Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Shame of Some “Healthy” Candy

Last night I watched The Secret Life Of ... on Food Newtork. The topic was Sweet and Sour and part of the episode featured the All Candy Expo in Chicago. Jim O’Connor covered Lemonheads (a special fave of mine), traced the development of America’s Sour Tooth and of course toured the Expo floor.

Then part of the episode took a turn towards a product line called Too Tarts, made by Innovative Candy Concepts. This post is not a product review, because I absolutely refuse to eat the products on purpose. They’re shamefully misrepresented.


The package I picked up at All Candy Expo was purely by accident. I was sitting in a seminar and they were in a bowl and both me and the other folks at my table idly grabbed a bag and dug in. I spit mine out and so did the fellow next to me. It was seriously foul - the chew was rubbery and the taste was instantly fake and had a strong aftertaste. The package says they’re Real Fruit & Honey with NO REFINED SUGAR ... “up to 5 times more natural ingredients than any other fruit candy snack” ...blah, blah, blah. What they don’t holler at you on the front is that there are TWO different artificial sweeteners in there ... Acesulfame Potassium and Sucralose.

imageAcesulfame Potassium is also known as AceK. It’s 180 times sweeter than sugar and is not retained by the body. It’s known for a bitter aftertaste so it’s often used in conjunction with other sweeteners. In this case it’s Sucralose (found in Splenda), which more than 500 times as sweet as sugar and is also not retained by the body. If you’re curious about artificial sweeteners and their possible cancer causing/nerve damage potential, cruise around the ‘net.

Now, you might wonder why I rage against artificial sweeteners. Yes, I have a bad reaction to aspartame, but I actually believe they have their place. However, their place is not in candies marketed for otherwise healthy children. Childhood is time of training our bodies to understand what we put into them and learning our satiety levels with different foods. Part of how our bodies and brains judge how many calories we’re consuming has to do with how sweet they are. They’ve done studies and have shown that there may be some connection between diet sodas and obesity because the body is no longer able to judge properly how many calories it’s taking in. If adults are messed up with this stuff, what will it do to kids who consume it from a young age? What’s worse is these candies are making it look like they’re sweetened with either honey or fruit juice. Sure, the package says “No Refined Sugar!” But it doesn’t once mention the complex chemical compounds called ‘sweeteners’ they’re putting in there except in the fine print of the ingredients.

There’s no reason to give kids fake candy ... there are other options for sweet treats out there. Please read the packages carefully. I’m irritated that this candy exists and further irritated that Food Network gave them such a huge feature without ever mentioning the presence of artificial sweeteners in the candy.

If you’re looking for some more wholesome candy that has real fruit in it, check out Florida’s Natural line of candies (I liked the Sour Strings).

Name: Dream Chews
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: Too Tarts (Innovative Candy Concepts)
Place Purchased: All Candy Expo sample
Price: unknown
Size: 1.75 ounces
Calories per ounce: 86
Categories: Chew, Sour, United States

POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:41 am Tracker Pixel for Entry    

  1. Nice reporting, Cybele! I totally agree that artificial sweeteners have no place in “child-friendly” foods. Certainly sugar shouldn’t be doled out all the time, either, but chemical substitutes are just plain evil.

    Comment by Patti on 10/17/06 at 7:06 am #
  2. Thanks for the warning.  I have a horrible reaction to artificial sweeteners so I avoid them completely.  I agree that people have become too dependent on them and, in my opinion, they just tend to make people not learn to consume in moderation.

    Comment by g on 10/17/06 at 7:06 am #
  3. Awesome Cybele!  I h-a-t-e artificial sweeteners.  They all make me sick - literally.  I real all labels more closely than ever after innocently buying Sara Lee’s “Honey Wheat” bread - it was sickly sweet tasting, so I read the list - sucralose (Splenda)!  EW ACK and GRRRR!  Thanks for letting us know!

    Comment by April on 10/17/06 at 10:23 am #
  4. Talk about deceptive advertising. Sugar isn’t a demon, it’s just a food.  Chemical cocktails, they’re something else.  Besides, artificial sweeteners almost always taste bitter to me.

    Comment by Rebecca on 10/17/06 at 10:44 am #
  5. I actually watched the exact same show last night!  At first I was all impressed by the annoying company-owner’s claims of healthiness.  “Oh, fruit juice!  Cool.”  But then they DID mention that Splenda was used (and it was they only time they mentioned it), and that totally turned me off of the product.

    Comment by Sarah on 10/17/06 at 11:35 am #
  6. I use artificial sweeteners quite a bit, so does my SO who is a type 1 diabetic.  But I agree that they aren’t for kids.  Not only that, but it sounds like these are being marketed deceptively as a “natural” product, when in fact, it is not.  That alone is grounds for never buying the product.

    Comment by Julilla on 10/17/06 at 11:42 am #
  7. SHAME on you Food Network!

    Kudos to you Cybele for pointing this out. I agree with your arguement. I mean really, kids should be allowed to enjoy REAL candy as a treat. Isn’t that a big part of being a kid?

    How was the rest of the show? I’m curious. grin

    Comment by Sera on 10/17/06 at 5:07 pm #
  8. Sadly, Food Network has featured products from Innovative Candy Concepts in the past, at leat once.  I definitely recall an episode of Unwrapped where they had a few of the products and the creator on the show.  I will tell you, the creator is one CREEPY looking guy.  Seriously.

    Comment by Alex on 10/17/06 at 5:54 pm #
  9. “If you?re curious about artificial sweeteners and their possible cancer causing/nerve damage potential, cruise around the net.”

    If you’re curious about all the crank urban food scare legends out there, cruise around the net. But if you want to get some more accurate information, limit your net searches to “site:.edu | site:.gov” in Google.

    Comment by Stephen on 10/17/06 at 7:22 pm #
  10. What’s the deal with that “Smart Choice” logo in the upper left corner of the package?  Looks like they’re trying to make it seem like some health food board has given them a seal of approval.  Sleazetacular!

    Comment by Tara on 10/18/06 at 3:58 am #
  11. Cybele's avatar

    Patti - yes, empty calorie treats should be a very small part of a kid’s diet ... but certainly permissable (or else they get obsessed).

    g - my only bad reaction has been a consistent one with aspartame ... but why take chances?

    April - why put it in bread? That makes no sense!

    Rebecca - coming from SugarHog.net! Hee! Of course you’re a member of the Church of Sugar (or Temple of Sugar?)

    Julilla - exactly, sweeteners for diabetics is the ideal use. It’s just that the chemical companies can’t make enough money off of diabetics so they want to make everyone else think they need their products.

    Sera - the rest of the show was good - the segment in the Lemonhead factory was really good - they really showed ALL of the manufacturing, which was very cool.

    Alex - I didn’t want to say anything about the guy. I also saw him on another special about the All Candy Expo from a few years ago hawking some other product line.

    Stephen - you’re right, there is some histrionic information about there. That’s why I limited my link to an actual peer reviewed study not on nerve damage/cancer connections but other satiety influences. I have other info on that if you’re interested.

    Tara - yeah, I didn’t even put up a picture of the BACK of the package!

    Comment by Cybele on 10/18/06 at 7:02 am #
  12. I use artificial sweetners in most everything I eat and drink however, I don’t like it for my children. My kids love the Florida Natural candies, as do I.

    Comment by sports fan on 10/19/06 at 7:04 am #
  13. I totally agree. Children do not need chemically engineered things in their candy…they’re in enough things that we don’t know about. I am nurse and I want my child to eat as healthy as the next mom but this IS NOT the way to promote good health! Thank you for pointing this out and making people aware!! GOOD JOB!!

    Comment by Amy on 10/19/06 at 7:49 am #
  14. By the way..SUGAR is a natural product and not really the enemy…people are just misguided unfortunately.

    Comment by Amy on 10/19/06 at 7:51 am #
  15. I agree with you about aspartame and sucralose.  I also have a very bad reaction to it and am always trying to get others to look up the side effects for themselves so they might see that there is NOTHING healthy about what they are eating. I found you by trying to look up the ingredients for the too tart thing I saw on food network also. They really should be ashamed for trying to push it as healthy.

    Comment by Patricia on 4/02/07 at 4:58 pm #
  16. by the way…I meant to mention it up there but has anyone checked there mouth wash and toothpaste lateyl? Some now come with sucralose so look out.

    Comment by Patricia on 4/02/07 at 5:04 pm #
  17. VERY good article! If it teaches us nothing else it has to be wary of not what the candy producers say but what they DON’T say in their sales pitch to us.

    I don’t have a problem with unhealthy candy (at least we know to eat it in strict moderation) but wrapping unhealthy ingredients in a ‘healthy’ label is not just underhanded, it is dangerous.

    Comment by KandyX on 4/05/07 at 8:31 am #
  18. Great job and I completely agree. I do not allow my son to have any type of candy or soft drink that has been sweetened with artificial sweeteners. They absolutely do not have a place in products that are marketed primarily to children and the candy industry needs to take on some responsibility and police themselves to prevent companies from marketing products such as this.

    Comment by Robert on 9/18/07 at 6:48 am #
  19. On another blog I read that some schools don’t allow treats with sugar to be brought to class for birthdays/holidays.  Most parents resort to bringing fruit I guess.  (no more cupcakes for birthdays and candycorn for halloween.) However, there were many suggestions in this blog from other parents saying to bring something with splenda/nutrasweet for all the kids to eat instead.  How awful! I would not want my kid to ingest chemicals.  The schools/parents may be worried about little johnny eating too much sugar, but chemicals are ok???
    I totally agree that “diet” products have no place in children’s food.  There are so many studies that suggest splenda/nutrasweet is really bad for you, with compelling evidence.  why take that chance? what’s so bad about all-natural sugar?  why must we turn to a chemical diet so we can gorge ourselves and not feel bad about it? just limit your intake of real sugar and you’ll be just fine.

    Comment by Sumisu on 7/23/08 at 4:48 pm #
  20. I have enjoyed Too Tarts liquid candy, it’s very sour and I like sour. But I assumed they were sweetened with fruit juice, by saying “No Refined Sugar” That’s what people assume right? Now that I know they have artificial sweeteners, I don’t know if I should eat them anymore. I mean, there’s nothing more evil than aspartame and junk like that. 
    Sugar may cause obesity and diabetes, but nasty chemicals cause cancer. I’d rather be diabetic and overweight than die of cancer.

    Comment by Sara Em on 10/28/08 at 1:03 pm #
  21. Almost every one of these comments mentions that “sugar is all natural!” and something about “chemical cocktails” being bad.

    This is called appeal to nature. Look it up.

    The production of food, chemicals or otherwise is a crazy complex topic and can not be summerized simply as good or bad because it is all natural or not. Sugars are no less chemical than Splenda and must go through the same testing.

    This doesn’t mean that there is not truth in the whole obesity from diet soda theories and such or that I think that kids shouldn’t have real sugar in their treats.

    ‘Natural’ foods are a fine product but at the same time just because something is natural does not make it better and often it’s much worse.
    Botulism, for instance, is all natural.

    Appeal to nature.

    Comment by Brent on 4/09/10 at 4:00 am #
  22. Ack, the “Appeal to Nature” at the bottom there was supposed to be a link, sorry.

    Comment by Brent on 4/09/10 at 4:01 am #
  23. Isn’t food labeling a pain! I wish there would be some regulation about what companies can put on their packaging. Too Tarts is clever in how they label, no doubt. Consumers see words like “no refined sugars” “smart choice” and “made with honey” and instantly think that it is healthy.

    I appreciate you turning the packaging around and see that it is far from healthy. My number one rule when it comes to determining what goes in my mouth is based upon one thing only- the ingredients. I recently looked up the ingredients in both M&M’s and Skittles and found nothing but processed ingredients; full details can be found in my blog.

    With Halloween approaching I’ve found it harder and harder to avoid all the delicious candy that goes along with it. I am a vegetarian and avoid processed foods as best I can. Candy and chocolate, however, are a huge struggle for me.

    I did find some pretty decent alternatives for both a chocolate sweet tooth and a sugary-candy sweet tooth.

    Thanks for your post. I look forward to reading more.

    Comment by Allie Zikesch on 10/26/10 at 12:42 am #
  24. My kids love this candy. thanks for that smile

    Comment by Thomas G Frenette on 1/08/15 at 7:00 pm #
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