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A close-up of Twinkies

What exactly is  in a Twinkie, anyway?

Hostess is betting on a sweet comeback for Twinkies when they return to shelves this July. The company that went bankrupt after an acrimonious fight with its unionized workers last year is back up and running under new owners and a leaner structure. It says it plans to have Twinkies and other snack cakes back on shelves starting July 15, 2013.

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Based on the outpouring of nostalgia sparked by its demise, Hostess is expecting a blockbuster return next month for Twinkies and other sugary treats, such as CupCakes and Donettes. The company says that nearly everything about the cakes will be the same, but that the boxes will now bear the tag line “The Sweetest Comeback In The History Of Ever.”

“A lot of impostor products have come to the market while Hostess has been off the shelves,” says Daren Metropoulos, a principal of the investment firm Metropoulos & Co., which teamed up with Apollo Global Management to buy a variety of Hostess snacks.

Hostess Brands Inc. was struggling for years before it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in early 2012. Workers blamed the troubles on years of mismanagement, as well as a failure of executives to invest in brands to keep up with changing tastes. The company said it was weighed down by higher pension and medical costs than its competitors, whose employees weren’t unionized.

The Most Questionable Ingredients In A Twinkie

Like many other processed snacks, and baked goods in general, Twinkies contain eggs, sugar and water. However, experts consider most of the remaining ingredients to be…questionable.

1. Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour. This type of flour has been stripped of most of its nutrients through the refinement process. Then, certain nutrients are re-added, though many experts argue that many of these re-added nutrients aren’t the same as what was removed, and that many aren’t meant to be consumed by the human body.

2. High Fructose Corn Syrup. Most processed foods tend to contain this product, which is, essentially, a sugar substitute made from corn. Experts contend that high fructose corn syrup consumption is one of the factors that has contributed to higher obesity rates in this country.

3. Partially-Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil. This controversial ingredient is an engineered product that is unhealthier than any other real oil. According to MayoClinic, hydrogen oil increases your cholesterol and is more difficult to digest.

4. Dextrose. Dextrose is a form of glucose, a monosaccharide, or simple sugar. It is used in baked goods and other foods to promote browning. In bakeries and breweries, dextrose is used to provide food for the yeast so that the yeast can complete its fermentation process.

5. Soy Lecithin. Soy lecithin is an ingredient that is found in most commercially-produced baked goods, and is made from genetically modified soy. A compound of soy lecithin, phytoestrogen, which may promote an increased risk of breast cancer. Additionally, soy lecithin contain a compound called fenistein, which may have a negative effect on fertility, reproduction, and brain development.

6. Mono and Diglycerides. This engineered product helps to combine ingredients containing fats with those containing water, which aids in extending a food’s shelf life. Ingredients such as these have been associated with increased risk of numerous diseases, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

7. Cellulose Gum. Cellulose gum is extracted from wood pulp and purified cotton cellulose, and is used as a protein stabilizer and to add texture and mouthfeel to products.  It is used in many, many different products, from tobacco and paper to hair gels and laxatives.

8. Sodium Stearate. Sodium stearate is a highly functional material in cosmetic formulations. It can stabilize emulsions like lotions, it can make a product thicker, more viscous, and it can make a product have a creamy feel and appearance. Sodium stearate is also a major constituent of soap.

9. Calcium Sulfate. Calcium sulfate is a common industrial food additive that is used as an anti-foaming agent, a preservative, and a leavening, firming and anti-caking agent. The main sources of calcium sulfate are naturally occurring gypsum, which is is one of the main components of plaster and fertilizer, and anhydrite, which is a type of crystallized mineral.

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