Are Those Rocks in Your Twinkies?

Despite the alarming number of chemicals and preservatives packed into this finger food, Ettlinger advised consumers "not to worry" and said hat Americans should "not be shocked" by the multitude of chemical ingredients.

"After all, all food is made of chemicals," he said. "Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, a lot of organic chemicals. These things are put together in different ways to get different types of food and shapes of food."

Go Ahead, Eat!

After he figured out what was inside a Twinkie you might think he would advise folks take a break from this dessert.

While Ettlinger said Twinkies aren't the devil they've been made out to be, he is not saying you should head out to your local 7/11 and gobble up as many as you would like.

"Twinkies are a dessert, they're a snack, they're a treat, and to have one once in awhile is fine," he said. "People ask me, 'Are Twinkies bad for you?' No. Are they good for you? Well, that's sort of a strange question. If you want something good for you go eat an apple, eat some zucchini, but don't expect a snack cake to be really, really good for you."

Ultimately, Ettlinger's study of the Twinkie is an inspection of all processed foods in America. He's even come up with his own name for the Twinkie-ization of American foodstuffs, the Twinkie nexus, to refer to the source of the materials used in these cakes.

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"These are chemicals that come from the most common chemicals made in our country and around the world -- sulfuric acid, lime, ethylene, propylene. In the United States, 14 of the top 20 chemicals are somehow used to make ingredients in Twinkies.

"The Twinkie nexus extends beyond our borders, though. These same chemicals come from all over the world, as well as the processes that are used to make them into things like vitamins, artificial colors and artificial flavors," he explained.

Still, despite his attempt to rescue the Twinkie from its rotten reputation, Ettlinger agrees with those who question the need to pack these pint-size delicacies with unpronounceable and unrecognizable ingredients.

"You have to wonder, why do Twinkies need 39 ingredients? Can't I make a cake at home with just a few ingredients? The answer is you can. You don't need the preservatives because if you bake well everybody is going to eat your cake really quickly," Ettinger said.

"I made a sort of a gourmet version of a Twinkie at home … Boy was that good. No aftertaste either."

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