With Halloween over and Christmas just on the horizon, you’ll probably digest pounds of delicious candy before the season is over. So we’ve decided to tell you what you’re actually eating. Isn’t that nice of us, Masterminds? When the Huff Post recently noted that “natural flavoring is defined by the FDA as any substance extracted, distilled or otherwise derived from 'natural' materials, such as plant or animal matter,” the latter part of the quote made us pause, but we didn’t think the phrase ‘natural materials’ included extract from a beaver’s glands or crushed beetles. But, according to the Food and Drug Administration, Bugs and animal secretions are perfectly safe to eat in small amounts. Here are some ingredients found in candy you might not know about. Or want to know about.
Butane in Butterfingers
Yes. You read that correctly. They’re crispety. They’re crunchety. And they have an ingredient in common with lighter fluid: TBHQ, a synthetic antioxidant that is used as a preservative. And as a stabilizing ingredient in varnishes and lacquers, but whatevs. The FDA has approved the controversial ingredient because it apparently isn’t fatal in minute doses, so consuming a wee bit at a time won’t kill you.
If you love candy corn or jellybeans, you might wanna skip this part. Shellac is used to make the shiny, hard coating on the outside of those particular confections. On the ingredients’ list on the package, it’s referred to as a "confectioners glaze," which, in this case, refers specifically to secretions from a bug native to Thailand. But "secretions from bugs native to Thailand" seems too long to put on the label. That must be why they just used the phrase "confectioners glaze" instead. It’s shorter.
More specifically, secretions from the perennial gland of a beaver. Incidentally, the perennial gland is located near the beaver’s... um... special places. Wait, say what? This stuff is used in candy?! Yes. It is. And, apparently, it’s used in SEVERAL candies, predominantly the ones with ‘natural’ berry flavors, as well as in certain ice creams. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver drew attention to castoreum in our food when he mentioned it on a Letterman appearance awhile ago, but there has been little mention of it since. So, for those of you who love you some red candies, prepare yourselves.
To be fair, it's actually boiled and dried beetles. According to an article on the Science Channel’s website, “these dried insects are boiled in water to extract the carminic acid they contain (or did contain).” This acid is a deep red, and is commonly used in candy and fruit punch drinks. Even though we can’t taste these little insects, were still creeped out by the fact that at some point in our lives, we’ve probably consumed dried beetles! Fortunately, the FDA now requires that carmine be listed on food labels.
To wash all that delicious candy down, you might have chugged some soda. A little bit doesn’t hurt you, but if you are a sodaholic, take note: most sodas have lots of phosphoric acid—it’s what gives it its acidity. But phosphoric acid is also used to remove rust and hard water stains, so something that hardcore can’t be good to consume too frequently.
Will you still eat your favorite candy regardless of what’s in it?