What You Need to Know about Hot Tamales Candy

Benzidine-based dyes commonly used in pharmaceuticals are also found in popular candy, which may lead to adverse health issues.

Since its introduction in 1950, Hot Tamales candy are among the most popular sweet for people of all ages. In fact, in 1999, it was the top selling cinnamon candy. No movie theater is without Hot Tamales on their shelves.

But under all of the candy’s cinnamon flavor, spicy scent, and chewy texture, hides a danger that many are still unaware of or choose to ignore in exchange for eating the spicy hot treat.

Did you know that the food dyes used in the candy have a negative impact on your health?

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) in Washington, DC, discovered a connection between artificial food dyes and behavioral problems in children. This is why they petitioned the FDA to ban artificial food dyes. Further study also revealed that certain approved artificial food dyes can cause hypersensitivity reactions and are carcinogenic.

Let’s Talk Dyes

Among the ingredients of a box of Hot Tamales are the following artificial food colors: Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1, and Blue 2 Lake. Benzidine is present in Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, which is a carcinogen that is permitted to be used on human and animals at low, safe levels.

But how can you ensure consumption of benzidine is safe when people may consume Hot Tamales by the box or more in a day, week, or month?

In 1985, FDA calculated that the ingestion of free benzidine increases the risk of cancer just under the “concern” threshold, which is 1 out of a million people. What the FDA failed to determine, however, is the free benzidine released by intestinal enzymes, which increases exposure to carcinogens.

Add to this the carcinogens present in the environment and other food items, and the risk of cancer is significantly high. So why should people be alarmed about benzidine in dyes?

Benzidine-based dyes are used in printing inks, paints, paper, and pharmaceuticals. Clearly, it doesn't belong in Hot Tamales candy—or any other candy for that matter—because eating benzidine is virtually ingesting printer ink or paint.

Every artificial coloring in Hot Tamales also comes with other health concerns, apart from the risk that benzidine presents.

  • Red 3 (Erythrosine) causes thyroid tumors and has been banned by the FDA.
  • Red 40 (Allura Red) triggers hyperactivity and allergic reactions in children and accelerates tumors in the immune system in mice used in laboratory experiments.
  • Yellow 5 (Tartrazine) triggers hyperactivity disorders, severe hypersensitivity, and other children’s behavioral issues.
  • Yellow 6 (Sunset Yellow) triggers hypersensitivity in children and may cause adrenal tumors.
  • Blue 1 (Brilliant Blue) causes kidney tumors in mice used in laboratory experiments.
  • Blue 2 (Indigo Carmine) is shown to cause brain tumors in rats used in laboratory experiments.

Other commercial candy products that use Green 3 (Fast Green) food color may also pose health dangers to consumers. This is because the artificial color has been shown to increase tumors in the testes and bladder of male rats used in laboratory experiments.

What Comes with Too Many Hot Tamales

Cancer

Commercial candy products, including Hot Tamales, contain artificial dyes that are linked to cancer and other health conditions, such as allergies, asthma, ADHD, hyperactivity, and hypersensitivity.

Benzidine-based dyes found in candies have the potential to metabolize carcinogenic amines or Heterocyclic amines (HCAs), a chemical compound known to cause changes in the DNA and increase the risk of cancer after it is subjected to high temperatures.

Just think about how candies are produced and you will see a connection between the sweet treats and cancer. Not so sweet after all, right?

Tooth Decay

The Minnesota Dental Association likened sour and fruity candies to battery acid where oral health is concerned. These two types of commercial candy products are very acidic and may cause cheeks and gums to burn when eaten.

Because acid weakens and wears down protective enamel, teeth can become vulnerable to decay and other diseases and conditions that come with it. Teeth will also become more sensitive and will be prone to erosion, cracks, dents, discoloration, rounding, and transparency.

Raises Blood Sugar

The sugar in Hot Tamales and other candy may be beneficial for people with low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), but not for the rest of the population who do not need or want their blood sugar increased. These sweet treats are packed full of sugar and some varieties are even coated or dusted with more sugar.

As you probably know, too much of anything is bad, and the high amounts of sugar in candies are no exception. If you don't stop eating candy, or at least eat it in moderation, you could end up with hyperglycemia or diabetes.

Brain Tumors

The food dye Blue 2 in Hot Tamales has been linked to causing brain tumors in rats. Although there are no reports of human studies to show a similar effect, CSPI insists that the food dye is not safe for human consumption, regardless of whether the FDA considers it safe for use in food.

Hyperactivity

The Yellow 5 food dye found in Hot Tamales, gelatin products, dessert powders, cereals, and other baked goods has been known to trigger hyperactivity disorders and cause severe hypersensitivity in children.

Researchers at both Columbia University and Harvard University showed that symptoms of ADHD in children are relieved when products and foods that contain artificial food are taken out of the equation.

This is further validated by the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted by British researchers to test the effect of food dyes on hyperactive children, which is one of the signs of ADHD.

What the group did was give children food and drinks free of coloring agents and a common preservative called sodium benzoate. And, every two weeks, they were given a special drink that contains food dye equivalent to two bags of candy. They observed that hyperactivity in children significantly increased during the weeks when the special drink was consumed.

It is safe to say that eating Hot Tamales is not good for your health. Therefore, you might want to start weaning yourself off it now before it’s too late.

Alyssa Pirestani is a student and the daughter of Joshua Pirestani, the President and founder of the American Pharmacy Purchasing Alliance.