. My mom always wants dessert. So watching others eat it around me, and making it for them, is hard!!

    1. Hi I read your comment and could totally relate. A few months ago my sister introduced me to Isagenix and I haven’t looked back! Both of us had put on extra weight and were having a tough time losing it no matter what we did. I also had been very ill over the years and was having a hard time finding the healthy me again. These products have changed my life and I can’t help but share them. Take a look at my website and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me. Have an awesome day!

  13. Hi Vani! You may want to make a note that only the Endangered Species ORGANIC chocolate being GMO free. I recently emailed Endangered Species questioning about their beet sugar in their “natural” chocolates and they told me that it was indeed GMO beet sugar. So only their organic line is GMO free. Just thought you may want to know! Love always!

    1. Great point – The link up top goes to the organic variety and I’ve updated it to say “organic”… thanks!!!

  14. What exactly is “Wheat Flour”? I know it is in a lot of all natural products, but is it something to worry about?

  15. I wrote to Smarties company to see if they contain GMOs. Their sugar is in the form of dextrose which is from corn. This is the response I got and I don’t know if I can believe it.

    Good Morning Linda-

    All products that Smarties Candy Company manufactures are GMO free.
    Thank you for your interest in Smarties Candy.

    Kerri Nastasi
    Customer Service
    Smarties Candy Company
    Email: [email protected]
    Phone: (908) 964-0660 x202

      1. I got another response that assured me their products are gmo free. If that is true, I wonder why they don’t mention it on their website. That would be a selling point.

      1. Gosh, I should have updated. I cannot believe that I didn’t. They wrote again and said actually they can’t assure their product as GMO free. Something about change in suppliers or whatnot and were overly apologetic.

      1. So sad…have posted this link to my facebook wall…hoping others will also share. Thank you for posting this link and article.

  16. THank you for sending me this post link on my “Perfect Health” blog. I have shared it on facebook and on my “Eating for Better Health” blog. Great post!!

  17. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I have been wondering how to break my families dependence on sweet treats that contain things such as GMO’s and other nasty additives and your information is just what we needed.

  18. I am sick of hearing all the ignorance and band wagon people talking about and posting about how bad GMO’s are for us. As an Ag Major and professional in the industry I am well versed in this area. I do not want to provide a product that harms people nor would I ever. This talk today about how GMO’s are bad for you is ludicrous! Foods have been genetically modified since before Christ was on the earth 2000 years ago! More current records go back to the 30’s showing GMO’s. There has not been one case of health issues directly as a result from the GMO’s. I am very happy the proposition didn’t pass because all it was is a way to make Americans more lazy than we already are. If it means that much to you I have no problem with your particular choices. However instead of forcing producers to put something on the label just use the smart phone in your hand at search look up if there are GMO’s in the product yourself!

    1. Really? Are you also “as a professional in the industry” well versed in the violation of child labor laws by major companies?

    2. Genetically modified is not the same as selective cross pollination. People have intentionally cross pollinated plants for years. Splicing and injecting DNA is a recent development.

    3. Joshua… it makes no sense to talk facts and try to reason to some people, please refer to this post a few above yours to understand the mentality behind this:

      ‘ Haley Southey
      October 15, 2012
      What exactly is “Wheat Flour”? I know it is in a lot of all natural products, but is it something to worry about?’

      Need I say more? This entire post is about candy, a product laden with sugar and they are worried about GMOs. Maybe the priorities are a bit twisted here, I dunno. How the hell child labor is connected with food that is free of insects and is drought resistant with higher yields meaning affordable prices and a living wage profit for farmers is beyond my comprehension.

      The tangerines are a wonderful idea for a treat, but it is totally unnecessary to draw faces on them, even natural edible makers and stickers are made of plastic and acrylic adhesives and that just adds to the crap in our environment. Might want to check with the parents before handing them out, they will probably end up in the trash anyway seeing they are unwrapped. Oh, wait, never mind.. that was common sense.

      1. She’s asking about wheat flour because she probably wants to know whether it’s enriched bleached flour or whole wheat flour. Because it doesn’t say whole wheat it most likely is enriched bleached flour and it should be labeled as such. This is an issue because of the misleading marketing that goes on.
        As far as living wage for farmers, many farmers are in debt up to their ankles because of Big Ag practices.
        And in regards to your snarky comments about Candy, I highly doubt most of the parents on this site feed their kids a ton of candy. Halloween is a special occasion Scrooge.

    4. thank you. I always think of Mendel’s poor little peas when I start hearing this stuff. And I have recipe after recipe calling for Karo (high fructose corn syrup) from a 1930’s cookbook that rocks. people were still skinny then and ate it. more a lifestyle change than a sudden over use of corn syrup instead of natural, organic sugar

      1. “Corn syrup is distinct from high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is manufactured from corn syrup by converting a large proportion of its glucose into fructose using the enzyme xylose isomerase, thus producing a sweeter compound due to higher levels of fructose.”

        The corn used to make corn syrup in the 30s wasn’t GMO. GMOs weren’t on the market until the late 1990s so you are highly misinformed.

    5. I’m not sure how labeling would make Americans more lazy. If anything, it makes us more informed, which is what most of us are asking for: to be able to make informed choices about what we eat and what we feed our children. If companies aren’t going to label, and the government isn’t going to require it, then we need to speak with our dollars. Yes, genetic engineering has been around forever, but GMOs are not the same. GMO items have pesticides and herbicides bred into the DNA. I’m not sure how that’s a good thing for any of us. Sure, it might lead to better looking fruits and vegetables, but I certainly don’t want to be a test subject for something that has been on the market for a limited time.

  19. Popping by to see the brands you recommend… I’m in search of decent chocolate eggs for my toddler’s Easter basket (next to the local, organic farm-raised, free range hard-boiled chicken eggs we’ll color with India Tree dye). Maybe one of these companies makes something worth indulging in? One god idea I hadn’t thought of is the Annie’s bunnies!

  20. Hi Vani,

    I wanted to mention that the Panda Licorice should probably be taken off the list as being a healthy alternative to regular licorice. I’m not sure if this ingredient is a recent change, but when I was at the store I picked up a packaged remembering you had reccomended it. To my dismay the ingredient label contained “Natural Cherry / Raspberry flavors.” The package said “New!” so I’m fairly certain that this was added after you wrote about them being safe to consume. It’s really disheartening because I really wanted to buy some but I wouldn’t even touch it knowing it had those chemicals in it. Just thought I would give you a heads up because I revere and trust your opinion so much, and sometimes companies decide to take a turn in the wrong direction and begin adding adverse chemicals to their foods. I can try to take a picture and email it to you, or next time you’re in the store pick up a bag and check out their “new and improved” flavors.

    – Devyn

  21. MMM=Monsato Money Mongers! They are killing innocent people with no concern for their health! Only about how to acquire more billions! It is up to us to stop them! Now! Before its to late!

  22. My daughter has never eaten a piece of candy after Treating, as we call it. Every year she turns each piece she gets in for a dime. She can earn up to $20 to buy something from the toy store. We have a special homemade treat for after the treating. We give out toys to the other children…to stay away from all of that sugar, but later it was to stay away from all of the chemicals in addition. It is a matter of learning how to make healthy homemade yummy treats. What we make, the kids love…and MANY times they have said is was the best they ever had…our homemade burritos, pizza, muffins, cake, etc. We can all do this!! The children deserve healthy fun food options!

  23. Hi there food babe! With Halloween approaching, I am concerned about trick-or-treating and icky candy being given to my kids. We dont allow our children to eat anything with gmos, artificial sweeteners, dyes, soy…you know, garbage! But I would hate for them to feel like they are missing out on what their friends and other un-awakened folk are doing to celebrate the holiday. Could you possibly do an updated post of this? Maybe there are more options available now that could be included? Maybe you or your readers have ideas on how to include kids in celebrating without all the junk candy? I would really hate to be “that mom” that goes around to the neighbors before trick-or-treating to give my neighbors acceptable candy to give to my kids, but I just might have to do that unless you have any other ideas! Thanks for all you do!

  24. I’ve contacted Valrhona….and their chocolate is GMO-free. My favorite is 70% cacao. So rich, delicious, and melts to mix w/ coconut, hemp seeds to make a wonderful homemade candy bar!!

  25. It would be great if you would make your frequent lists of good/bad products printable. That was I could take your list with me when I go shopping.

  26. Love everything you do, foodbabe, but I gotta be honest here….I’m not taking Halloween away from my kids! How sad if they couldn’t eat the Hershey’s bars etc. I totally respect all those who choose to to take their kids’ treat bags away from them and replace it with all the GMO free candy but personally I don’t think I have the heart to do it, just this one night. 🙁 Just wanted to add my take on it. Same goes for Christmas candy too. Off limits, can’t go there. Of course if I had a truly allergic child (like to peanuts, etc) I might think differently.

    1. Have you tried the endangered species organic chocolate? Or Justins organic peanut butter cups? Your kids will never look back. They taste so much better than hersheys!! It’s real chocolate!! 🙂

    2. Actually there is evidence of the harm GMO’s do to h
      People’s health which is why so many governments in other countries make them labeled. The country where Monsanto is wont even let them use their products. Here’s the thing. Among the countries that have banned or require labeling a lot of manufacturers have used safe, natural, non gmo ingredients in their products so if they can do it why not do it all around? And farmers make money? Do you know how many have lost their entire crop because they have been infected with a gmo seed that was allowed to be patented so the big companies mow down their field? If you are as smart as you want everyone to think why would you discount all the proof and why would you not want a better, safer way to make the same foods? Monsanto made agent orange and you expect me to buy GMOs they make? Chemical weapons and chemically changed food?

      1. Ok that comment was for Joshua not you not sure what happened hopefully my other comment that was meant for you shows up 🙁 if not basically i said I agree

    3. I agree, I hate the gmo and all the other stuff but Halloween and Christmas I won’t mess with. I figure if we cut out almost all of it most of the year, ill give it to them. I know it would be better not to and I am hoping more companies will come around but until then they will eat it, and maybe I will sneak a couple. I will also be looking for candy but have you noticed the price. Would love to give out non gmo candy but we get 300 or so kids, no joke, and I can’t afford to buy it

    4. Geez not sure what’s going on bu this comment was for Joshua earlier not you. I agree with the candy on Halloween and had a seperate post for that and I’m not sure where it went to ? Sorry 🙁

  27. For those of us with food allergies, the only choice in terms of chocolate/candy is Enjoy Life products . . . (GF, DF, free of top 8 allergens)
    Good News!! They have received non-GMO Project Verification on many of their products . . . that’s a relief!! You might want to add them to your list so folks with allergies will know about this option.
    Thanks for all the great info!!

  28. My daughter loves the yummy Earth lollipops. But I wonder why their gummy bears aren’t Labeled USDA organic like the lollipops are. Their lollipops & jelly beans say “no GMO ” on the front, but the gummy bears do not. I wonder if the citric acid in them is a GMO citric acid. I think most of the other items list in the ingredients are organic.

  29. Some grocery stores offer to “trade” the bad candy for good stuff like fruit, clean candy and more. Check with local healthy grocery stores to see if they offer this program. If they do not, ask them to start. Earth Fare does a candy trade in every year. Or buy the clean candy yourself, let your kids compare a few pieces to the conventional candy and they will likely make the right choice on their own. The Yummy Earth lollipops are my son’s favorite and they taste much better than other brands. Carry some with you while you trick or treat to satisfy that instant gratification. Then take the candy your kids got and donate it to a program that sends care packages to troops. They will be happy to get it. And if anyone reading this is buying candy for my kid, please go GMO-free! Thanks.

  30. So disturbed to see all my guulty pleasures are now making me even more guilty. LOVE that provide alternatives but I’ve never heard of any of these brands. How did you source the alternatives out? I would love to find some alternates in Canada!!

  31. Hi, I’m really appreciating all your good work. I make what I call Roger’s Truffles which I sell locally. I make my own equivalent of clotted cream out of whipping cream, I use cocoa powder which I’d love to be organic but all that I’ve found does not make a strong enough cocoa taste. Similarly I use icing sugar which I hope is still GMO free though I realise that it is not pure sugar. I use so little butter I can use organic without a problem. The real problem comes with flavours as the pure flavours are very difficult to find. Orange, Lemon, Vanilla, Peppermint are easy enough but after that I mostly have to resort to artificial flavours (Brandy, Rum, Coconut being the most common). Any suggestions? I’d love to be pure and organic. The only organic sugar that I can buy is not icing and so does not work for truffles. I’d love to find pure Rose and Violet flavours.
    I’d so appreciate your help. Thanks.

  32. I’m sincerely curious, if it says organic does that mean it doesn’t contain beaver butt??? It is that considered organic? Trying to avoid it!

  33. People, you need to check legitimate sites before you go and say OH THIS BAD, or CORN IS EVIL. If you look at a site such as WebMD, you will find that GMOs are safe, just as safe as any other food on the market. While there are some risks with allergic reactions, if you haven’t had them yet you shouldn’t worry about them.

    1. Yes, because WebMD has all the answers. Really? If you’d like to consume GMOs knock yourself out, however, I chose not to. Not sure why you have such a problem with what I decide to put into my body and my kids. Weird.

    2. Geez are you and Joshua friends? Anyone can add to web md if they know what they are doing. Did you believe the giant spider picture too? It was online so it must be true. GMOs are not safe and there is plenty of research to prove it

  34. Great list! With just one exception… the Panda licorice is really not very tasty. I bought it for my kids and they hated it. After tasting it myself, I had to agree. Not sweet or fruity like you would expect. Sadly, I haven’t found any natural, good-tasting alternatives for Red Vines, so we just get other kinds of (natural) candies instead!

  35. Great article!! These are exactly what consumers need to know! I love the chart of the normal bad treats and their alternatives–this is a HUGE help to consumers!! WOuld love o see more charts like this! Many thanks!

  36. I am so much more concerned with consuming sugar that we no longer buy candy, anyway. Hersheys isn’t even on the radar! It’s all toxic, even GMO free.

  37. Interesting that HARIBO uses GMO’s in the US. In Germany (where it’s originally from) GMO’s are nor included. On the contrary, its made out of fruit juices.

  38. Although I personally love mandarin oranges, I’m going to tell what’s going to happen if you hand them out on Halloween: My 12 year old and his friends will pelt them back at your front door and the front doors of neighbors who don’t give them candy. The younger kids who won’t throw them, will give the bags to their parents. In Los Angeles, no parent is going to let their child eat anything that isn’t prepackaged. All of your oranges will get thrown in the trash can.

    Last year, someone handed out pistachios in baggies. Those nuts were thrown all over the neighborhood. Let your kids have one night to have some fun with chocolate. You have the rest of the year to badger them.

  39. Thanks so much for this list. I have been sugar free for almost a month…but this is nice for my son. I allow him one small treat a day.

  40. This is ridiculous . It’s candy for gods sake. Not health food. Relinquish some control people. Can’t wait to buy good candy for my family!

  41. You’re depriving your children. Tangerines with jack’o’lantern faces? Are you kidding me? We would’ve used those for target practice, taking direct aim are your actual jack’o’lantern. Everything in moderation….and they won’t be the brunt of their friends jokes either.

  42. This might be superdorky, but I’m buying witch fingers from the grapery and that will be my holiday treat. They are GMO-free, but honestly, that’s all I know about them. I’m bringing them to work where there will be no parents to appreciate the lack of candy, but hopefully the look will be fun!

  43. Many of the candies on the right contain natural flavors. Wondering if you are still buying and eating these since they contain “beaver butt”?

  44. Vani, I am thankful that you investigate everything and this is something I already knew thank goodness. My question is why does life have to be sooooo complicated these days when it comes to food?? I mean kids can’t even be kids and parents have to “hover” over their children to monitor their Halloween candy. We make homemade treats that all of our neighbors enjoy. Not everyone does this in our neighborhood so it is hard. However this year I am thinking of giving them the choice of $20 for their candy to use at a store of their choice. Also maybe letting them have 10 pieces of candy to save because I don’t want to have to say to them “don’t tell our neighbors that you sold the candy they gave you” to me that is rude. All of the kids on our street play/see each other each day and it’s bound to come out. Not ashamed of what I believe in when it comes to food but I do care about being viewed as judgemental and rude. Our kids usually eat like 4 pieces of candy and then forget about it. I throw it away after that. Vani would have loved it when our son was 3 and went trick or treating for the first time, when he went up to the door he would say “twik or tweet” and if someone tried to give him anything but lollipops he would run away screaming NOOOOOO!!! LOL It was kind of funny and embarrassing at the same time.

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