Are worries about obesity killing Halloween?

By Ann Tracy Mueller

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2014 - With more than a third of America's children classified as overweight or obese, is the future of Halloween trick-or-treating threatened?

Should candy makers be worried?

It doesn't look like it, if we examine the amount of candy people plan to dole out to the monsters and munchkins knocking at their doors this year.

According to a National Confectioners Association (NCA) survey, 75 percent of Americans surveyed say they plan to hand out candy - to the tune of $2.5 billion in confectionary sales during the holiday season. That's a lot of sweet treats in the hands of the nation's wee ones.

Lets Talk Food

The children aren't the only ones who'll get a sugar buzz, though.

About 70 percent of parents plan to take their children trick-or-treating - and nearly 23 percent of the adults admit they'll rob their youngsters' goodie bags. The younger the child, the more likely moms and dads are to snatch the spoils.

Seniors and Midwesterners are the most generous treat givers. Of the respondents, seniors seem to cherish tradition the most, with 84 percent of those over 60 handing out goodies and this group the least likely to let the candy bowl go empty on Halloween. In the Midwest, 79 percent of those replying to the survey are giving candy on Halloween, compared to 76 percent in the South, 74 percent in the West and 71 percent in the Northeast.

Even with an increased focus on wellness, candy isn't likely to vanish from American diets anytime soon. Confectionery manufacturers in more than 40 states employ more than 70,000 workers at more than 1,000 facilities. Even with those numbers, candy makes up only 2 or 3 percent of the average American's diet.

Agri-Pulse contacted Susan Whiteside, vice president of communications for NCA, to ask if the nation's “obesity epidemic” was affecting candy sales this Halloween.

Whiteside mentioned the low candy percentage in the diet, saying the statistics tell us children and adults are already consuming candy in moderation.

So, what role do the holiday goodies play in the nation's obesity epidemic?

“Sugar is a key ingredient in candy and candy wouldn't be candy without it,” Whiteside said. “Even still, candy only contributes about 6 percent to added sugars in the diet. Regardless, given the complexity of our diets, a single ingredient cannot be blamed for obesity and obesity-related health concerns. The human body converts all excess calories to stored fat, regardless of the source. Candy is and has always been a treat to be enjoyed in moderation.”

For these reasons, Whiteside says the NCA doesn't see people cutting back on Halloween celebrations.

“What we have seen is childhood nutrition experts, like Dr. Stephen Daniels of the University of Colorado who was quoted in [the Oct.28] Wall Street Journal, saying ‘foods that are forbidden actually become more attractive' and that there is no need to ‘demonize [candy] in and of itself,” Whiteside said.

She also pointed to a comment last week by David Kessler, a former head of the Food and Drug Administration and leading influencer on food policy, who believes in education rather than regulation. Kessler said the government should “be a cheerleader” for eating healthy instead of a “finger-wagger.”

“We couldn't agree more; education is key,” Whiteside said. “And Halloween is the perfect time for parents to play a role in educating their own children about candy's role in a balanced diet.”

How do parents monitor their children's sweet treats at Halloween? Forty percent of moms and dads responding to the NCA survey say they limit the intake to a certain number of pieces of candy each day till it's gone, while 55 percent have a house rule requiring the Halloween haul to be shared.

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Looking for a resource for a healthy holiday? USDA's Healthy Meals Resource System Team Nutrition Halloween page points visitors to sites with food safety tips, celebration suggestions for children with food allergies or diabetes, and healthy treat options, such as individually wrapped carrots, apples or raisins.

Is Halloween headed to the grave?

Don't turn the porch light out yet. It sounds like the sweet-laden holiday is alive and well.

#30

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