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The Twinkie Myth

Do Twinkies really last forever?

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Twinkies

Twinkies

Photo by Christian Cable [flickr]

The general consensus when it comes to food is that the better it tastes, the worse it must be for you. So, it comes as no surprise that one of America's most favorite snack foods has suffered from some of the most outlandish rumors. Twinkies, the small, yellow, cream filled snack cakes made by Hostess, have suffered rumors about their longevity and ingredients for decades.

The Myth

The details of the myth may vary, but the basic story goes that Twinkies are made with all chemical ingredients and no actual food products, so they will stay fresh for decades. Some even go so far as to say that a Twinkie can survive a nuclear war. This urban legend was perpetuated when a science teacher in Maine kept one atop his chalk board for 30 years. Although the Twinkie turned rather brittle, the teacher claimed the Twinkie sill appeared fresh and edible.

Feeding off of the rumor that Twinkies are made with all chemical ingredients, some claim that Twinkies are not even truly baked. This rumor claims that Twinkies are produced by a chemical action that causes the chemical ingredients to foam when combined and then set. After all, if there is no real food in a Twinkie, then it doesn't need to be baked, right?

The Reality

Twinkies do in fact contain real food, they are truly baked, and the official shelf life is a mere 25 days. After this time, the Twinkie will continue to exist (as proven by the science teacher in Maine), but will diminish greatly in taste and texture.

It is true that 25 days is a considerably longer shelf life than most baked good, but this is achieved by avoiding the use of dairy products and the air-tight cellophane wrapper. Rather than being made with real cream, the vanilla cream filling in Twinkies is made with shortening, sugar, eggs, flavoring, and stabilizers, which spoil at a much slower rate.

Although Twinkies do contain some artificial ingredients (such as chemical stabilizers, artificial flavors, coloring, and preservatives), they are not 100 percent chemically comprised, as some have claimed. Twinkies also contain many real food ingredients, such as flour, sugar, eggs, and canola oil.

Further squashing the Twinkie "chemical cake" myth, Twinkies are baked just as any other snack caked or baked good. The brown bottom of the cake is actually on top as it bakes, which is why it achieves it's golden brown color. After baking, the cakes are injected with vanilla cream and inverted so that the pale, golden yellow dome becomes the top.

Despite the extreme urban legends surrounding Twinkies, their reputation their reputation appears to have gone unharmed. Twinkies are one of the most popular snack cakes in America and over 500 million are produced every year. At that rate of consumption, we can safely say that despite the shelf life, Twinkies just don't last that long!

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