Tuesday, July 19

What is a Smartie?

Pregnancy cravings can sometimes be so overpowering that you will eat things that you would not normally eat. I am not one of those ice cream and pickle people, but the dish of chocolate ice cream is definately high on the cravings list.

I have recently been craving Smarties. Those little round candies that you get in the bluk department that come in a clear plastic tube. After eating a few rolls the other day I noticed a wrapper had escaped and the little man had picked it up. I asked his to throw it away for me which he did.

I wondered how that little wrapper would take up a little landfill space. Would it decompose? Was it going to be around when the little man's great-grandchildren were zipping around in little spaceship cars? Given that i have so much time on my hands (yeah right) I decided to look it up - and the actual content of Smarties while I was at it.

The first thing I learned was that Smarties actually come in flavors. I had no idea that those colors were supposed to taste different - I just thought I got a sour one or a sweet one once and a while. Turns out that they come in six fruity flavors:

White = Orange-Cream
Yellow = Pineapple
Pink = Cherry
Green = Strawberry
Purple = Grape
Orange = Orange

One new thing learned already.

Next, to ingredients and calories. My thought was sugar. Just sugar. But here is the ingredient list:

Ingredients: Dextrose, Citric Acid, Calcium Stearate, Artificial Flavors, Colors (Red 40 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Blue 2 Lake).

There are 25 calories per roll.

Well, I guess I am not surprised that I am mostly eating food coloring. But I must point out that according to the Smarties website, 'All Smarties® products are vegetarian and vegan.' Can I feel good about that?

But back to the question that started it all - the wrapper. What is it made out of?

Yep, you guessed it - it's a PVC wrapper. Or Polyvinyl chloride. The same material that makes up the piping I use inder the bathroom sink. The white stuff that lines the plumbing isle at Home Depot.

So I am eating dextrose (sugar) and coloring wrapped in PVC.

A note on the wrapper: PVC can be made softer and more flexible by the addition of plasticizers, the most widely used being phthalates, being phased out of many products in the United States, Canada, and European Union over health concerns. Phthalates mimic human hormones and also affect various life forms including fish and invertebrates adversely. PVC used to be used in making baby toys but it has not been used in years due to the concerns that the additives can end up in the systems of children who chew on these toys. So if it has been not used in toys due to the risk of the toxins entering the childs system via chewing, then how do we know that these chemicals are not being absorbed into the Smarties which I am eating?

The State of California is currently considering a bill that would ban the use of PVC in consumer packaging due to the threats it poses to human and environmental health and its effect on the recycling stream. This brings us back to the landfill issue. How long wil the wrapper be there? - Probably forever. Yes, it is a tiny, thin wrapper but it does contain chemicals that leach out. And consider that according to their website, Smarties are the most popular Halloween and party candy.

More specifically, the language of the CA bill analysis stipulates that EPA has listed vinyl chloride, a "constituent element" of PVC, as a carcinogen. It also further cites that there are concerns about the leaching of phthalates and lead from the PVC packaging.

There is also, apparently, a risk of drug additiction. Smarties, according to Forest Hills, Michigan's Principal Nancy Susterka, are a gateway drug. Read more here.

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