While exact stats on the best-selling Halloween candy are hard to come by, we’ve all got an idea of what’s most likely to end up in those plastic pumpkins: Snickers, Smarties, Tootsie Rolls, Twizzlers, Starburst, Skittles, Whoppers, chocolate bars and, of course, candy corn. Everyone knows these candies aren’t good for you (hello, calories fat, sugar), but how many of us have really looked closely at what’s in them?
We don’t mean to be a total buzzkill — if you steer clear of candy most of the year, the odd Butterfinger or three come Halloween isn’t something to fret over — but a glance at the ingredient lists of some of these sweets is enough to make us rethink just how much of a “treat” they really are.
The most common problematic ingredients, aside from sugar itself, include high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and certain artificial colors. Want to see for yourself? Below are the complete ingredient lists of 12 Halloween staples, with sketchy ingredients highlighted in red; sugar, sugar-by-other-names and sugar-like substances highlighted in orange; and animal product ingredients (not necessarily problematic, but sometimes surprising) highlighted in green.
Smarties: Dextrose, citric acid, calcium stearate, natural and artificial flavors, colors including Red 40 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Blue 2 Lake.
Snickers: Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, skim milk, lactose, milkfat, soy lecithin, artificial flavor), peanuts, corn syrup, sugar, milkfat, skim milk, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, lactose, salt, egg whites, chocolate, artificial flavor.
Starburst: Corn syrup, sugar, hydrogenated palm kernel oil and/or palm oil, fruit juice from concentrate (apple, strawberry, lemon, orange, cherry), less than 2 percent citric acid, dextrin, gelatin, food starch-modified, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), coloring (Red 40, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Blue 1).
Milky Way: Sugar, cocoa butter, skim milk, chocolate, lactose, milk fat, soy lecithin, artificial flavor, corn syrup, hydrogenated palm kernel oil and/or palm oil, cocoa powder processed with alkali, malted barley, salt, egg whites
Whoppers: Sugar, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, whey, barley malt, wheat flour, milk, salt, sodium bicarbonate, cocoa, resinous glaze, sorbitan tristearate, soy lecithin, natural and artificial flavor, calcium carbonate, tapioca dextrin
M&Ms: Milk Chocolate, sugar, cornstarch, less than 1% corn syrup, dextrin, coloring (includes Blue 1 Lake, Red 40 Lake, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Blue 2), acacia gum.