If you’ve visited New York’s Times Square lately, you may have encountered M&M’s World. It’s a three floor temple celebrating all things small, round, chocolaty, and brightly colored.
The brand, owned by Mars, has been around since the early 1940’s and has become part of our childhood and popular culture.
But what exactly are M&M’s made of?
What you need to know:
M&M’s are basically chocolate pellets covered with a candy outer shell. The process for coating the chocolate was once quite challenging and even patented, but now it is very simple and commonplace.
Don’t expect much nutritionally from candy. Lots of sugar. Lots of saturated fat (30% of the daily max). But hey, it’s candy. A single serving bag weighs almost 2 ounces and has 240 calories. Definitely not a daily treat.
According to the packaging, “M&M’s Chocolate Candies are made of the finest ingredients. This product should reach you in excellent condition.” Here is the “finest” ingredient list:
Milk Chocolate (Sugar, Chocolate, Skim Milk, Cocoa Butter, Lactose, Milkfat, Soy Lecithin, Salt, Artificial Flavors), Sugar, Cornstarch, Less than 1% Corn Syrup, Dextrin, Coloring (Includes Blue 1 Lake, Red 40 Lake, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 1, Blue 2 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Blue 2), Gum Acacia.
We can’t vouch for “finest”, but let’s just say that the ingredient list is, for the most part, what you’ll find in many other chocolates.
What really concerns us is the use of artificial coloring. A lot of artificial colorings, as you can see in the list above. Each chocolate button is coated with one of 6 colors – red, green, yellow, orange, blue, and brown. All, without exception, are artificial dyes.
By the way, the “lake” notation of some colors means that they are used in liquid form, not powder.
So what is the problem with artificial colors?
- Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 have long been known to cause allergic reactions in some people.
- Numerous studies have demonstrated that dyes cause hyperactivity in children.
- Tests on lab animals of Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 showed signs of causing cancer.
- Yellow 5 also caused mutations, an indication of possible carcinogenicity, in six of 11 tests.
- Studies show that the three most-widely used dyes, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are tainted with low levels of cancer-causing compounds, including benzidine and 4-aminobiphenyl in Yellow 5.
What to do at the supermarket:
Opt for chocolate candies that are not colored with artificial dyes.