Candy is bad for you and often unethical. It’s not even very satisfying. But here’s the thing: My mouth loves it. Three sentences into writing about candy, my salivary glands are spilling slobber. I’m craving a king-size Kit-Kat, or at least a bite of Krackle.
Last week, the Huffington Post blog alerted us once again to an ancient evil long practiced by the mega-confectioners that rule Halloween: Candy, like nearly everything that comes in a package, is made with lots of palm oil, a.k.a. orangutan blood. You probably know pervasive palm products arrive in our homes thanks to rainforest habitat hack-downs and horribly treated workers. But! Buying less candy is NOT the answer. Why not? Because — as fellow Gristfellow Eve Andrews reminded us in an story about the absurdity of lamenting toast’s environmental impact — conscious eating does not equal life hating.
The palm oil news (newsflash: not news) is disappointing but far from surprising. These days, candy makers serve up more tricks than treats. They trick well-intentioned buyers with meaningless green labels and fat-free candy corn. A few years back, Hershey’s got caught tricking foreign students into a “summer work and travel” program that’s effectively a summer of slavery in the company’s packing plants.
Earlier this week, funny guy John Oliver brilliantly reminded us how the sugar industry sneaks sugar into, well, everything, exacerbating our well-documented health problems. His point, though, was one Grist made four years ago, with a piece called “In defense of candy“: The problem is not sweets, it’s the candification of the rest of our food — from high-fructose corn syrupy drinks to mountains of sweetener in all types of secretly sugary packaged foods (like “healthy” granola bars and freezer pizza).
So: Big Candy is about as evil as the rest of Big Food, but candy itself is most definitely not the problem. And, even if it were, we’re not about to forego gobblin’ up Gobstoppers in our goblin suits this Hallow’s Eve. Giving out bullshit-healthy “treats” like Nutri-Grain bars is a good way to get your house TP’ed. Taking the actual-health-food route isn’t any better: It’s Halloween. (Ask your dentist if anyone likes her better for handing out baby carrots.)
Which all begs the question: What sweets do we buy for trick-or-treaters (and then inevitably keep for ourselves to snarf all evening and into the next week)? Spendy ethical chocolate, perhaps from a fair-trade cooperative? Soulless vegan M&M knockoffs? Home-cooked almond joy?
These are all yummy options for the mindful sweet-tooth, but is your 7-year-old neighbor in a Batman costume really going to notice he’s eating a carefully crafted eco-candy in the three-second interval between grabbing the wrapper and emptying its contents directly into his esophagus?
The HuffPost article misses the mark. After painstakingly describing the myriad threats palm oil poses to life and the climate, Diana Donlon of the Center for Food Safety earnestly touts a list of less tricky treats that won’t cost the planet as much, but will probably cost your wallet more than you want to spend on candy.