Why would the president of a chocolate company head up a rally to help combat the childhood obesity crisis? Mars Chocolate president Debra Sandler recently spoke at the National Confectioner's Association meeting and expressed concern that candy makers need to "step up" before the government steps in.
According to Confectionary News, the Mars chief called for her company's competitors to put calorie information on the front of candy packages and to up their products' nutritional content -- right before the big Easter shopping season! Now that's some food for thought.
Before you pack those Easter baskets, check out these facts straight from the chocolate factory.
* A look at the Mars website reveals that in 2007 the company became the first chocolate manufacturer to voluntarily discontinue advertising and marketing directed at children. (Hence that lovelorn M&Ms commercial during the Super Bowl.) The company also supported legislation to revise school food nutrition standards.
* In 2009, Nestlé USA created the Healthy Kids Global Programme with the goal of raising nutrition, health and wellness awareness of school-age children around the world. The program focuses on "Improved knowledge and effective practice of healthy eating and regular physical activity," according to the company's website.
* The Kansas City, Mo.-based Russell Stover Candies is now the the country's leading producer of sugar-free and low-carb chocolates, boasting more than 50 products in the company's Sugar Free and Net Carb product lines.
* In 2012, Mars discontinued making king-sized versions of its candy bars as part of the company's pledge to the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation to eliminate 1.5 trillion calories by 2015. According to Business Insider, the move had some super-sizers in a tizzy.
* In 2012, the Hershey Company got into hot water when the FDA sent the Pennsylvania-based company a warning letter to change labels that touted vitamin and nutrient-fortified syrups. The letter cited the company's labels for "Hershey's Syrup + Calcium" and "Hershey's Syrup Sugar Free with Vitamin and Mineral Fortification" as being misbranded because they didn't meet the FDA's nutritional requirements to earn the definitions of "plus" and fortified." The company quickly complied with the appropriate label changes for the milk modifier.
* An Easter Bunny staple, one Cadbury Cream Egg has 150 calories. The seasonal treats also pack 20 grams of sugar and 6 fat grams. Meanwhile, Shape magazine ran down the calorie count on some popular chocolate Easter treats, including Hershey's Easter Kisses (25 calories each), two Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs (180 calories), and five Nestle Butterfinger Nesteggs (210 calories).
*According to the Daily Beast, the mother of all Easter treats is the large chocolate bunny. The average seven-ouncer packs more than 1,000 calories.
* In 2012, the Hershey Company debuted a healthier chocolate product called Hershey's Simple Pleasures. The treats contain 30 percent less fat than other leading milk chocolates.
* An ABC News report recently touted the health benefits of dark chocolate, citing its higher level of cocoa flavonoids, which have been found to combat bad cholesterol and lower blood pressure. Not only that, more and more kids are turning to the dark side with popular brands like M&Ms, Kit-Kat and Milky Way now available in dark varieties.
* And while chocolate gets a bad rap, it may not be the worst candy for kids -- at least according to your dentist. An Academy of General Dentistry spokesperson told World Dental magazine that toffees, sticky and chewy candies are the main culprits for tooth decay among children. Ditto for highly acidic candies such as Sour Patch Kids, Lemonheads and Warheads, which quickly attack tooth enamel. The magazine cites chocolate with nuts as a healthier alternative.
Victoria Leigh Miller is a freelance writer. She has been writing about parenting topics since 2001.