When I was a child I loved candy. I always found a way to have some on me, somewhere, hiding in secret cabinets or in my pockets. I know first hand how detrimental these “treats” are to your health and am so happy that I’ve now found a way to enjoy my life (and holidays like Halloween) without this type of candy anymore.
This time of year, I can’t help but feel saddened when I see the Halloween candy aisles at conventional grocery stores. Gigantic bags of Kit Kats, Butterfingers, Laffy Taffy, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Sweet Tarts, and Dum Dum Pops line the shelves. Year after year, it’s the same traditional products – the same ones that made me so sick as a child – along with new chemical candy creations that are getting bolder trying to top the competition with even more artificial colors and additives… bright orange Kit Kats and Green Apple Caramel Filled Twizzlers anyone? Is this the best we can do?
Although Halloween isn’t a healthy holiday by any means, there’s no reason to throw all caution to the wind and litter the neighborhood with these toxic “treats” once a year. Over 90% of Americans are concerned about GMOs in their food – and a growing number of us read ingredient lists and are steering clear of artificial food additives – yet there seems to be a disconnect when it comes to holidays like Halloween and what people are willing to put into their cart.
If you normally avoid GMOs, artificial colors, flavors, and controversial preservatives, now’s the time to stop buying conventional Halloween candy and seek out better alternatives.
If you wouldn’t feed these ingredients to your own children (or yourself), why would you hand them out on Halloween?
Most Halloween candy does not have the ingredients listed on the package because it comes in smaller sized versions sold in multipacks, so here’s a reminder of what is lurking in most conventional candy:
Artificial Flavors – Made from cheap toxic chemicals derived from petroleum along with solvents, emulsifiers, flavor modifiers, preservatives that aren’t labeled, so you don’t know what you’re really ingesting.
Artificial Colors – Also derived from petroleum, these dyes are linked to hyperactivity in children and some cancers.
Caramel Color – The most common form is made from ammonia and contains the chemical 4-MEI which is classified as a possible carcinogen. Why add this to chocolate and caramel that is supposed to be naturally brown anyway?
Vanillin – This artificial vanilla flavor is made from wood or petrochemicals.
Partially Hydrogenated Oils – The main source of trans fat in our food that contributes to heart disease. It’s so harmful to our health that even the FDA has stepped in and is requiring companies to remove this ingredient within 3 years – but until then you can still find it in Halloween candy!
Growth Hormones – Unless it’s certified organic, much of the dairy in chocolate comes from conventionally raised cows raised with synthetic hormones that are banned in other countries and linked to an increased risk of cancer in humans.
PGPR (polyglycerol polyricinoleate) – A cheap emulsifier used to replace more expensive cocoa butter.
TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone) – The preservative TBHQ derived from petroleum that’s linked to asthma, allergies, and dermatitis.
DATEM (diacetyl tartaric acid ester of mono- and diglycerides)– A dough conditioner usually derived GMOs that can be a hidden form of harmful trans fat.
BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) – A preservative banned and heavily restricted in other countries because it is linked to cancer.
Fun-Size GMOs? Halloween candy is a minefield of genetically modified ingredients sprayed with Roundup.
Unless a candy is organic or Non-GMO Project verified, it’s probably made with genetically modified (GMO) ingredients. The sugar in most processed food comes from GMO sugar beets, and if it doesn’t specifically list “Cane Sugar” it’s generally GMO. This “Roundup-Ready” sugar is sprayed with Roundup – a herbicide linked to cancer and several other diseases – good reasons to avoid it at all costs.
Although Hershey’s is the first mainstream candy brand to announce that they’re removing GMOs from some of their chocolate, they are not removing GMOs from all of their Halloween candy varieties and this change isn’t slated to happen until the end of 2015. So, the vast majority of non-organic Halloween candy contains GMO sugar, and may also contain other common GMO ingredients like soy lecithin, corn syrup, dextrose and soybean oil.
Just as important as the “scary” ingredients and despicable practices used to produce Halloween candy, food allergies are skyrocketing putting many children at risk.
It’s a pretty grim picture when you realize that 1 out of 13 children now have food allergies in this country – and these are serious allergies to boot. There’s a lot of common allergens in popular Halloween candy – peanuts, milk, egg, soy, wheat – so it’s a great idea to stock up on non-food Halloween treats for children with allergies. You can paint a pumpkin teal and place it on your porch to let Trick-Or-Treaters know that you’re handing out non-food items (keep them in a separate bowl from any candy if you have both).
It’s time for us to rethink how we do Halloween and stop buying these “treats” that aren’t doing anyone any favors!
There’s a way to celebrate Halloween and still have a fun time without GMOs and controversial food additives. While these alternatives below aren’t all perfect and not something I recommend eating on a regular basis (it’s candy!)… these options are way, way better than conventional Halloween treats, and you can find them at many natural foods grocery stores or online here:
- OCHO Minis
- Alter Eco Truffles
- Justin’s Mini Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
- Unreal Candy
- Surf Sweets Organic Candy
- YumEarth Organic Candy
- YumEarth Candy Corn
- Black Forest Organic Candy
- Torie and Howard Organic Chewie Fruities
- Nutiva O’Coconuts
- Organic Fair-Trade Hot Cocoa Packets
- Jack-o-lantern Tangerines
- Crayons and Halloween coloring books (Michaels has a great assortment of non-candy items)
- Halloween Stickers
- Halloween Stamps
- Miniature Toys – like Slinkys and bouncy balls.
- Glow in the dark sticks (these can be as cheap as candy!)
Until we successfully vote with our dollars by choosing products like these instead, stores are going to continue stockpiling their shelves with “fun size” packets of sweet additive-laden GMOs for parents to hand out to children on Halloween night.
It’s appalling when you stop to think about it.
The candy industry has been reluctant to change because candy is an “indulgence” and they hope we’ll turn a blind eye to the ingredients list and reprehensible sourcing practices. They argue that just because candy isn’t healthy, they can continue filling it with additives made from petroleum, GMOs, ingredients that are banned or require a warning label in other countries, and that we’ll keep buying.
“We’re a treat. We’re not a food. We’re not a meal. We’re a treat and consumers like to treat themselves.” – President of Mars Chocolate North America
Really?! – It doesn’t need to be this way.
Every single one of us has the power to make a difference, and it all begins with YOU. When we collectively stop this ridiculous cycle and stop buying these products, something is going to give.
Did you already buy toxic Halloween candy this year?
Take it back to the store and tell them why! If you have friends or neighbors that are still handing out conventional Halloween treats, share this post with them! When we all work together, real change happens. It’s amazing what our collective activism can do. Just think… this time next year we might find Dum Dums made from real fruit instead of artificial flavors and colors… crazier things have happened – ha ha!
It only takes a second to open someone’s eyes, if you know anyone about to poison the neighborhood children, please share this post with them!
Happy (and healthy) Halloween!