Sugar and synthetic dye never tasted so ___________.
Love it or loathe it, our culture has ~a relationship~ with candy corn.
In fact, according to one online bulk candy retailer that looked at 10 years worth of sales data, in 13 different states candy corn is in the top three most popular Halloween candies. And in six states (Alabama, Idaho, Michigan, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and South Carolina), it's THE most popular Halloween candy.
Those six states will eat a total of 504,000 pounds of candy corn this Halloween.
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So, what exactly are these waxy kernels made of?
BuzzFeed Health looked at the ingredients in Brach's candy corn. It turns out that besides sesame oil and salt, candy corn is basically sugar plus artificial colors and flavor, along with a couple ingredients for appearance and texture.
(We did take a look at a couple other brands to make sure that the way Brach's makes their candy corn is more or less the standard, and it seems to be. For example, candy corn made by SweetGourmet and Sincerely Nuts have more or less the same ingredients, plus carnauba wax and egg whites, and, in Sweet Gourmet's case, coconut oil.)
For starters, of the 12 ingredients in Brach's candy corn, four are different kinds of sugars.
They include: good old fashioned white table sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, and honey. (Turns out that sugar goes by a lot of different names, but really sugar just means types of carbohydrates that taste sweet and are used in food.)
And a serving of candy corn — 19 pieces — has 28g of sugar, which is about 7 teaspoons.
For reference, that's about as much sugar as in a can of Red Bull.
And in case you're wondering what that means relative to other Halloween candy, here are some other numbers:
And for some additional context, the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to 6–9 teaspoons a day, or 24–36 grams. Feel free to check out our previous reporting on why the AHA recommends limiting added sugar.
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Back to the other ingredients. Another 1/3 of them are artificial flavor and colors.
Brach's candy corn get its autumn palette from synthetically-made food dyes (yellow 6, yellow 5, and red 3), which are three of nine additive colors the FDA has certified for use in the U.S. Dyes like these are added to all kinds of processed foods — M&Ms, Jell-O, frosting, orange soda, Skittles, green mint chip ice cream, and more.
Even though these dyes are FDA-approved, there is some controversy about their safety, which is why many food manufacturers have moved away from using synthetically-made dyes and now use vegetable-derived food coloring, like anatto extract for yellow, dehydrated beets for bluish-red to brown, caramel for yellow to tan, etc.
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What's left over? Besides sesame oil and salt, there's confectioner's glaze for appearance and gelatin for texture and mouthfeel.
Confectioner's glaze is used to coat candy to give it a high shine and keep pieces from sticking together, and gelatin (which is derived from collagen, which comes from animals' connective tissues and bones) is widely used in candy because of the way it causes candy to melt, dissolve, or solidify in the mouth. Basically, these two ingredients make candy corn look (relatively) appealing and do that chewy, melt-y thing as you chew them.
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