Monday, February 13, 2012

Pantry Raid #10: Valentine's Candy

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With Valentine's Day upon us, I thought I would share a fun conversation I had with my oldest daughter this morning about the sudden, uncontrollable flow of junk food into our home.  Every school-day morning, I rattle off a list of Mom-Approved foods available that day for the kids to pack in their lunches.  Usually homemade crackers and cheese, carrots, broccoli, a healthy sweet, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, some sort of fruit and some healthy, homemade sweet.  They get to pick three--two for lunch and one for snack.  There are mornings where I get done with my list and they just stare at me blankly as if I had something hiding up my sleeve that sounds more appealing that day just waiting for the big reveal, but for the most part, they pick what they want and get to packing.

I'm excited this year that their school and teachers have taken a turn towards being a little more aware of what the kids have in their lunch boxes.  It's really been helpful that our third grader's teacher has put the hammer down about junk-food snacks in her class.  I'm sure it is helping teachers remedy sugar-induced, hyper-activity in their classes, but for me, it helps combat the "why can't I have's" when packing lunch each morning.

This morning, the request was made to pack a box of Sweethearts as part of lunch.  It's nearly impossible to regulate all the candy that appears on Valentine's Day.  It comes from school, friends, family, church....everywhere!!  Multiply that by three kids and I could make myself nuts trying to end the massive sugar boom happening in our house this week.  So, I truly do appreciate that the question was asked, and the box wasn't just smuggled to school in a backpack.  There's always this fine line between being militant about the junk food and being too free with it.  I don't want the kids eating it, but at the same time, I don't want them sneaking it either.  So, when the question is asked, I have to take a deep (very deep) breath and take my time with the answer even though I really just want to blurt out a big, fat "NO!!" followed by no explanation whatsoever.  

I'm sure this morning's answer was a bit overboard, just because I'm coming off this weekend's high of being less of a perfectionist....which by the way was SO freeing!!!  I highly recommend it!! :)....seriously!!!

Back to the Sweethearts...the ingredients your child consumes with one of those somehow "required" at Valentine's Day, "Be Mine" hearts is plain out mind boggling.  Each little heart contains sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, glycerine, artificial and natural flavors, gelatin, vegetable gums, citric acid, artificial colors (red 3, yellow 5, yellow 6, red 40 and blue 1).  My answer to my daughter's question...a drawn out lesson in exactly what each of those ingredients are and what they do to our body.  Needless to say, the box did not make it's way to school.

Well....what exactly are these ingredients, you ask??

The first three have been hit on pretty heavy in earlier Pantry Raids.  Essentially, they are all sugar (in one form or another).  Why they needed to use three different sugars is beyond me.  The first is nutrient-barren, white, table sugar not labeled "cane" sugar, so most likely beet sugar and most likely GMO.  The second is corn syrup always derived from GMO corn.  The third, dextrose, also a sugar derived from starch (usually GMO corn). 

Glycerine is a product of soap making.  The glycerine in natural soap is extracted and used in the food, pharmaceutical and weapons industry.  It was first extracted from soap in 1889 for the soul reason of creating dynamite.  It was later discovered that glycerine has a sweet taste and could be used in processed foods as a sweetener and thickener.  All I can wonder is what crazy person decided to put it in their mouth and taste it!?!?!

Artificial and natural know what I think about those.

Gelatin is a substance derived from the collagen in animal skin and bones also used as a thickener.  The collagen is removed and processed into a powder form to use in food processing.  It is the same ingredient used to stabilize jello. 

Vegetable gums are, yet again, thickeners.  Xanthan gum being the most popular.  Brocolli, cauliflower and other leafy vegetables are allowed to ferment.  The bacteria Xanthomonas campestris causes the fermentation, the black rot and also the "slime".  The slime is a natural stabilizer and thickener also called xanthan gum.

Citric acid was my surprise ingredient from the post on natural foods.  I am still amazed that it isn't lemon juice!!!   Are you seeing a pattern here?  I've only broken down two products this way in my Pantry Raids and both had citric acid and dextrose.  I am willing to bet doing a few more products will reveal duplicates of many of these ingredients.

Artificial colors...Yes, these treats do contain the infamous red 40 known for it's contributions to severe allergic reactions in children.  You know... those little people that are the main consumers of this Valentine favorite.  Yellow 5 and 6  are made from tatrazine.  Tatrazine has been linked in some studies to various immunologic responses including anxiety, migraines, clinical depression, blurred vision, itching, general weakness, heatwaves, feeling of suffocation, purple skin patches, and sleep disturbance.  Blue 1 is a petroleum derivative.  Some reactions to Blue 1 include eczema, hives, puffy eyelids, dry skin, sneezing, recurring ear infections, congestion and wheezing.  But, the wouldn't be as yummy if they weren't all those pretty colors!!  (if you guys haven't figured it out yet, I tend to be a bit sarcastic at times :))

Let me end by saying that it is absolutely impossible to shield our kids from all of these "treats", but being better educated on what our kids are truly consuming through these products can help us make them more aware of why we limit them in our households.

Happy Valentine's Day!!!


  1. GMO corn, Tetazine, and Dextrose! Oh my! How can something so cute be so nasty? It even says, 'I love you'. So it must be good, right? Lol.