These Are The Ingredients You'll Find In Peeps

We all know them. They pop up around the holidays on store shelves, peering out from the cellophane, looking at you with their beady eyes. They come in a rainbow of violently vibrant hues. Once an Easter candy classic, they've broadened their reach, showing up for a whole host of occasions. We're talking about Peeps, of course. Though described by the brand as a "combination of sweet colored sugar and fluffy marshmallow," we all know that there's more to Peep marshmallow candies than sugar and fluff. But what exactly are Peeps?

According to the brand, the ingredient list is short, but not that simple. The ingredients include sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, and less than 0.5 percent of the following: potassium sorbate, natural flavors, carnauba wax, and either red #3, yellow #5, or blue #1. Sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin are pretty straight-forward ingredients that you might have in your kitchen cabinet right now. But what about the rest? The other ingredients aren't so familiar.

Peeps are not as innocent as they look

The potassium sorbate is a preservative found in both food items and skincare and is the reason why Peeps can remain squishy and marshmallow-y for a lengthy amount of time. However, it's not that innocent. According to Honest Weight, a food co-op dedicated to safe products for both people and the planet, potassium sorbate is used to suppress mold and yeast growth. However, in-vitro studies suggest that the substance is toxic to DNA and negatively impacts immunity. Still, that doesn't stop other brands from using it in their products, including Honest by Jessica Alba.

Both food dyes and natural flavors are debated in terms of safety. The Food Network, for example, lists studies on its website that show artificial colors have caused brain tumors, bladder cancer, and more. On the other hand, a U.S. News & World Report article quoted a food scientist who said, "when you look at the science and the research ... when you look at it from a toxicological standpoint, these ingredients are safe." 

And when it comes to the natural flavors, the exact definition is anyone's guess. In one New York Times piece, it's noted that flavor manufacturers are not required to reveal their ingredients. 

"They can add synthetic solvents, preservatives, emulsifiers, carriers, and other additives to a flavor that qualifies as natural under current regulations," the Times wrote.

Enjoy a bit of car wax and some everlasting Peep eyeballs

Last, but certainly not least, what exactly is carnauba wax? Believe it or not, carnauba wax used in candy manufacturing is the same ingredient that makes up car wax. Don't worry, though, carnauba wax is FDA-approved for consumption and the amount in candy such as Peeps is tiny. You can credit carnauba wax for giving Peeps chicks' eyes that glossy, soulful sheen. Weirdly, though, tests have shown that, maybe because of the carnauba wax, Peep eyes don't dissolve in certain materials, including in your digestive system.

So, while Peeps are not as filled with scary ingredients as some of the other candies on store shelves, they're certainly not innocent, from their unnatural hues to their everlasting eyes. The next time you place some Peeps in your shopping cart, stop to think if you're really interested in ingesting all that makes up that sugar-laden, oh-so-sweet marshmallow center.