The Twinkie, which was created during the Depression, contains thirty-nine ingredients. One of those ingredients is a preservative—sorbic acid. Sorbic acid is an ingredient I see on many packages, and I have never thought twice about it. But author Steve Ettlinger did. He found that sorbic acid is actually derived from natural gas.
If that isn’t shocking enough, he goes on to talk about other ingredients like cellulose gum, Polysorbate 60, and calcium sulfate. Apparently, these ingredients are also used in sheet rock, shampoo, and rocket fuel. No wonder Twinkies make kids run around like crazy and have even been used as a defense for murder.
Ettlinger also found that the vitamins, artificial colors, and flavorings in Twinkies come from petroleum.
I started to wonder how this tasty treat made from gas and rocks can be so light and airy. In comes Ettlinger again. Apparently, it’s limestone that makes Twinkies light. And that tasty cream center—it’s got to be milk, right? No. It’s made of shortening; there is absolutely no cream in the cream.
I have to say I was curious to know what Hostess, the makers of the Twinkie, thought about Ettlinger’s claims. Well, here’s the quote that ran in my newscast:
"Deconstructing the Twinkie is like trying to deconstruct the universe. We think the millions of people … would agree that Twinkies just taste great." says David Leavitt, Vice President Snack Marketing at Hostess.
The news story was inspired by Steve Ettlinger’s new book, Twinkie Deconstructed. Ettlinger uses the Twinkie to demonstrate where our processed food ingredients come from. Since the Twinkie is the product leader—yes, it’s a product and apparently, barely a food—it served as the perfect tool to show consumers what goes into our food.
Another newsworthy note—since so many of the ingredients come from overseas—there are hardly any regulations placed on them. We are all familiar with the recent paint issues from China. As for the Twinkie, many of the vitamins listed on its label come from China and are not regulated. There were a few other ingredients Ettlinger sourced, but he was unable to communicate with the agricultural or chemical manufacturer of those ingredients. They simply do not need to make themselves available.
One last word for all of us who fried a Twinkie at some point in our lives … I guess we didn’t make it any less healthy.