5 Scariest Halloween Candy Ingredients You Should Avoid

by | Oct 27, 2010
Candy Domo

Photo by mateoutah

I’m all for sweet treats on special occasions, but halloween candy is a different beast.

Michael Pollan warns that we should avoid anything that our great grandmothers wouldn’t recognize as food. How would she feel about these scary ingredients?

5 Scariest Halloween Candy Ingredients You Should Avoid

1. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

They call it “corn sugar,” I call it bad for you. There is still debate over whether HFCS is worse for you than regular sugar, but let’s not forget that regular sugar is really bad for you too, so it doesn’t really matter. HFCS is in virtually every candy and very hard to avoid.

2. Artificial colors

Food coloring (especially Blues 1 and 2, Red 3, Green 3, and Yellow 5) are associated with a handful of cancers and a bunch of other scary reactions. Many of them have been banned in various countries around the world, but they are still commonly used. A certain percentage of the population is so sensitive to Yellow no. 5 they break out in hives and have asthma attacks. Tasty huh?

3. Trans fat

Trans fat may have been banned in restaurants, but it is still in most candy bars like Snickers and Three Musketeers. There is no safe amount of trans fat in your diet and you should avoid it like the plague.

4. Sodium

To balance the nauseating sweetness of HFCS-supercharged candies, most are balanced with a hefty dose of salt. Though you can safely add salt to natural foods, the staggering amounts in processed foods are dangerous and often result in high blood pressure and stroke.

5. Carnauba wax

Though carnauba wax has not been shown to be toxic to humans it is a common ingredient in car waxes, shoe polish, cosmetics, floor polish, surfboard wax and, of course, halloween candy. Do you really want to be eating food that requires shining?

What halloween candies do you avoid?

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23 Responses to “5 Scariest Halloween Candy Ingredients You Should Avoid”

  1. Kate says:

    While I agree that many candy ingredients aren’t all that healthy, I think I have to object to your reasoning for #5. The only reason you give for avoiding carnauba wax is that it’s used in other, non-edible products…but so are water, glucose, starch, fiber, minerals, and a lot of other edible, “healthy” substances. Just because car wax has some ingredients that are the same as candy doesn’t mean that candy = car wax. One could argue that non-edible products that contain carnauba wax are actually good, because they’re using a non-toxic product instead of something more harmful.

    I’m not saying that carnauba wax isn’t something to avoid–I don’t know enough about it to say one way or another. But I think it’s misleading to object to a food ingredient just because it’s found in other non-food items.

    • Darya Pino says:

      I agree with you in theory, Kate, and I had that debate with myself before publishing. Ultimately I included carnauba wax for two reasons: 1) though it’s not toxic, I definitely don’t think it can be qualified as food, and 2) if I had children, I would want to know before I let them eat one of the main ingredients in car wax.

      I would have no problem with carnauba wax in my lipstick, for example. But the idea of eating it makes me uncomfortable.

      • Amy says:

        And where do you think lipstick goes after it’s on your lips? It’s mostly ingested.

        Every year I puzzle over what to give to trick or treaters that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and won’t send the hypervigilant parents through the roof (eg apples are out). Would have liked some positive suggestions rather than what to avoid, which by the way are all food ingredients I avoid anyway and wouldn’t impose on growing bodies.

      • Meagen says:

        I agree. Although the title is not misleading, I was also hoping you’d have suggestions for HOW to avoid it? You aren’t allowed to hand out homemade stuff any more…what’s in the pre-wrapped candy market that meets these qualifications?

    • Evelyn says:

      Personally I am disappointed that an article written by someone who claims to have a Ph.D doesn’t have more factual information with references. I don’t intend that to sound insulting but this is the internet after all. The first 4 are moot points, if you don’t know those already you probably haven’t given what you eat a second thought or payed any attention to your doctor.

      Oddly enough Earth Fare is hell bent on not selling anything with your top 4 in it but just about every thickened fruit product in their store has carnauba wax in it.

  2. Ken Leebow says:


    Sorry to be the “Grinch” who stole Halloween, but since August, I’ve been observing an overload of candy!

    On a recent trip to my neighborhood CVS pharmacy (we have 3 within one mile of each other), I was not sure if I entered a candy store or a drug store.

    That 66% figure the CDC keeps quoting (overweight and obese Americans) is because of our toxic food environment … Halloween candy for three months and then we’re off to the next overeating holiday.

    And the frosting on the cake … Those delicious cookies the Girl Scouts are selling…loaded with trans fats.

    If I worked for big pharma, I’d be lovin’ it.

    Ken Leebow

  3. Solozaur says:

    Thanks for the helpful tip! In my Country Haloween may not be such a big thing but still these things are found in regular candies and it is always good to lookout for them!

    Also #2 was scary – I didn’t know Yellow number 5 is that bad, I will have to be on the lookout for it since in my crappy country I’m sure there is no ban for them.

  4. Dave T. Game says:

    Do you have any candies you’d recommend that avoid those?

  5. Phlip says:

    haha – You are growing up to be that cranky lady who gives out tooth-brushes on Halloween!

  6. Carrie Stocks says:


    This was an interesting read. My little brother is 5 and we are trying to teach him to make healthy choices. Being 5, he likes to cook junk food. My mom allows it in small amounts.

    The item that caught my eye here was about the different dyes. There are some that make Skyler bounce off the walls. Blue is the worst culprit. He can handle other colors but the blue seems to really set him off.

    Its hard being 5 and going to kindergarten. Everyone always has junk. Mainly when Skyler has junk it is stuff that mom and he cooked together. They made marshmellows the other day and the rumor is tomorrow that they are making a pumkin pie. Not a healthy choice I know but it sure was fun.

    I have been learning a lot about healthy choices on here and have made some very positive changes. This article about candy makes me think twice about what I put in my mouth. I believe in taking care of my insides but I don’t really think they need to be waxed.

  7. pghjen says:

    Hi Darya,

    I struggle every year about what type of treats I should give out on Halloween. I love seeing the kids come by all dressed up, but like you, I am adverse to junk food. I had suggested giving out apples and grapes this year (the store sells pre-packaged, wrapped treats), and my husband loudly objected, saying that kids expects candy on Halloween and he was worried our house would be egged!

    I hardly think we live in a neighborhood where that would happen, and I secretly suspect he just wants to eat the left over candy. I’m glad to see that others have asked about candy alternatives. I’ll have to see what kind of responses you received on twitter.

    I also think it’s up to parents to police just how much of that candy they let their children consume. One friend of mine trades her child’s candy for a toy. She’ll make her exchange 100 pieces of candy and then she can choose a new toy to get instead. Kids are easily bribed.

  8. Nichole says:

    My favorite candy as a child was Reese’s peanut butter cups; I think I can re-create a healthy version…

  9. JamesC says:

    Darya, while I generally find your articles to be educational and insightful, it seems to me that you have fallen into the “health food hysteria” trap here. None of the points you raise are solidly sourced, and most are demonstrably incorrect.

    1. You make my point for me here: HFCS has not been proven to be any worse for a person’s health than regular sugar. You say that sugar is “really bad,” but you offer no supporting evidence. Sugar is a naturally-occurring substance that most of us eat in moderation every day. It seems to me that labeling it “really bad” is a bit of hyperbole.

    2. The language here is imprecise: “a certain percentage?” The Wikipedia article you linked to estimates tartrazine intolerance to affect 0.12% of the population of the US. Yes, this is a “certain percentage.” It is also a miniscule one, especially in the case of a supposed food intolerance of which the “mechanism of sensitivity is obscure and has been called pseudoallergic.”

    3. We can agree that avoiding trans fat is a healthy thing to do. However, you state that “most” candy bars contain it. Actually, according to this link, http://www.acaloriecounter.com/candy-chocolate.php, it is in fact *not* in most candy bars. The majority in that list are trans fat free. Yes, some candy bars do contain trans fat. But I don’t think “most” was an accurate choice of word.

    4. “Hefty?” “Staggering?” Sure, a large sub from Quiznos has a lot of sodium. But a candy bar? According to CalorieKing a Snickers bar has 140mg of sodium. That’s not very much. An Almond Joy has 65mg. I don’t see how anybody could possibly view these figures as “hefty.”

    5. Another commenter already addressed this, and I happen to agree with them. Your sole reason for including carnauba wax in the list is that the idea of eating it makes you “uncomfortable.” It’s your right to feel that way, but I think an article like this demands a more rigorous argument. There may in fact be medical or scientific reasons why eating carnauba wax is or isn’t a good idea. I’d like to know them!

    Let me close by saying that I have the utmost respect for your writing here and also your noble goal of spreading information about healthy living. The only reason I bring up the issues listed above is because I think you’ve failed to live up to your usual high scientific standards. I’d be sad to see this blog devolve into yet another outlet for health food paranoia and hysteria.

  10. Frank says:

    Clicked on my bookmark of to go read your latest and greatest and was greeted by a calendar view with clickable links.?
    Not a great greeting but I do understand getting to the point? But I think we should go to the homepage and then have the clickable calendar?

    I know … it not critical, but ease of use is always important!?

    Thanks for all the info!


    • Darya Pino says:

      Hi Frank, I’m not sure what you mean. Can you be more clear? What calendar are you referring to? As far as I know I’ve never had one on my site. Maybe trying clearing your browser cache?

  11. Ashley says:

    Carnauba wax isn’t always included as an ingredient because foods ‘require shining’, but because of it’s high melting point.

    Additionally, people may not want to eat wax, but it comes from palm trees, originally, which doesn’t sound bad to me, though treatments for industrial or commercial uses may make it less desirable, health-wise.

  12. davea0511 says:

    Don’t forget anything that contains water. It has been found in nearly every septic tank, tumors of terminal cancer patients, bottles of poison, and of course … halloween candy. In fact you should never drink water ever again. Ever. Again.

    PS – guilt by association is a poor criteria for analysis.

  13. Brian says:

    under your logic oranges shouldn’t be eaten either because my car soap contains citrus… better just hand out cups of water for halloween, except water has hydrogen and that is the main ingredient in Hydrogen Bombs… guess we better just not eat or drink anything ever again.

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