I found myself trying to come up with an appropriate term for an that ran on SmartMoney’s website this past Monday. The terms “yellow journalism” and “tabloid journalism” were a bit too harsh, although the misleading headline had me leading toward those descriptors.

I found myself trying to come up with an appropriate term for an article that ran on SmartMoney’s website this past Monday. The terms “yellow journalism” and “tabloid journalism” were a bit too harsh, although the misleading headline had me leaning toward those descriptors.
After all, when a headline such as “10 Things Candy Makers Won’t Tell You,” stares readers in the face, it suggests that the confectionery industry is hiding something from the public.
Take the first item, under the subhead, “The economy can’t shake us.” Noting that consumer confidence is low and unemployment high, this segment of the article points out that confectionery sales were up 4.3% this year through May. Unlike big ticket items, Americans “are not giving up their Snickers, Reese’s or M&M’s.”
OMG! Is the implication here that because the confectionery industry is doing well in a struggling economy, that’s a bad thing? So, instead of congratulating the industry on having the foresight to keep confections affordable to all through timely investments in technology and automation, author Jilian Mincer points out that since 2008 per capita consumption has risen to nearly 25 lbs. (It still falling short of its U.S. peak in 1997 when it was 26.7 lbs., but who needs context?). Shame on you, America!

Now, I may actually agree that the confectionery industry doesn’t get enough publicity for employing people while other industries are cutting back. But to imply that because consumers seek comfort through candy during tough times, that’s obviously a nasty way to success. Help me here. Obviously, according to SmartMoney, a candy maker, operating a profitable business is a bad thing.
The second subhead goes even further about what evil lurks behind the candy counter: “Those taxes aren’t high enough.” After pointing out that 30 states have taxes on candy that run as high as 7%, Mincer draws attention to research contending such an amount won’t decrease consumption. According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture study, there needs to be a 10% increase in prices to cut consumption by 12.6%.
Why sure, let’s kill off more businesses, create more unemployment by decreasing sales growth. Candy must be inherently bad, so we need to tax it heavily.
The writer then cites the cigarette tax, which runs as high as $3 in some states, and how that has helped cut the rate of teen smoking. Candy, of course, belongs in the same category as killer cigarettes.
Now the third secret is really shocking: “You’re paying more for less.” In this instance, Mincer points out that Nestle’s new Skinny Cow product contains only 120 calories. Nevertheless, Nestle ― and the industry ― has produced these lower-caloried products by cutting portion sizes.
According to Mincer, the industry has “cut the portion sizes ― but not the prices, meaning health-conscious candy buyers are paying proportionally more for less candy.” Sorry, but I’m confused now. In going to portion-control sizes, something “weight-loss experts have advocated for years,” Mincer is upset they’re not getting enough candy for the buck.
Oh, wait, wasn’t the industry criticized earlier for making confections affordable? I’m getting confused. Evil’s everywhere.
Secret No. 4: “Our candy may have more than sugar.”
Darn, I thought candy makers were going to be able to keep that a secret. I mean, why should we tell the public that certain candies contain nuts, nougat (dairy), caramel, chocolate, natural flavors, gelatin (oops, that may be a bad thing, although I thought Jell-O was still acceptable).
Here’s the kicker: “Consumers have long been warned about the dangers of lead paint, but few know that lead levels in chocolate products can also run high.” Admitting that lead can turn up in trace amounts in many foods (Trace amounts are everywhere in plant-based foods on this planet), Mincer points out that in 2004, chocolate bars had among the highest lead levels of 280 items surveyed by the FDA. She then cites a recall involving Dagoba Organic Chocolate in 2006 and excessive lead levels in chocolate.
I know something about the Dagoba Organic Chocolate recall, but that’s a conversation for another time. As I understand it, the current lead guideline, as enacted in 2006, sets a guidance level for lead in confectionery at 0.1 parts per million (ppm), an 80% reduction from the previous limit and the strictest standard in the world.
And yes, there were incidents involving candies produced in Mexico having high lead contents, some of them stemming from using chilies processed in lead-containing clay pots, some from films containing lead, some from high lead contents in the chilies themselves.
This industry isn’t perfect. Nevertheless, it’s adamant about ensuring good manufacturing and food safety protocols. But to imply, at least initially, that the dangers of trace lead amounts are as dangerous as lead paint? Are we stretching the truth here a bit? Have I scared you now?
Mincer does backtrack slightly in this segment later in the article, confirming that trace elements of lead do exist in many foods. Nevertheless, she goes on to quote a researcher in California who says that one would have to eat one-and-a-half milk chocolate bars each day “to put your lead intake about California’s recommendations for what is considered safe.”
Does this mean one-and-a-half milk chocolate bars each day for one week, one month, one year? From what I’ve researched, lead concentration of chocolate can run as high as 70 ng/g for chocolate products and 230 ng/g for manufactured cocoa. The World Health Organization’s tolerable daily limit for lead consumption is 200,000 ng.
Shall I go on? I’d like to, because there are six more of these “secrets that candy makers won’t tell you” that carry the same tone. But you’re busy and I need to calm down ― bad for my blood pressure.
So be aware! As I’ve warned before, the confectionery industry seems to be on the radar screen as a target for misinformation. All of us need to be well prepared to counter these slick sleights of hand (and word), which ― as evidenced by the SmartMoney article ― can come from anywhere.
One last thing, SmartMoney doesn’t look so smart to me anymore.