Evaluating ‘5 Children’s Snacks Parents Should Always Avoid’ Video

This short video is just one of hundreds that make the rounds on social media every day. This one has been shared more than six million times – but is the information it provides accurate?

Evaluating “5 Children’s Snacks Parents Should Always Avoid” Video

Claim #1: Pop Tarts Contain Cancer-Causing Artificial Colors

  • In checking the ingredients list on that various flavors of Pop Tarts, these artificial colors are listed as being used: Blue 1, Blue 1 Lake, Blue 2, Blue 2 Lake, Yellow 5, Yellow 5 Lake, Yellow 6, Red 40, Red 40 Lake. (While dyes liquids that are soluble in water, ethanol or propylene glycol, lakes are dry dyes that are insoluble.)
  • Always check the labels of products before you buy because the list is subject to change without notice. The Pop Tarts flavors brown sugar-cinnamon and all the chocolate (except the chocolate strawberry) were found to be free of artificial dyes.
  • Each of the dyes listed in the ingredients list on most, but not all, Pop Tart flavors has been found to cause a cancer of some kind in lab animals, is associated with hyperactivity or behavioral issues in children, or a hypersensitivity reaction in some children.
  • The European Union has banned the use of nearly all artificial dyes in food there, to be replaced with natural, food-based dyes.
  • The not-for-profit organization Center for Science in the Public Interest has been encouraging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the use of these artificial dyes for nearly 10 years. The organization began mounting a new effort in January 2016, seeking signatures on a petition to urge the FDA once again to take action.

For further reading on artificial dyes used in food in the United States, check out “Seeing Red.” (50+ page report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest)

Claim #2 Fruit Snacks Often Made with Artificial Flavors and Colors

No specific brand was named in the video. Research of miscellaneous brands of fruit snacks’ ingredients list:

  • Mott’s Medleys Fruit Flavored Snacks: Vegetable and fruit juice added for color. No artificial flavoring in ingredient list.
  • Sunbelt Fruit Jammers Fruit Snacks: Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 dyes used; no artificial flavoring
  • Welch’s Fruit Snacks: Blue 1, Red 40, artificial flavors (not specified)
  • Go Organically Fruit Snacks: Unable to read an actual ingredient list, but company promises no artificial flavors or colors, non-GMO, no high fructose corn syrup
  • Tasty Brand Fruit Snacks: No artificial flavors or colors in ingredient list.
  • Great Value Fruit Smiles: Artificial flavors (not specified), Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6.
  • Sunkist Fruit Flavored Snacks: Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5; no artificial flavors in ingredient list.
  • Erythrosine, mentioned in the video, is Red 3, an artificial food dye. It was not used in any of the fruit snack products listed here, but may be in other products. Erythrosine, or Red 3, is one of the synthetic food dyes of concern, noted for it’s substantial risk for intolerance or allergic reactions. It is banned for use in food in Australia and the European Union.

Related article: Evaluating Online Health Information and Research

Claim #3: M&Ms contain artificial colors

  • M&M’s are made with artificial flavors (not specified) and artificial colors: Blue 1, Blue 1 Lake, Blue 2 Lake, Red 40, Red 40 Lake, Yellow 5, Yellow 6 and Yellow 6 Lake.

Claim #4: Cheetos contain Yellow 6

  • Cheetos are colored with Yellow 6 and include monosodium glutamate (MSG) in the ingredients list.

Claim #5: Teddy Grams contain TBHQ (Should read Teddy Grahams)

  • After examining the ingredients list for several of the Teddy Grahams products, this writer was unable to substantiate that TBHQ is used in making these products.
The closer our food is to its natural state, the less likely it is to contain artificial ingredients.

jill111 / Pixabay

TBHQ, or tertiary butylhydroquinone, is a preservative used in a wide range of foods, cosmetics and baby products. Although the FDA allows up to 0.02 percent of the oils in a food to be TBHQ, it has been shown through scientific study that even this level of TBHQ may be responsible for visual disturbances, liver enlargement, neurotoxic effects. TBHQ increased the incidence of cancer in rats in laboratory testing.

While the Teddy Grahams’ ingredients lists did not reveal TBHQ to be present, another product mentioned earlier – Pop Tarts – does list it in the ingredient lists of each flavor.

Social media is an effective tool for sharing information. Sometimes what is shared is useful and informative, sometimes the information is misleading, which can be harmful if it is health related. The best course of action is to take some time to evaluate the information you read before acting on it.

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