It’s October, and that means it’s time for Halloween everything.
The stores are already exploding with costumes galore, as if a zombie/princess/vampire invasion occurred overnight, and pumpkins are probably awaiting you at your grocery store, ready for some carving action. Get ready for scary haunted houses, scary office and house decorations, scary commercials, and scary movies—all-day, every day…it’s enough to really actually make you fearful, right? Who knows what’s lurking just around the corner? It could be more of that weird fake spider web stuff! Or a prank-playing co-worker in ghost gear….yeesh!
Beyond all the October scariness in store, though, there’s something out there that trumps all other fright-inducing tricks or treats you might come across: the franken-candy you’re likely to find in your kids’ trick-or-treat sack and classroom this month! Or, even more frightening: the mutant snacks probably already piling up in your office! AHHH! Yeah, you probably want to dress you and your children up as something scary, but do you really want your insides (and the insides of your kids) to be a science experiment this Halloween?
Hershey’s, M&Ms, Snickers, Twizzlers, Starburst, Reese’s, Lifesavers, Sour Patch Kids…yep, beyond the terrifying levels of sugar and all of the artificial colors, preservatives, and flavors you’ll find as the base of these sweets, you can now add GMOs to many of your favorite candy brands—in one form or another, you’ll find non-organic soy and corn ingredients like corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, soy lecithin, and modified corn starch in these candies!
In my research, Hershey’s was the only candy that directly addressed GMO ingredients. On its web site, the Hershey Company states: “The Hershey Company’s products may contain ingredients, broadly used throughout the food and beverage industry, produced from crops that were developed using modern plant biotechnology. These include ingredients from common crops such as corn, soy, and sugar beets.” The company goes on to offer alternatives: “For those with a preference for foods that do not contain ingredients from crops grown through modern plant biotechnology practices, The Hershey Company offers SCHARFFEN BERGER Chocolates, organic DAGOBA Chocolates and HERSHEY’S COCOA Powder and HERSHEY’S Baking Chocolates for baking.” That’s helpful, Hershey Company—but it still doesn’t completely solve the problem that the regular candies—among others—circulate like influenza in most every school, office place, and Halloween party for the next few weeks.
Now, for us adults, the obvious way to avoid these GMO candies is to Just. Say. No. Bring lots of healthy snacks along with you to work, and eat a hearty breakfast before heading into the office. You’ll be in a better position to turn down the snack-size-Snickers-fest by the water cooler if you’re already full and have alternatives stashed away at your own desk.
For kids, this can be a bit trickier. Many parents naturally won’t want the “fun of the holiday” to be compromised, and it’s likely that many otherwise anti-GMO keepers-of-the-kitchen many become a bit more relaxed in allowing their children a few treats in the spirit of the nation-wide Halloween treat-gathering frenzy. My advice? Acknowledge that kids will probably come in contact with a whole lot of candy this month, and try to offer them many alternatives to have on hand to A) hand out Halloween night and B) share with their friends at school. The good news here? All you really can do is control what you can, so impose a ban on the funky Franken-candy in your own house, and teach kids that there are plenty of yummy options that won’t potentially harm their growing bodies. The best news of all: you’ve got options!
- Naturalcandystore.com offers a section of Non-GMO Project Verified candy options.
- Annie’s Organics carries a great selection of fruit snacks that taste even better than gummy bears.
- YumEarth has flavorful lollipops galore!
- For those Reese’s lovers out there, try Justin’s peanut butter cups. They’re divine!
This is just a start on the list of alternatives you can find to satisfy you and your kids’ sweet tooth all October long. I’d also suggest a trip to you local natural foods store—many have some non-GMO candy options available to stock up on out already.
Now, for the hardest and touchiest part of all: if you do bring your kids trick-or-treating, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you will arrive upon homes offering up the conventional stuff. Some possible ways to circumnavigate this involve speaking to your neighbors beforehand and suggesting some healthier candy options or organizing a community GMO-free trick-or-treat for those interested in helping in the fight against Franken-candy. But, because you may not have that kind of time (or resources) on hand, another option is to provide your kids with lots of the healthy stuff, and, if you so choose, allow them just a few of the other kinds from their pail, while at the same time explaining that moderation (and not the candy-binge-fest Halloween night can sometimes become) is the key with anything not-so-healthy for us. For those with a no-GMOs-at-any-time, you may need to go with the former.
While you can’t probably control everything that will end in your kids’ Halloween pails, it does bring up an opportunity to talk about how to choose healthier options. And making sure to have healthy, non-GMO options available at home and avoiding the conventional stuff yourself at all costs—even in the office—will model better choices and make you feel better, too. Even if the kids ingest a Franken-candy at the school Halloween festivities, you’re at least on the right path to teaching them how to take care of their bodies and fight the truly scary stuff that is occurring in our own food supply.