Candy crap

Or crappy candy?

So Valentine’s Day has come and gone. And as usual, Benjamin got all kinds of candy. He got other things too, non-edible items, but there was plenty candy to go around.

I placed it all in a jar and allowed him to choose one candy after lunch. The others I’ll use as incentive to keep the pooping in the toilet momentum. Or until he loses interest in the candy. He doesn’t ask for candy much if he can’t see it, and since we keep little of it in the house, other than good quality, dark chocolate, it’s not a huge problem. And he knows he has to brush his teeth extra-well when he eats sticky candies.


But back to the crappy candy. Benjamin chose a  Twizzler today. This one says Strawberry in large letters, and underneath it it says flavoured candy in smaller letters.

Intrigued by the flavoured part, I turned the wrapper around.

Here’s the list of ingredients that make up this candy, in order:

Corn syrup
Liquid sugar
Wheat flour
Corn starch
Palm oil
Soybean oil
Modified palm oil
Artificial Flavour
Citric Acid
Mineral Oil
Potassium Sorbate
Soy lecithin

So let’s go google some of this stuff:

Corn syrup: Made using corn starch as a feedstock and composed mainly of glucose, it is mostly used in commercially prepared foods as a thickener. It is also used for its moisture-retaining properties which keep foods moist and help maintain freshness.

Here’s a neat little tidbid, lifted from Wikipedia:

“It is widely used in products labeled “all natural” in the United States. Because of its mild sweetness, corn syrup may be used in conjunction with high intensity sweeteners.”

Sounds yummy so far?

Ok, next item is liquid sugar. This one is pretty self explanatory. So is wheat flour and corn starch.

Palm oil, the next item, is a component of many processed foods. It is a type of edible vegetable oil which comes from the fruit of the oil palm tree. Wikipedia further explains that

“Palm oil is one of the few vegetable oils relatively high in saturated fats (such as coconut oil) and thus semi-solid at room temperature.”

So now we have saturated fats in our strawberry flavoured Twizzlers. Let’s see what Google comes up with for saturated fats:

1,040,000 hits in 14 seconds

We all know that saturated fats are bad for us, causing, among other things, high levels of bad cholesterol. Palm oil is therefore bad for you. Since palm oil is in Twizzlers, they are at least partially bad for you. But that’s not it yet.

Next on our list is soybean oil, which is described as a healthier oil. It doesn’t contain much saturated fat, and no cholesterol. Now that we have a healthy item in our list, Twizzlers suddenly look less offending. Or does it?

The next ingredient is modified palm oil. Researching the word modified in context with food, or more specifically, oils, I have home across many confusing explanations. One of the more straightforward ones comes from Alejandro Marangoni, a professor and food scientiest at the Univeristy of Guelph, who was quoted saying that modification can be unhealthy when it involves introducing a saturated fat to the mix. He explains how food makers can modify fats, turning unsaturated, healthy vegetable oils into more solid, saturated substances to give packaged foods taste, texture and to maintain their shelf life.

“If you have something that is liquid and you want to convert it into a solid, you have to add something solid to transform it,” he says. “So what are you going to add? (Food makers) will go to Malaysia and buy palm oil,” which is a saturated fat.

He says that while manufacturers call it palm oil, it should be called palm fat because it has a solid consistency.

“They add it to the (vegetable) oil, they blend it, and there you go — your solidified oil.”

Read the whole article here.

Ok then. So far I’m getting the idea that making strawberry flavoured Twizzlers is a rather complicated matter.

The next ingredient is salt. Salt is used in every conceivable processed food that I have come across. Salt, as far as I can tell, is not unhealthy if consumed in moderation.


Artificial flavour is the next ingredient in our list. Naturally Google comes up with a big number of hits, but one of the more interesting ones I’ve found, particularly since our Twizzlers are strawberry flavoured, was a reference to Eric Schlosser’s book Fast Food Nation. While researching the book in 2003, he found a list of chemicals that are normally used to make a typical artificial strawberry flavoring.



From a marketing perspective, not to mention a practical one, simply writing artificial flavour on the ingredients list is much easier. But now our list is much larger. What exactly am I allowing my child to put into his body? What the heck am I putting in mine?

Now we’re at citric acid. It is basically derived from lemons, limes or other citrus fruits, and used as a flavouring and preservative. Nothing too unhealthy in its form, based on what I’ve found. I have to say though that eating the Twizzlers did not evoke any citrussy flavour for me. In fact, the entire thing was rather bland.

Mineral oil in food came back with a lot of confusing data as well. The most compelling thing I found was a huge list of other names for mineral oil. Synonyms for food grade mineral oils are liquid paraffin, liquid petrolatum, or simply white mineral oil.

How appetizing.

The third-last ingredient is colour. We all know what food colour looks like. It comes it those cute little bottles in a little cardboard box. I use food colour to make coloured ice cubes for bathtime fun, for example.

Food colour is regulated by different countries in different ways. There are different criticisms about artificial food additives such as colour, including inconclusive results for ADD and ADHD, among others.

There are currently seven food colourings permitted in food in the USA. Eight more have been delisted. One of the permitted ones is FD&C Red No. 40 – Allura Red AC, E129 (Red shade) . Allura Red AC is, according to Wikipedia, derived from coal tar. For this reason, Allura Red is not recommended for consumption by children, and is in fact banned by many European countries. But not in the US. (or Canada?)

So now I’m feeding my kid tar.

What’s next? Potassium sorbate is a mild food preservative. It’s primary function appears to inhibit molds and yeast.

Soy lecithin is the last ingredient listed on our Twizzlers wrapper. The Food and Drug Administration in the USA declared it as “generally recognized as safe” for consumption. But I came across a paper which describes how soy lecithin was derived and how it came to be used in food. It is titled From Sludge to Profit, by Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN. The whole process is actually rather astounding. Anyone naming anything sludge in my food tends to make me suspicious.

So, what to do with all the candy now? I’d like to chuck it, but the reality is that my kids will eat this stuff throughout their lives. All I can do now is ration is while I still can, and focus on feeding them a healthy, nutritious, whole foods diet and hope for the best. And not make candy the hyped-up, ultimate prize for every little thing. So pooping in the toilet incentives will now have to be something like a toy maybe. Except, toys are made in China, and that opens a whole new can of worms.


Good luck to all of us.


13 thoughts on “Candy crap

  1. This is a great entry and a worthy article to note. Glad to see that you are taking the “non-food” food serious!

    I recently read “Chew on This”, also by Eric Schlosser. I have deemed it a “must read” for all my children. I have read passages to them already but I will require that each reads it completely.

    And the sickening thing is: the populace is being “trained” to eat this stuff and to “read the labels” as opposed to “if you don’t cook/bake it yourself, don’t eat it” mentality…

    Thank you for this article!

  2. Exactly my point! Michael Pollan remarks in his book In Defense of Food, also a remarkable book, that this constant food label reading is defeating the point. He claims it’s just a marekting ploy. How did he put it….something about the lonely vegetable in the produce section doesn’t have a large marketability because it doesn’t have a label, whereas something coming in a nice, neat box is much more easily marketable and will “sell” more because you can highlight its nutrient components. So sell the fact that the nutrients on the box are “healthy” for you, like “Froot Loops has x amounts of vitamins” but never mind the fact that it contains all kinds of food colouring…..completely wacky, don’t you think?

    Glad you liked my article.

  3. Wow, your comment could also be paired up to a conversation about public school vs. homeschool!

    Because with public school, you “know what has been added/supplimented”. You can label everyone and everything (even grade them, like you do with eggs!).

    Do you mind if we use this story as an analogie for the Bildungsvielfalt blog?

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  8. Wow! I really got quite a chuckle out of this article. I had just convinced a co-worker today that Twizzlers were “healthy” to eat. Hope he never reads this article.

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  10. Thank you for your reply Bill. I used to be able to eat the odd twizzler but not anymore. I cringe just looking at anything like that these days…

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