Major Update: October 11, 2016 (See bottom of post)
Growing up, every time I would get sick, my mom would offer to make Jello. She thought it was easy on the stomach, like so many other moms out there. In grade school, I would get Jello almost every day either in my lunch via those cute little snack packs or in the lunch line. Into my early adult life, every time I would visit the local K&W cafeteria restaurant with my parents, I would choose Jello and put it on my tray right next to the other dessert I would get. The cafeteria restaurant categorized Jello in the same section as the salad, so logically Jello was just a side, right? Then when I was 22, as soon as my inflamed appendix was cut out of my body, I ate Jello at the hospital too. It was the only thing I could eat…so I thought.
I think it’s pretty obvious that Jello isn’t healthy to many of us that now read ingredient lists, however, I still think something isn’t clear to the majority because this Kraft product is still on shelves making big money. The information I want to share today will hopefully make it more apparent to everyone around us that Jello is one of the sorriest excuses for a treat – one that no one should be eating! Period.
Why is Jello still around?
Jello was losing market share about 10 years ago, so Kraft targeted their marketing of Jello to people following the Atkins diet by pushing their sugar-free puddings and Jello as acceptable snacks – and it worked. Lots of people were buying up sugar-free Jello to satisfy their sweet tooth while on the Atkins diet and saying ridiculous things like “it’s a sweet cheat and it’s only 1 carb!”.
Years later, it has somehow kept its reputation as a diet food. I was flipping through a magazine yesterday and came across a recipe for a low-calorie “Faux Fondue” using sugar-free Jello chocolate pudding, as if it was a healthy alternative to real fondue. I’ve seen several other low calorie recipes on Pinterest that use Jello to make treats. I even read that a food blogger was thinking about replacing one of her meals with sugar-free Jello to help her lose weight after hearing that it worked for John Malkovich. That has got to be one of the unhealthiest ways I’ve seen to lose weight, so of course, I am going to send her this blog post.
Sure, sugar-free Jello is low in calories – but at what cost?
Now that Atkins has declined in popularity, Kraft announced that they changed their target – and are now targeting families with an advertising campaign that they call “Fun Things Up”. Dan O’Leary, Kraft’s senior director of marketing for desserts said, “The goal is to re-establish Jell-O’s ‘core purpose’ of ‘food for fun’…what Jell-O has that a lot of brands don’t have is that fun angle….In the ads, we’re really trying to play off the imaginative quality of the brand.”
There is nothing “fun” about the ingredients in Jello.
This is what you will really find in the average box of Jello:
No-Fun Ingredient #1: Artificial Colors
If you go shopping in Europe and find Jello on the shelves at the supermarket it has a big fat warning label on the nutrition label stating:
“May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”
That should be enough information for you to put the product back down, but here in America, our government is co-opted by big food corporations like Kraft that fight these warning labels. Actually, Kraft knows their products that contain artificial food dye have risks for children, but still markets their products that contain them to children. It’s one of the most immoral and unethical practices I have ever seen.
Removing artificial dyes from our food is so important, especially in light of the new Purdue University study showing the extreme amounts of dyes being used in everyday foods here in the U.S. Sure, artificial colors have always been listed on the ingredient label, but now we know how much – and it’s astounding. The study data shows that a small ½ cup serving of Orange Jello contains 12.2 mg. of artificial colors, and that there are 9 mg. in the Black Cherry and nearly 7 mg. in the Strawberry flavor. This is more than they found in most Freezer Pops or 15 conventional gummy bears. They believe that with a combination of foods, kids “could easily consume 100 mg of dyes in a day”, which is well over the amount shown to cause reactions.
Jello uses Blue #1 in several of their flavors. This is one of the worst colors out there because it has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier and “in 2003, the FDA asked doctors to stop [adding Blue 1 to enteral feedings] since patients were dying, not from their disease, but from the Blue number 1, which apparently caused refractory hypotension and metabolic acidosis”. But – the FDA still allows this “Fun” ingredient in Jello.
Another popular Jello product is their pudding mixes. I’ve already written extensively about Yellow #5 and Yellow #6, which are still being used in regular Kraft Mac n Cheese and in many Jello products. Check out the ingredients on this box of Jello instant pudding both sugar free and regular (there’s not much difference):
No-Fun Ingredient #2: Artificial Sweeteners
One of the worst ingredients in this pudding is the artificial sweetener Acesulfame Potassium, which is sometimes referred to as “Ace-K”. It’s on the Center for Science in Public Interest’s list of ingredients to avoid, because not enough research has been done to show that it is safe to consume. Marvin Schneiderman, Ph.D., Former Associate Director of Field Studies and Statistics at the National Cancer Institute stated, “I find the actual studies and the data analysis seriously flawed. New tests, properly designed, executed, and analyzed are needed. The usual consequences of poor tests is to make it harder to find any effects. Despite the low quality of the studies reported to you, I find that there is evidence of carcinogenicity.” This ingredient clearly should not be in our food.
The other artificial sweetener in sugar-free Jello pudding is one that I avoid at ALL costs – aspartame. According to the American College of Cardiology, a new study found a startling 50% higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease in women who regularly consumed two or more aspartame diet drinks per day. Another large study linked aspartame to an increased risk of lymphomas, leukemias, and transitional cell carcinomas of the pelvis, ureter, and bladder. The evidence has been mounting against aspartame for a very long time, but food manufacturers continue to use it. Check out this eye-opening 60 Minutes episode that aired in 1996 and exposed why aspartame was approved by the FDA in the first place – despite dangers found in safety studies and its link to brain tumors.
As if those aren’t enough reasons to steer clear of aspartame, don’t believe for one minute that it will help you lose weight. Although it has no calories, artificial sweeteners have been shown to contribute to weight gain by encouraging sugar cravings – which is the complete opposite effect that most people would expect. This study showed that replacing sugar with aspartame simply increased hunger and the subjects compensated by eating more calories.
No-Fun Ingredient #3: Sugar
One serving of regular Jello contains 19 grams of sugar, which is the same as almost 5 teaspoons. This can really add up – and the amount of sugar consumption in this country is really out of control. A new study just came out which showed that childhood diabetes has skyrocketed with a shocking 30% increase in childhood type 2 diabetes from 2000 to 2009. This is a disease that was considered “adult onset”, but now is regularly diagnosed in children. Nearly all of the calories in Jello come from sugar alone, so it’s really no different than gelled sugar water. Another thing to consider is where that sugar comes from – and the answer may surprise you.
No-Fun Ingredient #4: GMOs
The sugar that is used in regular Jello is not specified as “cane sugar” and almost all “sugar” found in processed food in the U.S. comes from GMO sugar beets. So, it’s a pretty safe bet that the sugar in Jello is from GMO sugar beets. Also, the first two ingredients in sugar-free Jello pudding – modified cornstarch and maltodextrin – are likely derived from genetically modified corn. Keep in mind that Kraft spent over $2 million dollars to fight GMO labeling in California and plans to sue Vermont in coming weeks – so they don’t want to tell us whether their products contain GMOs. Why should you care?
According to GMO Myths and Truths: An evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops and foods: ”GM foods can be toxic, allergenic, or have unintended nutritional changes” and “Researchers who publish studies that find harm from GM crops are attacked”. I could go on, but I encourage you to read the full report written by John Fagan, Ph.D., Michael Antoniou, Ph.D., and Claire Robinson here.
No-Fun Ingredient #5: BHA
Countries all over the globe have banned BHA and for good reason. Jello uses BHA (which is short for Butylated Hydroxyanisole) as a preservative. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies BHA as a possible human carcinogen and it’s been deemed a “reasonably anticipated human carcinogen” by the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, National Toxicology Program “based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in experimental animals”. There is no reason this ingredient belongs in our food, especially since Kraft has voluntarily removed it other countries.
The only redeeming ingredient in Jello is gelatin (sort of)
To be honest, when I found out what gelatin was made from (animals bones) I was a bit disgusted – however – after really looking into it I’ve found that gelatin has some redeeming health benefits. You can easily make healthy Jello at home with organic fresh pressed juice and either grass-fed gelatin or organic porcine gelatin. Since it is an animal product, it’s crucial that you carefully choose your gelatin and that it doesn’t come from factory-farmed animals that were subjected to antibiotics, artificial hormones and GMO feed.
You can also find better alternatives in pudding mixes, such as this European Gourmet Bakery brand that is organic (free of GMOs, BHT, and colors). Keep in mind that this pudding is still high in sugar, so you don’t want to go crazy – save this for an occasional sweet treat.
Also, you can use these recipes for homemade Jello from some of my favorite bloggers online here:
- Mama Natural – Fruit Juice Jello
- Wellness Mama – Pineapple Jello
- Detoxinista – Grape Jello
- CheeseSlave – Kombucha Jello
We need to warn our friends, family, schools and hospitals.
If you know someone who is still eating or buying Jello – please share this post with them. Does your child’s school still serve this horrible stuff? Or maybe it’s your local hospital? Send this post to them too. Spread the word about Jello like wild fire #FoodBabeArmy! That’s how we are going to put an end to this nonsense once and for all!
Update: October 11, 2016
Back in 2014, when I shared this investigation above about the toxic ingredients in Jell-O and how disgusting it is that Kraft continues to make this product. Millions of children are exposed to Jell-O in schools and daycares across the country – not to mention all the sick people who are fed Jell-O in hospitals. This investigation has been read by millions of people since it was posted and the Food Babe Army spread the word.
Jell-O is preserved with the harmful preservative BHA – an ingredient linked to cancer that is banned across the globe. The typical box of Jell-O is filled with GMO sugar and artificial colors like Red #40 that both require warning labels in Europe. These artificial colors are derived from petroleum and linked to behavioral problems in children. Kraft knows that artificial food dyes pose these risks, but still markets Jell-O to children.
That’s why I’ve railed hard against their use of artificial colors and launched a successful campaign to get the artificial yellow dye out of their mac n’cheese. I just knew that if we targeted this popular product, that it would lead to greater change.
And it has! The snowball revolution keeps growing!
Kraft just came out with a new line of Jell-O gelatins and puddings without any artificial food dyes or the preservative BHA…
OLD VERSION Jell-O Orange: Sugar, Gelatin, Adipic Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Disodium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate, Fumaric Acid, Yellow 6, Red 40, BHA.
NEW VERSION Jell-O Simply Good Orange Tangerine: Cane Sugar, Gelatin, Dried Orange Juice, Adipic Acid, Disodium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate, Fumaric Acid, Natural Flavor, Oleoresin Turmeric and Beet Juice.People stopped buying Jell-O and look what they had to do!
While this new version is not what I consider healthy, I can’t help but think about all of the children who will no longer be exposed to artificial colors and BHA due to this change. The less harmful and risky ingredients in our food supply, the better!
When we demand better, food companies have no choice but to change.
Other major brands have made a commitment to remove artificial food dyes too! Everyone from M&M’s, Skittles, Starburst, Panera Bread, Lucky Charms, Trix, Campbell’s Soup, Pepperidge Farm, Swanson, Fruit Loops, Yoplait, Twizzlers, Apple Jacks, to Fruit by the Foot… the list goes on! It is going to take some of these companies a few years – but at least they are doing it.
I truly believe that artificial dyes in our food will be ancient history in just a few years!
Beware that the old toxic version of Jell-O with artificial colors and BHA is still in stores and this is just a new line that they have created – so continue to check the ingredient list on any product you buy!
My hope is that Kraft will make this change to their entire product line, including the pre-made cups of Jell-O gelatins and puddings that so many kids pack in their lunchbox every day. It’s a shame these products are even allowed to be sold in grocery stores – now that there is a safer alternative available.
Stay loud and keep making your voice heard – it’s working. Ask grocery stores for what you want and they will carry it.
Thank you Food Babe Army for continuing to rock the food industry!