There is something lurking in your candy, and it is no laughing matter when your child turns Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. How do you know what is safe to eat? Let’s take a look at a few ingredients found in your child’s candies and how that may affect your child’s behavior. The first is Carnauba wax. This is one of the most common substances used in gummies and chocolate bars such as Reese’s. Carnauba wax is a substance that can produce a glossy finish and is used in automobile waxes, shoe polishes, and dental floss. It was commonly used in its purest form as a coating on speedboat hulls in the early 60’s to enhance speed in aiding the handling of speedboats in salt-water environments. Because of its emollient properties as well as its shine, carnauba wax appears as an ingredient in many cosmetic formulas where it is used to thicken lipstick, eyeliner, mascara, and eye shadow. It is also used in the pharmaceutical industry as a tablet-coating agent. The addition of Carnuaba wax helps in swallowing a tablet. The side effects of this wax are usually skin related. Acne, rashes, or even skin irritation can appear on children. In rare cases I have seen inflammation of the hair follicles.
The second one to watch for is Artificial Colors: Early last year, the FDA met to consider putting labels on foods if it contained any type of artificial dye. This is based on a growing number of studies that link hyperactivity or behavioral disorders to artificial food coloring. A 2007 Lancet study found “Artificial colours or sodium benzoate preservative (or both) in the diet resulted in increased hyperactivity in 3-year olds and 8/9 year-old children in the general population.” They are also linked to asthma, allergies, and even cancer. Artificial colors are found in candies and chips such as M&M’s, Skittles, Gummy candies, Smarties, Doritos and Candy Corn.
The third one to look out for is Sodium Benzoate: It is a preservative often used to prevent molding to prolong shelf life in many of our food and drink products. Sodium Benzoate gives foods, candies and drinks that orange color and has a bitter aftertaste. The combination of sodium benzoate, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and potassium benzoate when mixed, form the chemical benzene, which is a known carcinogen and can be found in soft drinks.
Mainstream candies are unfortunately not what we meant them to be – special treats that we know are not necessarily good for our kids, but used on occasion. Many low quality, mainstream candies are chock full of unnecessary chemical agents. Looking for a better option? Here are a few alternatives: Yummy Earth is a brand that makes gummies as well as Vitamin C lollipops that are free of high-fructose corn syrup, artificial dyes, nuts or gluten. TruJoy is another brand available in Canada, along with Giddy Yoyo chocolate bars found at Balance Medical Center.