5 Kids' Foods With Scary Artificial Ingredients

by Zoe Ferguson

Childhood is a time to live without fear or worries. When I was younger, adults always liked to remind me how terrible adulthood was, so I should live it up while the time was right. In particular, my dad told me constantly that one day, my metabolism would catch up with me, and I would no longer be able to eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, which was everything all the time. I remember becoming aware of the dangers of food additives when the anti-corn syrup craze began, and my parents were hooked. To this day, my dad will not buy anything that contains high fructose corn syrup, and unless I happen to be standing in front of the candy aisle at the supermarket, I am inclined to agree.

But why are we so afraid of food additives and artificial ingredients, and what really happens when we do give in to the temptation of the candy aisle? The question is back in the public consciousness after Panera Bread announced it was dropping artificial ingredients. Panera isn't the first — Nestle, Hershey, and Kraft are also cutting back. And McDonald's and Tyson are pledging to remove human antibiotics from their food.

When I heard this news, I was confused about why this news was exciting. Isn't it more disturbing to find out that all this time, we have been consuming animal meat made with human medicine? What else have we been eating without knowing it? These questions are even more pressing when you consider all the processed foods you ate in childhood — and likely continue to eat now — without a single thought of what they contained, because they tasted good and you only had a second-grade education.

My nickname as a kid was Little Snacker, so as you can imagine, Homer Simpson is pretty relatable for me. If you enjoyed the deliciousness of Lunchables, Pop Rocks, or Dunkaroos as a kid without a second thought, you may want to know what artificial ingredients are in these kids' foods. Some of the worst offenders include artificial colors and flavors, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil, and gelatin.

Processed Cheese

I wish I didn't have to be the one to tell you this, but Kraft Singles are not legally cheese by the FDA's standards because they don't contain a minimum of 51 percent cheese. What's in the "cheese product" instead? Gelatin, preservatives, and more.


Lunchables include "cheese product," which we all know now is not legally cheese. They also have partially hydrogenated oils, which can be full of trans fats.

Gummy Worms

Gummy Worms are made with plenty of gelatin, made from animal by-products, which I regret to tell you often include animal bones.

Pop Rocks

Surprisingly, there is actually nothing in Pop Rocks that will shock you more than the ingredients in any other processed food, though eating them definitely makes for a more shocking experience. What makes them pop is nothing more than carbon dioxide bubbles, though they are made with artificial colors and flavors.


Dunkaroos, though delicious, fun, and portable, are made with lots of partially hydrogenated oils, which Dr. Melina Jampolis called the "real villains of nutrition."

Images: Giphy (6)