As you may guess from its name, Funyuns Onion Flavored Rings are “fun food” snack offered by Frito-Lay, the division of PepsiCo. “Good food for the fun of it” says Frito-Lay’s trademark. Is it really “good food”? Hmm, let’s see… When I have spotted Funyuns my first association was with the real onion rings. Wrong! Although the label isn’t lying to you (that’s good!) please note: “onion flavored rings” are NOT onion. Then what are they? Well, it is highly processed food imitation based on cornmeal. Look for yourself.
Because there is only one potentially health-damaging food additive (red segment in the diagram) in this snack, Funyuns pose only low health risk of DDFI = 0.26 but also give you low nutritional value of DDNF = 0.87 (below 1.0). Please HELP building up product database of free trial version of Dye Diet Calculator. Simply type-in full name of a product of your choice, introduce the ingredients listed in the label and then hit “Calculate!” to see Health Risk and Nutritional Value of your product and save the results.
Junk food doesn’t always “automatically” mean “toxic.” Funyuns are not too bad in regard to the choice of food additives: It contains 12 formal nutrients (green segments in the diagram) including “enriched corn meal.” Whenever you see something “enriched” among ingredients, do not be fooled: This means that its perishable nutritious part was stripped off in processing and Vitamins B were artificially added, in an attempt to compensate the nutritional loss. Steel ground yellow cornmeal, which is common in the United States, has the husk and germ of the maize kernel almost completely removed. Therefore nutritional value of cornmeal you find in Funyuns is reduced to the one of starch. Onion powder, garlic powder and onion extractives are added to imitate real onion.
Food additives to avoid:
- Caramel color was a subject of recent CSPI petition to the FDA urged to prohibit caramel coloring which, when produced with use of ammonia at high temperatures, is contaminated with known carcinogens like 4-Methylimidazole (4-MEI). This resulted in Pepsi and Coca-Cola to change their technologies.
- While it is NOT listed as a red ingredient, partially hydrogenated soybean oil implies that you are about to eat some residual trans fat contaminants even if it is stated 0% in Nutrition Facts. “If the serving contains less than 0.5 gram, the content, when declared, shell be expressed as zero,” the FDA’s Trans Fatty Acids in Nutrition Labeling document says (see page 41502). See also the FDA page: What Every Consumer Should Know About Trans Fatty Acids.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is not a “red ingredient” neither. It is sodium salt of glutamic acid, one of the most abundant naturally occurring non-essential amino acids, which is used as flavor enhancer. There is no scientifically proven basis to state that consumption of small amounts of MSG may cause any health problems. However presence of MSG clearly indicates that you look at a “food surrogate.”
Bottom line. Funyuns Onion Flavored Rings is low health risk and low nutritional value snack food imitation which is very high in sodium (27%) and is NOT recommended especially for regular consumption. Funyuns should be avoided by children in particular, so moms, please pay attention! Tostitos and Wheat Thins Multigrain while made with NO immediately toxic food additives, they contain too much salt too. You may consider healthy granola bars or Odwalla Food Bars but they often contain too much added sugar. From my point of view, a fresh raw fruit with a handful of nuts or lightly dressed organic vegetable salad are much healthier snacking choices.