Colorful holiday ‘goodies’ can conceal some pretty bad ingredients

Posted by
December 23, 2014

cakemixChristmas is here again — along with all those colorfully packaged “goodies” that are really “baddies” in disguise.

And once again, we here at Food Identity Theft have taken it upon ourselves to scout the supermarket for products that could turn what should be a happy occasion into one that could be hazardous to your health.

Let’s start with that classic holiday favorite, fruitcake.

We all know the fruitcake is the butt of a lot of jokes, but it’s what most commercial fruitcakes contain that would be laughable — that is, if it were funny.  That’s certainly true of two versions we found being displayed to entice holiday food shoppers — Village Square Fruit Cake and TastyKake Fruit Kake.

Both are similarly packaged and have similar ingredients– including such dietary grinches as partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oils (sources of those artery-clogging trans fats that the Food and Drug Administration acknowledges are responsible for approximately 7,000 heart disease fatalities a year); high fructose corn syrup, (HFCS), the laboratory sweetener that various studies have linked to obesity, diabetes, pancreatic cancer, heart problems and other health issues; the petroleum-based preservative TBHQ (just one gram of which has resulted in vomiting, delirium and collapse), and the artificial color Red 40, another petro-derivative linked to hyperactivity in children as well as to allergic reactions such as hives and facial swelling, and which has reportedly damaged the DNA of mice.

Making a “homemade” cake won’t be much better if you’re using some of those special holiday cake mixes that come in festively decorated boxes, like Duncan Hines Holiday Velvets Cake Mix. It seems those vivid hues are actually created by a combo of Red 40 and two other hyperactivity-inducing synthetic dyes, Yellow 5, or tartrazine (which is known to be an asthma trigger as well as having been linked to blurred vision, migraines, anxiety and fatigue) and Blue 1, or brilliant blue, which a recent study found can enter the bloodstream via the digestive tract. And that’s not to mention the aluminum it contains in the form of sodium aluminum phosphate – a heavy metal that has recently been linked to early onset Alzheimer’s.

Then there’s Pillsbury Holiday Funfetti Cake Mix, which besides pudding and candy bits, also gives you a whole bevy of harmful additives that, in addition to sodium aluminum phosphate, TBHQ, partially hydrogenated cottonseed and/or soybean oil and “lakes of four artificial colors, includes sodium caseinate, a form of MSG (that is, free glutamic acid) that can cause sensitive individuals to suffer a whole variety of symptoms, including migraines.

Our list of top holiday treats that we recommend removing from your shopping list also includes Smucker’s Toppings, all of which are sweetened with HFCS. In addition, the company’s chocolate fudge topping includes partially hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oil, while its caramel, butterscotch, strawberry and pineapple toppings are colored with various synthetic hues.

Finally, there’s this “classic” candy item, which now actually comes in a brightly bound holiday volume you might be inclined to buy without a second thought simply because the product is so familiar (and even nostalgic).  But the Life Savers in that Hard Candy Sweet Storybook contains both HFCS and all three of the aforementioned artificial colors.

And that’s something we can’t emphasize enough — just because something seems “traditional” doesn’t mean it’s the same as it once might have been in Christmases past. Which is why before you buy any brightly decorated  “goodies” — even those you remember from your childhood – you should always first look for that list of ingredients usually found on the side of the package and check it twice. It’s one way you help assure yourself and your family of a healthy holiday season.