Chew on this

Did you know that chewing gum is made from petroleum? It is. Why do I know this? You see, Ava (age 3) has recently taken quite the interest in chewing gum. Jody and I let her have a piece and she did well with it – didn’t swallow it I mean. However, now that she’s had a taste, she wants more, more, more. You could say she’s a chain chewer. She’ll chew one piece for a minute or two, spit it out and pop another in her mouth.

This new habit made me question what all goes into chewing gum. Jody did a search on Wikipedia and found this: Chewing gum is a type of confectionery which is designed to be chewed rather than swallowed. Traditionally, it was made of chicle, a natural latex product, although for reasons of economy and quality many modern chewing gums use petroleum-based polymers instead of chicle.

Mmmm, petroleum. /gag If I don’t want my kid to ingest pesticides and growth hormones in her food, I sure as hell don’t want her gnawing on petroleum in her gum. Oy.

Of course his next search was to find a natural chewing gum alternative to crude oil, which lead him to Glee Gum. Glee Gum is all natural chewing gum made with sustainably-harvested rainforest chicle.

Glee Gum

Jody picked up three packs of Glee Gum at Vitamin Cottage and Ava has been happily chewing on chicle ever since. The only problem with chicle is that it gets stuck in your teeth much more easily than slippery old petroleum. So there have been a few occasions where I’ve had to retrieve gum from Ava’s mouth – it likes to get stuck between her teeth and gums. But I’d rather fish around in her mouth than worry about her ingesting petroleum. 😉

Which brings me to my next story. Guess what artificial colors are made from. C’mon, guess! That’s right – petroleum as well (in addition to coal tar and insects)! Thanks to Greenstylemom for sharing this bit of information and putting a damper on my recent M&M gluttony consumption.

Here’s a bit more about some of the artificial colors…

Blue No. 1 uses coal tar as one of its components. Because of the use of coal tar, many organizations and circles are speaking out and boycotting products using colors with coal tar because it is a carcinogenic in large quantities, known to cause tumors in lab rats.Blue candy

Red No. 40 can be found in sweets, drinks and condiments, medications, and cosmetics. It has caused allergic reactions in people as well as hyperactivity in children.

Yellow No. 5 or Tartazine can be found in soft drinks, instant puddings, flavored chips (Doritos, etc), cake mixes, custard powder, soups, sauces, kool-aid, ice cream, ice lollies, candy, chewing gum, marzipan, jam, jelly, marmalade, mustard, horseradish, yogurt, noodles, pickles and other pickled products, certain brands of fruit squash, fruit cordial, chips, tim tams, and many convenience foods together with glycerin, lemon and honey products.

Tartrazine, however, does produce the most common allergic react, especially among those with an aspirin intolerance and ashtma. Some research has linked Yellow No. 5 to early childhood Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and hyperactivity. It is banned in Austria and Norway.

Yellow No. 6, also known as Sunset Yellow FCF, is an orange coal tar-based food dye found in orange squash, orange jelly, marzipan, Swiss roll, apricot jam, citrus marmalade, lemon curd, fortune cookies, sweets, hot chocolate mix and packet soups, trifle mix, breadcrumbs and cheese sauce mix and soft drinks. It is the color most prominently seen in DayQuil. It is capable of causing allergic reactions such as abdominal pain, hyperactivity, hives, nasal congestion, and bronchoconstriction, as well as kidney tumours, chromosomal damage, and distaste for food.

Here’s the kicker, a number of these dyes have been banned in countries around the world because of their link to cancer, tumors, allergic reactions and hyperactivity in children, yet they are still used in foods in the good ol’ U.S.A.

Note to self for future sweet binges: Chocolate = good. Chocolate with cancer-coating artificial dye coating on it = bad.

brain-body connection Thirdly, on another related note, thanks to my friend Melissa for sharing the article: Scientists make gut-brain connection to autism. (The bolding below is mine.)

Compounds produced in the digestive system have been linked to autistic-type behaviour in laboratory settings, potentially demonstrating that what autistic children eat can alter their brain function, say scientists from the University of Western Ontario.

It’s wonderful to see a scientific study finally acknowledge what many parents have already come to realize on their own. (Jenny McCarthy was recently talking with Oprah about this with regard to her autistic son.)

Dr. Martha Herbert, assistant professor in neurology at Harvard Medical School, told CBC News that the study opens up a new way of thinking about the disorder.
Now we’re learning that the brain and body can influence each other,” she said.

Excuse my cynicism here, but NO KIDDING! This hardly seems like news to me, but I guess I should be happy that science is catching on that there IS a mind-body connection. Perhaps they will realize that this can apply to many other things as well. I’m crossing my fingers, but not holding my breath yet.

29 thoughts on “Chew on this”

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Amy. I was just chewing a piece of gum last night. Next time I’ll definitely be making a more informed decision. Industrial food is downright horrifying.

  2. Gross indeed! I find it horrifying that petroleum would be put into any food products. Thanks for the info about the natural alternatives!

  3. ICK!!! I have always chewed gum- how gross to think of all the petroleum I’ve probably ingested!!! Well, never again! And that for sure goes for A and DH!

    Amy, you always bring important stuff like this to light! *THANKS*!!!What would I do without Crunchy Domestic Goddess?!?!? lol ~J

  4. so gross. i didn’t know all that about the gum. i knew about the dyes. did you know about carmine and cochineal? vegetarian times had an article about all this stuff a while back and the red thing kills me: — notice that it’s used as a “natural food coloring” because it’s derived from a “natural source”…insects. ewww….

    check out my post today for my fave veg cookbooks:-)

  5. You are quite brave giving her gum at 3.
    I made my other kids wait until they were 5 years old and will do the same with R. I think I’ve had that gum before and it’s not too bad.
    My oldest loves to chew gum. I may have to look for some more next time I go to the natural foods store!!

  6. OK excellent post and a big duh?? To the last DR’s statemnet. My Mom, Daughter and Myself are allergic to gluten. It makes a huge diffence in the way my kids act and how I feel. Do you want to lesson mood swings as in PMS go gluten free. We eat organic for the most part. It is worth it. I really think a lot of “behavor” problems are due to diet. Well I actually know they are. Thanks again! Donna

  7. Thanks so much for this post! I’m going to email a few friends to come read it.

    Oh, BTW-why is your post so far down on your blog? Just wondering.

    And I posted today about rules in school. I’d be interested in how Waldorf checks out in this area. Thanks.

  8. Amy,
    Your timing is perfect…I keep reading the ingredients on gum wrappers to my kids and am explaining to them that I don’t want them chewing on all of those chemicals. Now I can add petroleum to the list!

    I sell Glee Gum on my website, as a “healthier and more natural” alternative to the traditional junk… Makes a good addition to party favor bags. But the biggest complaint is how it sticks to your teeth. I find that chewing 2 pieces at a time helps, but it is still annoying.

    Thanks for the information!

  9. Yep, I had never seen blue food before I moved to the US. All those food colors are illegal in most EU countries and I was horrified when I saw all the foods they have for kids here. The shock is not that big anymore, but I still never let my kids any of that stuff.

    Ps. I tagged you! (200th post)

  10. That is so icky about chewing gum.

    Hope I didn’t ruin your M&Ms. I love those darn things. I’ve been trying to stay away from them. At least they don’t have hydrogenated oils or HFCS!

  11. About the dyes and additives, I’ve known for sometime the effect they have on my children’s behaviors…we stay away. (Ok, so I cheat for myself sometimes, but don’t tell the kids.) And the other health hazards are issues, also. I’d eat good tasting food no matter what the color. The dyes are truly unnecessary in my opinion.

    Have you looked at the labels of some white processed,loosely used term here – food? There are artificial colors in them? White with colors? Huh?

  12. I’ve always taken the approach of “what I don’t know about won’t hurt me” and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Great, now I know about petroleum in gum and the dangers of dye and I’m thinking, “why did I read it? why? why?” Thanks to you, my family will be a bit safer. Amy, you’re good for me.

  13. So sad about M&M. Makes you wonder what icky stuff is hiding in most food on the grocery store shelves. We shop at farmer’s market for the most part. Not much processed stuff there. I did try GleeGum and did not like the fact that it stuck to my teeth. So I pretty much gave up chewing 🙂

  14. Thanks for the good information! You may be interested in another food dye, Red 3, probably the most notorious of them all. Since it is known to cause cancerous tumors in mice, it is illegal. But that has not prevented the food industry from continuing to use it. Years ago three different FDA commissioners tried to have it banned, but politics trumps science, and politics is run by money…need I say more?
    Like many food dyes, Red 3 has other uses. One of them is to spray on manure piles because it kills maggots (fly eggs). It is banned from use in the wax coating of cheese, but allowed to be added to foods. Go figure!
    The US currently allows only 7 dyes to be used in food (but there are no restrictions on the amount used, and food companies use huge doses). But those dyes not permitted in foods are still allowed to be used in medicine. And who gets the most colorful medicines? Our kids!
    I recently learned that most of the dyes used in our food originate at petroleum refineries in China (now doesn’t that reassure you!) The start with benzene, a highly cancerous toxin, and go from there.
    The good news is that there are alternatives for all of your favorites, including Glee Gum.
    Sundrops are a natural version of M&Ms, and are delicious! Russell Stover has recently come out with a line of natural candies and even Jelly Bellies is doing that. There are several environmentally responsible companies making natural jelly beans, gummy bears, lollipops, etc. This is the sort of information the non-profit Feingold Association collects. See

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