Danny Tyree: Candy capitulation — Please say is ain’t so
According to ABC News, you should probably get ready for a take-no-prisoners “This is your brain on nougat” campaign.
While addressing the National Confectioners Association meeting in Miami, Debra Sandler (president of the North American division of Mars Chocolate) called on her colleagues to brainstorm preemptive measures to combat obesity and stave off government regulations such as those facing the soft drink industry.
I applaud Sandler’s good intentions, but I fear that the “give ‘em an inch, they’ll take 5th Avenue” principle will take effect. Lawyers will smell a PayDay, tell some Whoppers and seek redress of far more than 100 Grand. Cash-strapped states will see the confection business as a Life Saver, impose Powerhouse “sin” taxes, and do a Butterfingers job of handling the funds.
Mars Chocolate already plans to make calorie-count information more prominently visible on the front of its packaging. Next, candy producers will have to adorn their packages with colorful photos of “fun-size” dialysis machines, or “unobtrusive” blurbs such as “Hershey’s Kisses Now With Plenty of Tongue” and “While we’re talking Milky Way, did you realize we might be struck by an asteroid, and that you would be better off saying goodbye to your loved ones instead of stuffing your face with sweets?”
Mars and some of its largest competitors have already severely restricted advertising to children. I call this going above and beyond the call of duty. Look at the state of America in the 21st century. You can’t bully anyone except corporations. You can’t be made to feel uncomfortable about anything except COMFORT foods. And while a 10-year-old kid is too naive and vulnerable to realize he’s being used by Madison Avenue, a fetus in an ultrasound can use hand signals to indicate that (yep!) he’s definitely transgendered!
Perhaps the confectioners should outwit the politically correct bunch by beating them to the punch. I can see it now: “Nestle Crunch: Now made exclusively with rice from gay weddings.”
Margo Wooton, director of nutritional policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, has already said that Sandler’s gestures don’t go far enough. For one thing, Wooton would like to see candy banned from the checkout lanes in stores. So, businesses that have found an effective way of selling a legal product in order to pay the bills and keep their employees happy would have to operate with one hand tied behind their backs. I guess fairness and “redistribution of shelf” would demand that the space be given to items that need the extra push, such as 8-track tapes and beepers.
Wooton sees the displays as manipulative, but impulse buying for adults is as American as apple pie. (Coincidentally, the anti-sweets bunch is campaigning to have “Shut your pie hole” replaced with “Close your asparagus aperture” in the American vocabulary.)
And manufacturers/retailers are under no obligation to see that parents never have squabbles with their “gimme gimme” brats. Give in now and consumers will keep coming back with requests. (“Could you add some secret ingredient to my teenager’s Gummi Bears that make her clean her room, obey curfew and stop seeing that awful boy?”)
Sometimes you feel like a nut — and sometimes you just want to practice common sense moderation and luxuriate in a Snickers bar.
Danny Tyree welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org.