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With Possible Twinkie Come Back, America Narrowly Averts A Healthier Future

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TWINKIE HEALTH CRISIS
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The prospect of a Twinkie-free future has provoked longing for a mythologized American past, as if artificially sweetened cream and dyed yellow cake were the purest incarnation of the national identity.

But if Hostess, the brand behind the Twinkie, really does succumb to liquidation, which would spell the end of this iconic plastic-wrapped pastry, one group will be cheering its demise: those who view the Twinkie as a mortal threat to the American body -- a body whose dimensions have been expanding dangerously.

"The Twinkie embodies virtually everything wrong with the food supply," Dr. David Ludwig, director of the obesity program at the Boston Children's Hospital, told the Huffington Post.

The Twinkie sits at the intersection of several trends that have reshaped the American eating experience, not to mention our figures, experts say.

Bioengineered crops have produced ultra-cheap ingredients, including high-fructose corn syrup. Chemically engineered colors and smells have helped brands to steer us toward fat, salt and sugar. Major brands have unleashed marketing wizardry to target special slices of the population -- in this case, children. Nationally, more than one-third of all adults are considered obese, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control.

The contemplation of an America minus Twinkies began late last week, when Hostess Brands Inc. announced its intention to file for bankruptcy, and shed its assets and a legacy of years of debt problems, management turmoil, increasing labor costs and healthier eating habits.

Consumer panic ensued. At the Hostess Wonder Bread Bakery Outlet in Glendora, Calif., Twinkies sold out Monday afternoon, Patch reported. On eBay, boxes of Twinkies were listed for as much as $10,000.

By Monday, as the company went to bankruptcy court to begin the process of unloading its assets, a possible Twinkie salvation had emerged: Multiple investors expressed interest in buying the Twinkie brand, which last year racked up sales of some $68 million. Analysts said it is highly likely Hostess will eventually find a buyer.

But if Twinkies and other popular Hostess-brand snack foods survive their near death experience, relieving fans, health and obesity experts will not be rejoicing.

"It would be nice if they died and it could symbolize the end of an era, but alas it won't die," said Michael Jacobsen, the executive director for Center for Science in the Public Interest. "Even if it did, parents would be shoving other junk food into lunch boxes."

Indeed, health experts expressed skepticism that the elimination of Hostess and Twinkies would lessen the obesity epidemic. Even if the Twinkie were extinct tomorrow, its legacy will surely linger on, said Ludwig. The engineering and marketing that produced it has spawned thousands of other products, he added, fundamentally tainting how American food is processed and hastening the proliferation of artificial colors and ingredients.

"Even if Twinkies were to disappear, the food supply has only deteriorated in quality," Ludwig said. "They are emblematic but certainly not the extent of the problem."

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