Toxins in Candy: A Halloween Horror

Halloween is right around the corner, which means a whole lot of face paint, costumes, and sugary candy that will keep your kids bouncing off the walls for hours. 

Believe it or not, however, that sugar rush may be the least of your worries when it comes to the ingredients hiding in Halloween candy. The EWG (Environmental Working Group) warns that there are three highly toxic compounds lurking in your kids’ candy that you’re likely unaware of; titanium dioxide, TBHQ, and BHT. If those “ingredients” sound more like a science experiment than food, it’s because, frankly, they are[3]. 

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • Why these ingredients are added to candy
  • The negative health issues associated with these toxic compounds
  • Healthier alternatives that will keep a smile on your kid’s face
  • The most impactful thing you can do to shift the tide of our food industry 

The Three Scary Ingredients Hiding In Your Kid’s Halloween Candy

Little children trick or treating on Halloween

Titanium Dioxide 

Titanium dioxide is used in a wide range of products, from candy to cosmetics…and even house paint. That should be your first red flag. 

In candy, titanium dioxide acts as a color enhancer, with the ability to scatter visible light and create a vibrant tone to candies like Skittles, Starburst, Swedish Fish, Gummy Bears, and Sour Patch Kids. With the addition of this additive, candy colors pop with their rich, enticing hues. 

But what are you really consuming when you “taste the rainbow?

Studies show that titanium dioxide may pose a health threat to humans due to its ability to accumulate in your body. Specifically, this compound has been shown to damage DNA and potentially threaten reproductive health by causing hormone disruption. Furthermore, studies show that inhalation of titanium dioxide may instigate inflammation in your body and create dysregulation in your immune response[1][2]. 

Although still legal in the US, the European Food Safety Authority assessed this additive as unsafe for human consumption[8]. 

Tertiary Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ)

TBHQ is a commonly used additive in a wide range of foods, including some of our Halloween favorites (Reese’s, Rice Krispies Treats, and 5th Avenue bars). Functionally TBHQ serves as a preservative, prolonging the shelf life of candy by preventing fat oxidation. 

The primary concern with TBHQ is its impact on your immune system. Studies show that TBHQ may be immunotoxic, dysregulating immune function, potentially setting the stage for food allergies, autoimmune conditions, and systemic inflammation.

It appears the TBHQ may directly impact the proteins that are involved in your immune response, such as chemokines and cytokines, which are responsible for coordinating your immune response to pathogens[4]. 

With all of this information readily available, the FDA has yet to reassess the safety of TBHQ, which means that it is still widely used within the US food industry. 

Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)

BHT is another chemical preservative that’s added to food to maintain shelf life. As a chemical antioxidant, it also preserves color and texture in many food products such as cereals, potato chips, hot dogs, and a range of prepared snacks. 

The primary concern with BHT is its potential for endocrine disruption. Your endocrine system is responsible for maintaining the balance of your hormones, which impacts every system in your body. 

One study showed that BHT specifically targets the hormones which assist in the gut-brain connection, inhibiting proper communication between these two vital aspects of anatomy. When your gut-brain connection is disturbed, it can influence a range of functions, most markedly your ability to feel satisfied after a meal. When your brain doesn’t get the signal from your digestive tract that you’re full, you continue eating – ultimately resulting in weight gain[5]. 

Other research shows that BHT can disturb the function of estrogen, a crucial female sex hormone, which may cause issues with reproduction and fertility[6][7].

How To Keep Your Kids Happy And Healthy This Halloween

While your first instinct may be to cancel Halloween altogether, you don’t have to rob your kids of all the fun to keep them safe. 

First, keep in mind that Halloween only comes around once a year, so just be sure that the rest of the year, you steer clear of the foods and snacks that contain these three chemicals.

How do you do that?

You have to start by checking labels. Manufacturers will never advertise that they’re using toxic compounds in their foods, so it’s up to you to stay aware of what kinds of foods you let your kids snack on.

As for that big old bag of Halloween candy, every parent takes a different approach, but you may want to negotiate with your kids and let them keep their absolute favorites while replacing the rest with healthier options. In an ideal world, you would just get rid of all potentially toxic treats, but in an effort to keep the peace, it may be best to meet your kids halfway. 

After they’ve picked out a handful of their favorite candies, replace the rest of their treats with better-for-you options, like some of the healthier candy alternatives below:

Ocho Organic Candy

Ocho Organic has a variety of candies, including:

  • Dark Chocolate Caramel Minis
  • Dark Chocolate Coconut Minis
  • Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars
  • And more

They even offer Halloween variety packs filled with a mixture of their different chocolate bars.

While they still contain a fair amount of sugar, the Ocho Organic candies are all organic and fair trade and contain:

  • NO toxic and synthetic pesticides or fertilizers
  • NO GMO ingredients 
  • NO antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones
  • NO artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives
  • NO sewage sludge or irradiation

Surf Sweets

Surf Sweets is an allergy-friendly candy company offering a variety of fruity alternatives to your kid’s favorites, including:

  • Jelly Beans
  • Delish Fish (alternative to Swedish Fish)
  • Gummy Bears
  • Gummy Worms 
  • Fruity rings
  • Sour Worms

Although Surf Sweets doesn’t skimp on the sugar, they do offer a variety of organic candy options with:

  • No artificial flavors
  • No artificial colors
  • USDA Organic Certified
  • Non-GMO Project Verified

They also do a fantastic job focusing on allergen-free manufacturing, with zero dairy/casein, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, sesame, and sulfite contamination. 

Lily’s Sweets

Lily’s is an excellent option if you want to reduce your kids’ sugar consumption. Formulated without any refined or processed sweeteners, Lily’s uses a mixture of stevia, erythritol, and allulose for a well-rounded sugar-free alternative.

With an ever-expanding list of offerings, just a handful of Lily’s current candy selection includes:

  • Dark chocolate bars (lots of varieties) 
  • Milk chocolate bars (lots of varieties)
  • White chocolate bars
  • Peanut butter cups 
  • Gummy bears
  • Sour worms
  • And more

All of Lily’s products are:

  • Non-GMO
  • Gluten-free 
  • Sweetened without refined or processed sugars (no added sugar)
  • No chemical additives 
  • Natural flavors
  • Natural colors
  • Fairtrade

Black Forest Gummies

Black Forest is another option for the gummy lovers out there. These guys do have a fair amount of sugar, but they are free of chemical additives like colorants and artificial flavorings. 

Their organic options include:

  • Gummy worms
  • Gummy bears
  • Exotic gummy bears
  • Gummy forest critters

Each of their products is carefully crafted for quality, and:

  • Made with fruit juice
  • Certified USDA organic 
  • Uses natural coloring
  • Certified gluten-free

YumEarth 

YumEarth offers a wide range of candy options that are Certified Organic and non-GMO and free from all common allergens, including:

  • Gluten 
  • Fish 
  • Eggs
  • Shellfish
  • Peanuts
  • Soy 
  • Sesame
  • Tree nuts

They are also free from artificial coloring, chemical additives, and corn syrup.

YumEarth provides a wide variety of options, including (but not limited to)

  • Gummy Bears
  • Lollipops
  • Giggles (Skittles alternative)
  • Licorice 
  • Choco yums (M&M alternative)

Takeaway 

Children in Halloween costumes walking down street during trick-or-treating outdoors

Although the food industry has made some fantastic strides in the last decade to clean up its act, we still have quite a long way to go. In the meantime, instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, we can take strides to clean up holidays like Halloween to make them healthier for our loved ones without taking out all of the fun.

In addition to the companies mentioned in this article, there are other candy manufacturers out there doing their best to provide better-for-you options in the sweet treat space. And while we may not be able to push out the big manufacturers that are loading our foods with toxic chemicals overnight, when we vote with our dollar it makes more difference than you may know. 

Click Here for References+

  1. Skocaj, Matej, et al. “Titanium dioxide in our everyday life; is it safe?.” Radiology and oncology 45.4 (2011): 227-247.
  2. https://nj.gov/health/eoh/rtkweb/documents/fs/1861.pdf
  3. https://www.ewg.org/news-insights/news/2021/10/scariest-thing-about-halloween-may-be-whats-lurking-candy
  4. Naidenko, Olga V., et al. “Investigating molecular mechanisms of immunotoxicity and the utility of toxcast for immunotoxicity screening of chemicals added to food.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18.7 (2021): 3332.
  5. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170809155736.htm
  6. Pop, Anca, et al. “Estrogenic and anti‐estrogenic activity of butylparaben, butylated hydroxyanisole, butylated hydroxytoluene and propyl gallate and their binary mixtures on two estrogen responsive cell lines (T47D‐Kbluc, MCF‐7).” Journal of Applied Toxicology 38.7 (2018): 944-957.
  7. Sun, Zhifang, et al. “Exposure to butylated hydroxytoluene compromises endometrial decidualization during early pregnancy.” Environmental Science and Pollution Research 28.31 (2021): 42024-42036.’
  8. EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Flavourings (FAF), et al. “Safety assessment of titanium dioxide (E171) as a food additive.” EFSA Journal 19.5 (2021): e06585.

 

  1. Skocaj, Matej, et al. “Titanium dioxide in our everyday life; is it safe?.” Radiology and oncology 45.4 (2011): 227-247.
  2. https://nj.gov/health/eoh/rtkweb/documents/fs/1861.pdf
  3. https://www.ewg.org/news-insights/news/2021/10/scariest-thing-about-halloween-may-be-whats-lurking-candy
  4. Naidenko, Olga V., et al. “Investigating molecular mechanisms of immunotoxicity and the utility of toxcast for immunotoxicity screening of chemicals added to food.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18.7 (2021): 3332.
  5. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170809155736.htm
  6. Pop, Anca, et al. “Estrogenic and anti‐estrogenic activity of butylparaben, butylated hydroxyanisole, butylated hydroxytoluene and propyl gallate and their binary mixtures on two estrogen responsive cell lines (T47D‐Kbluc, MCF‐7).” Journal of Applied Toxicology 38.7 (2018): 944-957.
  7. Sun, Zhifang, et al. “Exposure to butylated hydroxytoluene compromises endometrial decidualization during early pregnancy.” Environmental Science and Pollution Research 28.31 (2021): 42024-42036.’
  8. EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Flavourings (FAF), et al. “Safety assessment of titanium dioxide (E171) as a food additive.” EFSA Journal 19.5 (2021): e06585.

 

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Wendy Myers, FDN-P, is a detox expert, functional diagnostic nutritionist, NES Bioenergetic Practitioner, and founder of Myersdetox.com. She is the #1 bestselling author of Limitless Energy: How to Detox Toxic Metals to End Exhaustion and Chronic Fatigue . Additionally, Wendy is the host of The Heavy Metals Summit, the Myers Detox Podcast, and the Supercharged Podcast. Passionate about the importance of detox to live a long and healthy life, she created the revolutionary Myers Detox Protocol , and Mitochondria Detox kit after working with thousands of clients, as well as a range of supplements to help you detox from everyday living and maintain a healthy lifestyle!