I can handle ghosts, witches, and even bloody axes. But as a mom, the scariest moment on Halloween is when I see heaps of chemical-laden candy dumped from my little monsters’ bags onto the living room floor. After an evening filled with anticipation, laughter, and glee, what do I do now? Do I let them eat as much as they want? Do I allow them one consolation piece and scoop the rest into the garbage? How can I have peace of mind without utterly destroying this moment and this holiday for my sweet goblins?
What scares me the most about this pile of candy is not the sugar. In fact, I would rather see my kids eat cane sugar straight from the bowl than any of these brightly colored nuggets from shiny packages. The problem with Halloween candy is that it is the end result of our damaged food supply. The ingredient list for any given piece of candy may include high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors or flavors, preservatives, and inevitably genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Of course it won’t say GMO on the ingredient list. That is for you to figure out. If you wonder why you should care about GMOs, read Dirtier than the Dirty Dozen. Here are the ingredients for M&M’s® with the items likely to be genetically modified in bold:
MILK CHOCOLATE (SUGAR, CHOCOLATE, SKIM MILK, COCOA BUTTER, LACTOSE, MILKFAT, SOY LECITHIN, SALT, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR), SUGAR, CORNSTARCH, LESS THAN 1% – CORN SYRUP, DEXTRIN, COLORING (INCLUDES BLUE 1 LAKE, YELLOW 6, RED 40, YELLOW 5, BLUE 1, RED 40 LAKE, BLUE 2 LAKE, YELLOW 6 LAKE, BLUE 2), GUM ACACIA. CONTAINS MILK AND SOY. MAY CONTAIN PEANUTS.
Not only do these little candies contain 10 potentially GMO ingredients, but they also contain nine artificial food dyes. Food dyes are made from petroleum and may cause hyperactivity, allergic reactions, or even cancer. The British government and the European Union have taken action to virtually end the use of food dyes in Europe but they are still used freely in the United States. I do not mean to pick on M&M’s®. I could have chosen any candy from the bag and the outlook would not be any better. I have often considered Reese’s® peanut butter cups to be one of the least toxic Halloween candies. But even these contain five potentially GMO ingredients and a preservative that increases tumors in rats and is listed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest as an additive to avoid.
There are actually better options available: treats we can give our little ones that contain all natural and GMO-free ingredients. You will not find these in any major grocery store, but you can order them online. I recommend visiting the Natural Candy Store. You can get non-GMO Project Verified miniature chocolates, snack size jelly beans, and organic candy mixes. You can even get super-fruit chews made with brown rice syrup and freeze-dried berries that taste just like Starbursts®. If you really hate to see those M&M’s® go, order a case of Sun Drops®.
Other options for Halloween treats include raisins, organic fruit leathers, pretzels, or toys. Whatever your approach, be sure to secure a stash of natural treats before Halloween arrives. Offer your kids a trade. Let them choose a number of treats from your bag and find a way to dispose of the chemical ones.
Luckily there are infinite ways you can get rid of that unwanted loot. The Halloween candy buyback program has become very popular. This is a way that your kids can get cash for candy (one dollar per pound) and the candy is donated to the troops. If you cannot find a participating location near you, create your own buyback program. Establish a rate (maybe a nickel a piece) with your child before Halloween night. I have some friends who have a “Halloween witch” visit in the night to trade out the candy for a toy. Others have their kids open all the candy into a pot of water and make a pretend “soup.” The possibilities of what to do are virtually endless. The key to success, I believe, is having a plan that everybody agrees upon in advance.
So make a Halloween plan. Get whatever you need in advance (natural candies, toys, money, or just an address for buyback the next day). Make sure that your little ghosts are aware of the plan and in full agreement. Use this as an opportunity to teach your kids something about our messed up food supply. And when that chemical-laden candy gets dumped, IT will have something to fear.
Join me in making this a GMO-Free Halloween!