The Scariest Part of Halloween? Sugar!


Trick or treat? Here comes that holiday when we unfetter the alter egos of our children, open doors in communities that otherwise might not see much of each other, and sanction gross over-consumption of one of the worst things for any body, young or old: sugar.

On the one hand it’s a time of wild abandon when children find their hearts’ desires filled at every door step. On the other, it’s a concerning tradition for those of us who know the all-too-real dangers of sugar—a market now worth $2.2 billion according to the National Retail Federation. In a Washington Post Magazine article earlier this month, Joe Heim takes a long look at the candy industry and how consumer health advocacy groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) are taking it on:

No one wants a world without candy — a world without candy is no world at all. But advocates say something has to give in the battle between health and choice. And the fate of the growing U.S. candy industry, which went from $25.8 billion in sales in 2003 to almost $34 billion last year, may tell us something about where America is headed in terms of health, regulations and the freedom to choose whatever we want to eat whenever we want to eat it."

Pleas to take candy out of school by groups like CSPI, Heim explains, are met by placating rhetoric from candy industry reps claiming that candy can be a part of a balanced diet — in other words, it’s a “sometimes food.” Blatant advertising to children and candy-laden check-out lines in supermarkets placed at the eye level of a 6-year-old say otherwise, but there is some common sense truth to the power of household limitations. John Oliver chimed on the issue this week with an absolutely brilliant (is he ever not?) look at the candy industry and added-sugar politics:

Oliver begins by rattling off a number of alarming statistics of recent research on the dangers of sugar, and takes on industry groups like the National Sugar Association and the National Corn Refiners Association who, among other things, make a perennial practice of denying current research and attempting to exonerate sugar as a culprit for disease and poor health.

Roberto A. Ferdman of the Washington Post, gives a great synopsis of Oliver’s piece and explains the sugar industry’s outlook on the newly proposed FDA added sugar label:

A letter written last month on behalf of the American Bakers Association, American Beverage Association, American Frozen Foods Institute, Corn Refiners Association, International Dairy Foods Association and National Confectioners Association pleads with the FDA to reconsider the proposed change. At a public meeting held earlier this summer, a representative for the American Frozen Food Institute said he believes ‘certain aspects of the proposal lack some merit, particularly the addition of added sugar.’ Andrew Briscoe, the president of the Sugar Association, expressed a similar reluctance about the additional labeling, too. ‘There is no preponderance of evidence to justify an added sugar label,’ he said at the meeting."

Oliver continues to note the absurdity of denying the presence of added sugar in a product through labeling by pointing out that the FDA0-proposed label would be in grams; a completely unfathomable concept to the average American:

The only reason the beverage people want sugar to be measured in grams instead of teaspoons is that people understand what a teaspoon is. No one understands the metric system. Which is why this proposed FDA food label is missing the point.”

True to comedic form, Oliver concludes that the labels should show the measure of added sugar in circus peanuts, and asks that we all tweet our food manufactures to reveal the hidden sugars with the hashtag #ShowUsYourPeanuts.

Oliver’s satire is just another way of getting to the root of the solution to our nation’s sugar problem. By simultaneously holding big food companies accountable for the sugar that they push in their products while raising national awareness about the undeniable research on the dangers of sugar (without the sugar industry’s media spin), our country will take a giant step toward quitting the sugar habit.

PHOTO: via flickr

Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson


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