September 9th, 2014

The Truth About Candy Sold in America

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Wondering why the candy in America might seem just a bit brighter in color than it’s sweet cousin in Europe? The answer might surprise you.  Many candy companies in the US use artificial food coloring for the candy they sell and distribute in the United States, but that same candy sold in Europe gets its coloring from natural sources.

I have to admit, peanut M&M’s are my weakness. Especially frozen. But after looking at the long list of artificial food dyes in those delicious candies I’m ready to take my indulgence elsewhere: COLORING (INCLUDES BLUE 1 LAKE, RED 40, YELLOW 6, YELLOW 5, BLUE 1, RED 40 LAKE, BLUE 2 LAKE, YELLOW 6 LAKE, YELLOW 5 LAKE, BLUE 2).

You won’t find those color additives in European M&M’s.

Why are companies selling safer candy in Europe than they are in the US?

According to Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of The Center for Science in the Public Interest:

“There’s been evidence for almost 40 years that food dyes trigger hyperactivity or inattention in children. About six years ago, the British government sponsored studies that found exactly that, so they urged food companies in Britain to replace synthetic dyes with natural colorings or no added colorings, and many British companies switched over. And then the European Union passed a law requiring that any food that contained the dyes used in those two British studies would have to put a warning notice on, warning consumers that the dyes might trigger hyperactivity. And so with the threat of a warning label, it’s really hard to find these synthetic dyes.”

Here’s what a warning label in Europe would say:  “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” We have no such warning label in the US.

What’s shocking to me is that these companies are clearly able to remove dangerous artificial food dyes from their products and have done so in other countries, yet they’re not willing to remove them from products sold in America. What does this say about how they value the lives of American children?

The FDA isn’t helping either. They continue to take the position that more research is needed before they make any decisions about artificial food dyes.

What you can do

  • READ LABELS: In America all food labels must spell out which artificial food dyes are used in a product. If you see ingredients such as Red 40, Yellow 6 and Blue 1 (or any other color with a number after it) steer clear. Read your labels very carefully so you can make an educated decision about the food you buy. 
  • SUPPORT COMPANIES that don’t use artificial food dye. Let your dollars do the talking!
  • SIGN THIS PETITION on asking Mars, the maker of M&M’s candies, to stop coloring its products with petroleum-based artificial food dyes.

How do you feel about companies selling products in America with harmful ingredients that they’ve voluntarily removed in other countries? 


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photo credit: SlipStreamJC via photopin cc

18 Responses to “The Truth About Candy Sold in America”

  1. […] continue reading this post → […]

  2. I have the worst sweet tooth…and I need to be better. I really don’t think I would care what color the sugar is, as long as it’s sugar. The UN- I can’t remember the other part is really good and they use all natural colors. I’d totally be down with getting rid of food coloring.
    Krystyn @ Really, Are You Serious? recently posted..The Case of the Missing TeethMy Profile

  3. While I know about the dye’s in the candy, I did not realize they sold the some product with natural colors elsewhere. What are they thinking? You would think it would make financial sense to switch and market it that way. Will have to switch to all Theo’s Chocolates from now on, especially now that they have the first fair trade, organic, soy free, palm oil free peanut butter cup!

  4. Speaking of having a soft spot for M&Ms…did you ever try UNREAL candy? They made a similar candy without the nasty stuff in it and it was yummy. I am having a hard time finding it now, though. Isn’t in stock on Amazon or at my local CVS where I discovered it. Just checked and you can buy on their awesome website though. 🙂

  5. Reading labels is just so important! From allergies to avoiding weird ingredients, we need to stay on top of what we are consuming!
    Caroline Murphy recently posted..Mummy Hot Dogs for HalloweenMy Profile

  6. Gawd it makes me so crazy! Why can’t they take them out of our candy too?? We do indulge from time to time but whenever my kids ask me why they can’t eat a particular junk food I always turn it around for my oldest to read so he can pick out the colors and the numbers 🙂 SO gross.
    Sharon recently posted..Is he still allergic? Retesting for Food AllergiesMy Profile

  7. Such a good reminder, especially as we get close to Halloween. May I also point out that European chocolates are far and away better tasting too?

  8. So true Sharon. Nothing like an amazing Swiss chocolate!

  9. Hi Sharon, It really is so gross once you take a look at that long list of artificial colors! Unfortunately, they’re not only in our candy- try Mac n Cheese, salad dressing and the list goes on. Ugh.

  10. So true Caroline. I wish we didn’t have to advocate so hard for safer food products. If only there were laws keeping all those awful ingredients out of our food in the first place.

  11. I have tried UNREAL Dori- nice to know there are companies out there making safer candy for those candy cravings.

  12. I love Theo’s Chris! Isn’t it crazy that the same candy is sold in Europe without the artificial coloring? I agree- why not change it all and market that. What a great way to get more purchases!

  13. Crazymaking! This is timely because before we know it Halloween candy will flood the market! Do you have favorite candy brands?

  14. As usual its all about putting company profits over peoples well-being. If you investigate you will find the costs to source non dangerous artificial food dyes is more expensive than the current ones used for American confectionery.

    So nothing will change unless there is a backlash from the consumer or they are forced by law!

    The sad thing is these multinational confectionery companies are making different versions of the same products one the safer than the other!!

  15. You’ll have to try Unjunked candies! The M&Ms taste identical!

  16. Let your dollars do the talking – love that! I have an obsession with smarties (the chocolate m&m equivalent from the UK) which are certainly duller in colour although not necessarily better for you…but I’m going to look into their ingredients after reading this post!

  17. Totally with you ” let your dollars do the talking”! It takes more time – but is totally worth it. It is up to us to ensure what our families eat are safe (for now!). Similar story for personal care products – thousands of ingredients restricted in EU. 11 in the US! So… we need to be aware, read the labels, and get involved! Great post, thanks for writing.

  18. Thanks Liane. You’re so right! Everything we put in or on our bodies should be without toxins. Reading a label is critical-provided there is full transparency.

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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