Remember caramel apples and marshmallow cereal treats? Before the tainted candy scares of the 1980s, many households handed out wholesome homemade sweets to trick-or-treaters. But food companies were quick to take advantage of parental jitters, churning out individually wrapped, mass-produced candy in the name of safety.
It's paid off for retailers. This year, industry insiders estimate that the average person will spend $79.82 on decorations, costumes and candy, up from $72.31 last year, with total Halloween spending expected to reach $8 billion. But what, exactly, are we buying? Many popular treats contain high levels of artificial colors, outrageous amounts of sugar, or levels of acidity that can damage tooth enamel.
Click through the gallery to learn which Halloween candies you should avoid.
Photo: edenpictures/Creative Commons via Flickr
Brach’s Candy Corn has more than a gram of sugar in every piece, and Red 3, which is used to color candy corn, has been given a "high concern" rating by the Environmental Working Group because it's a carcinogen.
Serving size: 19 pieces
36 grams of carbs
32 grams of sugar
Photo: Muffet/Creative Commons via Flickr
Because of their gummy texture, Dots are very hard to get off your teeth. The longer sugar makes contact with tooth enamel, the higher the chance of decay. In addition, red and orange Dots get their coloring from Red 40, which has components that are suspected to cause cancer.
Serving size: 40 grams (10 or 11 dots)
33 grams of carbs
20 grams of sugar
Photo: pmarkham/Creative Commons via Flickr
Now and Later
Taffy treats like Now and Later stick aggressively to teeth, which increases the risk of tooth decay. Now and Laters also rate poorly when it comes to additives: the coloring Red 40, a carcinogen, is classified by the Environmental Working Group classifies as "high risk."
Serving size: 9 pieces
1 gram fat
29 grams of carbs
24 grams of sugar
Photo: Lunchbox Photography/Creative Commons via Flickr
One roll of the powdery dry original Necco Wafers packs more sugar than is recommended for an entire day. The wafers are colored with Red 40, Red 3 and Yellow 6—carcinogens that are listed with "some concern" or higher by the Environmental Working Group.
Serving size: 1 roll
56 grams of carbs
55 grams of sugar
Photo: Wallula Junction/Creative Commons via Flickr
Those rainbow hues are dazzling, but the hues in Twizzler Twists come courtesy of Red 40 and Yellow 6, both of which have a degree of cancer risk.
Serving size: 45 grams (5 pieces)
36 grams of carbs
19 grams of sugar
Photo: kennejima/Creative Commons via Flickr
Sour candies are very damaging to tooth enamel, and because taffy like Laffy Taffy sticks to your teeth, it's double trouble. (A pH of 2.5 is very hard on your mouth.) In addition, the Environmental Working Group has concerns about the Red 40 and Yellow 6.
Andrew Freeman is a California native with a degree in history from UCLA. He’s covered a wide range of topics for TakePart, but is particularly interested in politics and policy. Email Andrew |@natureofdabeast | TakePart.com