M&M’s are the guilty pleasure of many people around the world. No matter how hard you try, you can never get enough of them! However, have you ever wondered if these small chocolate delights are good for your health?

M&M’s were created in 1941 and were meant for soldiers who previously complained of their chocolate bars melting on the field. The two M’s stand for Forrest E. Mars, Sr. and Willian F.R. Murrie, the son of Hershey chocolate’s president. The partnership between the companies allowed Mars to use Hershey chocolate in their products. M&M’s are now extremely popular in more than 100 countries, and can be found in 33 different fillings.

The red M&M’s were banned in 1976 due to containing questionable dyes – for example, FD&C Red #2 is considered a carcinogen. However, the dyes were back in the candies by 1983. Customers are still urging Mars to stop using harmful dyes in their candies, and have even put an online petition for the cause. The CSPI recommendation states that all products containing harmful ingredients must show so on a warning label which should also list the risk of the 8 approved FD&C colors.

According to Dr. Jacobson from the FDI “The evidence that these petrochemicals worsen some children’s behavior is convincing. I hope that the committee will advise the agency to both require warning notices and encourage companies voluntarily to switch to safer natural colorings.” Here’s what M&M’s have listed on their label: Milk chocolate (sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, skim milk, milkfat, lactose, soy lecithin, salt, artificial color), sugar, corn starch, >1% corn syrup, dextrin, artificial colors (Blue 1 Lake, Red 40 Lake, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 1, Blue 2 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake, Blue 2),gum acacia.

Here are the harmful effects of the ingredients:

Soy lecithin – 93% of soy is GMO; affects fertility; causes breast cancer; may cause cerebral abnormalities.

Blue #1 – causes low blood pressure, hay fever, hives, allergic reactions, asthma;

Blue #2 – has been found to increase brain tumors in lab rats; supports abnormal cell development, causes hyperactivity in children;

Red #40 – causes swelling around the mouth and damage to the DNA, as well as hives and cancer;

Yellow #6 – causes hyperactivity, diarrhea, allergic reactions, vomiting, migraines, nettle rash and swelling of the skin;

Yellow #5 – causes hyperactivity, allergic reactions and cancer;

Gum acacia – can cause nausea, bloating, gasses and loose stool.

Even with these harmful effects, Mars hasn’t stopped using the harmful dyes in their products. Furthermore, their products were even declared safe by the FDA, but you should know that there are natural alternatives available.

In 2007, Forbes listed Mars’ annual income at $27.4 million dollars, so maybe it’s time they used this money to make a positive change in their products. In the meantime, avoiding M&M’s is your best course of action. Instead, try Equal Exchange, Sweetriot and Good Cacao dark chocolate bars which are better for your health.