How bad? Beyond your wildest dreams. Let’s deconstruct a Hostess Twinkie. Thirty-nine ingredients go into the making of a Twinkie. Why 39 when the average cake you bake at home requires just six ingredients? Two words: shelf life. Twinkies can’t contain anything that might spoil, like milk, cream, or butter. Once you remove such real ingredients, something has to take their place, and cellulose gum, lecithin, and sodium stearoyl lactylate are just a few. Let’s start with Trona. Trona is the basic ingredient in baking soda. It is clawed out of rock faces by giant machines thousands of feet under the surface of the earth. Sound yummy yet? How about corn dextrin, a common thickener? It is also the glue on postage stamps and envelopes. Ferrous sulfate, the iron supplement in enriched flour and vitamin pills, is used as a disinfectant and weed killer. Calcium sulfate, a dough conditioner, is food grade plaster of Paris. Shortening (in the form of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and or beef fat – the worst possible fats) is the main ingredient. Polysorbate is a gooey substance that replaces cream and eggs at a fraction of the cost. It is derived from palm oil and petroleum. Cellulose gum gives the crème filling a smooth, slippery feel. Artificial vanillin is synthesized in petroleum plants. Lecithin is an emulsifier made from soy but also used in paint.
Diacetyl mimics the taste of butter. Cornstarch, a thickener, is also used to make cardboard and packing peanuts. Sorbic acid, a preservative, comes from petroleum. There’s more but we don’t want to kill your appetite or spoil the taste of that expensive chocolate chip cookie you just ordered from Ms. Fields. The rule here is if you can’t pronounce the ingredients in a product, you shouldn’t eat or drink it.

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