Toys or candy? Mixed messages put children at risk

Consumer Reports News: July 09, 2008 10:19 AM

As a parent of young children, I know how hard it is to get them to put the right things in their mouths and to keep the wrong things out. Now some companies are making that message harder to deliver.

Several years ago we found hard candy that looked like Lego bricks, the popular building-block toy. Those candy blocks are still on the market today where bulk candy is sold. We thought it was a bad idea then to make candy that looks like toys—we still do—but apparently Kellogg's doesn't. The cereal giant teamed up with the Lego toymaker on Lego Fun Snacks—colored, gummy candy blocks shaped like Lego bricks and sold at grocery stores. Our fear, of course, is that young children will get confused.

While some consumers are having fun with this ill-advised combination on YouTube, to safety advocates it's no laughing matter.

Kellogg's and Lego are not the only companies guilty of bad judgment. We found several other products on the market that send mixed messages to children:

  • Juice Bubbles Scented Bubbles come packaged in what looks like a kid's juice box. It's even labeled: "Orange Juice." But a smaller label on the box says,"For Blowing, Not for Drinking." It also says it's non-toxic. Good thing.
  • Madelaine "crayons" are milk chocolate wrapped up to look like the chunky coloring sticks. But you try to explain to your toddler why the little one can eat one type of crayon and not the other.
  • Hello Kitty candy perfume comes in a small pink plastic pump sprayer that looks like a perfume bottle. While the liquid candy inside is safe to ingest, we can't say the same for your favorite bottle of Chanel No. 5.

It's not illegal to sell candy that looks like toys or vice versa, but it's a really bad idea. (In the U.S. it is illegal to embed non-edibles in sweets.) Each year, about 15 children under the age of three choke to death on non-edibles. As parents, we work hard to keep our message clear. We expect no less from the companies that make products for children.

For more on choking hazards, see "6 tips to prevent a choking accident." —Don Mays

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