Annnnnnd just like that I reached the pinnacle of my abhorrence of the seemingly endless candy circulation that occurs with each and every holiday.
Chewing gum and hair do not mix.
Here we are on the heels of one of the most candy intense holidays of all. Easter. My children, much like your kiddos, frolicked through the grass seeking jelly bean and chocolate-stuffed plastic eggs.
But do you know what is really interesting? My children were most-excited to hunt for the real eggs they dyed at my mom’s kitchen counter. Even though, they offered no sweet confection on the inside.
Regardless of my awareness of what they seem to treasure more, I labor through the candy-laden holidays between a jolly rancher and a hard place. Part of me wants to meet the social expectation of giving candy in buckets and baskets while welcoming the cards home from school, which are clad with lollipops.
Then, the other part of me worries about the gross amount of sugar consumption. And, about how my children prefer the dyed skittles and starbursts to the chocolate Reese cups and milk chocolate bunnies.
The back of my mind swirls with worry about how it is all received and processed by tiny bodies – especially the dyed candy. We know it isn’t okay. It is made to be pretty and appealing to little ones – made for a profit and not for good, despite what candy-coated advertisements convey to innocent brains.
I observe my middle child by a minute swinging her moods as she crashes from a candy binge. I wonder is it the sugar? Or, is it the food dye?
Some of you out there are smarter and more cunning than me and have a switch witch who comes along and takes all of the candy away, leaving in its place some sort of toy. At least at Halloween that works. I wonder if the witch comes at Easter too?
I am left to ponder: should we simply instill a limit on consumption instead of adding to the list of fabricated characters we already manage?
Some of you choose to let your kids binge for a day or two and whatever is left gets tossed into the trashcan in front of sugar-crazed and dazed eyes.
When did all of this become the norm? What happened to the cute valentine card carefully torn on the dotted line and specially chosen for each classmate? It was perfectly special and treasured without the candy.
Why now is the cute card attached to a pencil whose lead breaks every time it is sharpened or worse yet a piece of candy, which most-often is some petroleum-base dyed, heart-shaped lollipop flavored somewhere between cherry and powdered sugar.
My eldest got sealants on his teeth this week at the dentist. That might have been the greatest gift I have received. In one swoop the sealants have released me from forcing the limits and being the bad guy. After all, sealants dictate one cannot have taffy, lollipops, hard candy or chewing gum. Sealants are brilliant. I need to send our pediatric dentist a fruit basket.
Now to get elective sealants on the other two. 😉
Honestly, we want to let our kids be kids and enjoy the spoils of holidays. We don’t want them to worry about the ingredients in the lollipops and to become obsessed with food. In my opinion, that can lead to worse things like eating disorders. I think a little splurge here and there is okay, but I just need to figure out when the spoils expire.
I also sincerely wish the manufacturers would simply offer better choices and wish they cared about the potential ramifications of their concoctions. Take a close look at this:
Good ol’ Sweedish Fish. My kids have been drooling over artificially and sugar-flavored carnauba wax, dyed to a perfect shade of red. Gross.
And that leaves me here – surrounded by buckets and baskets filled with Blue 1, Yellow 5 and corn syrup from the four Easter egg hunts we ventured on. What to do? What to do? I was thinking I needed to ration the distribution or somehow manage the self-control of the little ones, but perhaps I should just throw it all away at this point.
Accept the tears. Hug the devastated bodies.
Then I think, oh my gosh – my kids will be twenty something and remembering how awful I was to take away their candy. I am in a big, fat, sugary conundrum. I know you are there too.
Candy manufacturers don’t care about our quandary, formed at their grubby hands. Employees who are mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles yet they care and focus only on the profit.
So, while I still try to figure out how to let my kids participate in traditional holiday activities and enjoy their dye-laden candies at the risk of me developing an anxiety disorder and them developing some sort of illness or behavior issue, I figured I would learn more about the additives to see if my angst is justified (spoiler-alert: it is).
And, the silver lining? Thanks to the Easter gum, I now know how to get chewing gum out of hair without using scissors. Two words: peanut butter. I am here to tell you it works!
Food Dyes and the Food and Drug Administration
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) color additives “are important components of many products, making them attractive, appealing, appetizing, and informative.”
Informative? Um. What? The encyclopedia is informative. Food dye informs no one of anything.
Adding to that prolific statement of them being informative, there is also no “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) exemption to color additives.
So, how is it that candy, which in large part is consumed by children, is loaded with these “color additives?!”
The practice of utilizing dyes for foods has been around for centuries. In ancient times natural elements, minerals and vegetable sources were used to color foods, drugs and cosmetics.
The first synthetic dye was discovered in 1856 and discoveries of additional dyes quickly led to them being used to color foods, drugs and cosmetics. These first dyes were produced from products of coal processing.
It gets better. While federal oversight of color additives began in the 1880s, some coloring agents were being used to hide defective foods. In addition, some additives were laden with lead, arsenic and mercury.
Even though an act was passed in 1906 prohibiting the use of poisonous colors in confectionery and staining food to hide its damage, it was found in the 1920s and 1930s that it did not go far enough to protect the public. Products were being misbranded and some were even toxic, including an eyelash dye that blinded some women.
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 increased government oversight of food and drugs. Too many mandates to list here were made, including the initial listing of lakes (a type of dye) for food use restricted to dying eggs.
Today, lakes are used in food and according to the FDA are made with “aluminum cation as the precipitant and aluminum hydroxide as the substratum.”
Amendments were made in 1960, a decade after many children fell ill from eating an orange Halloween candy containing an approved orange dye. In that same year, U.S. House Representative James Delaney began holding hearings on the possible toxicity of pesticides and food additives. Over the next several years, the FDA found that several additives actually caused serious adverse effects and they began to terminate their usage.
Despite that, the FDA seems to think it is safe to allow food dyes today, which are in large part synthesized mainly from raw materials obtained from petroleum:
a liquid mixture of hydrocarbons that is present in certain rock strata and can be extracted and refined to produce fuels including gasoline, kerosene, and diesel oil; oil.
Color additives exempt from certification generally include those derived from plant or mineral sources.
To me, it all seems too complicated. Why not make everyone’s lives simpler and seek more natural dyes or none at all? Wouldn’t it also make manufacturing costs go down, if a company didn’t have to purchase and include dyes in their candies?
I once wrote to the Mt. Olive Pickle Company complaining about the usage of yellow number 5 in their dill pickles. My oldest was about three at the time and absolutely loved their dill pickles. I flipped the jar around, after becoming aware of the abundant usage of food dyes, and realized the pickles contained yellow number 5. I stopped purchasing them after my discovery and tossed the jars I had in the pantry into the trash can.
I could not in good conscious have them as a weekly accompaniment to his lunch.
Mt. Olive was timely in their response and very politely stated, “We have used FD&C Yellow #5 in our products for many years. We do so because our experience is that appearance on the shelf is an issue for most consumers when they choose our products and we have not found a substitute that gives us the same level of consistency and quality.”
He went on to advise me of products they carry that do not have food dye. Mind you, they were other pickled products, but not dill pickles.
Well, in time, I found a substitute that gave me the level of consistency and quality I wanted: Woodstock Pickles. They are fantastically fabulous and lacking any food dye! Hooray!
Honestly, it should be a real concern to most that the United States allows for the inclusion of these petroleum-based dyes in our foods, while our fellow-humans in Europe have products available for purchase from the same brands that exclude the usage of chemically-based and petroleum-based dyes.
One mom even started a petition with Mars, Inc. to get dyes removed from M&Ms in the United States. Europeans are provided M&Ms with dyes derived from natural sources, but U.S. citizens do not have that option.
You can read about her petition at CNN.com here.
I am so perplexed about it all and it makes my holidays more of a source of stress than they should be. I find myself in a spiral of concern about what I am allowing inside the growing minds and bodies for whom I am responsible.
The only solution I can come up with is to buck the system and refuse to participate in the purchase and consumption of candies that contain the additives. Look past the disapproving glances of others who think I am a nut, as I politely decline the skittles, and set about reasoning with the naturally irrational 😉 (my children), who shouldn’t be given the choices in the first place.
We could move the market if we all believed the same way and all agreed to participate in a rejection of these mega candy conglomerates. Baby steps I suppose.
Buck the system on your journey in this world, whether it be choosing to reject food dye products or standing up for something else you believe in. Chances are, there is someone else out there on your same journey! Go find them and journey on together!
xo, the mamabrain at mamabrains