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Candy doesn’t have to come with cancer

April 8, 2023

European sensibilities are coming for perhaps the most saccharine symbol of springtime in the U.S.

Barbara Leonard

By Barbara Leonard

San Diego-based editor at Courthouse News since 2010. Has an AP Stylebook subscription and knows how to search it.

In honor of an upcoming religious holiday for which Courthouse News doesn’t provide any paid time off, I wanted to write about Peeps. The squishy, sugar-coated treats tend to be in the air this time of the year anyway, but somehow this marks the first time the word “peep” is being mentioned in a Courthouse News article without reference to allegations of sexual perversion.

Undoubtedly, this admission might cost me some readers, but if you are still following, I want to direct your attention to a legislative bill that will go before the California Assembly on Tuesday.

Sponsored by Democrat Jesse Gabriel, Assembly Bill 418 would bar the manufacture or sale of food products containing four chemical additives already banned in Europe because they have been linked to cancer. Sadly for the children of California visited by the Easter Bunny, Just Born Quality Confections uses two of these chemicals — titanium dioxide and Red Dye No. 3 (otherwise known as erythrosine) — to give Peeps, Hot Tamales and some of their other products their luminous sheen.

The Washington Post, which has some skin in the game (it runs an annual Peep diorama contest; still not writing about perverts), quoted Assemblyman Gabriel as promising that he is not the granola-fed killjoy that America must envision him to be.

“They still produce Skittles in other parts of the world. What they do is they take out these toxic ingredients, and they replace them with something else,” Gabriel told the Post. “What we really want is for these companies to make the same minor modifications to their recipes that they made in Europe and elsewhere.”

The argument from the candy industry caught my eye in particular. And I’m paraphrasing here, but it sounded like he said maybe Americans just like the taste of cancer? He very well may have said that, because the Post paraphrased as well: “Tastes vary across cultures, it said, meaning just because a candy is accepted by Europeans doesn’t mean it will be received well in the United States.”

True, Americans are astonishingly bad at distinguishing macaroons from macarons, but we are talking about orange Skittles here. I think we can afford to spin the flavor wheel. Consider also that, just as Americans and Europeans have different taste buds, you can say the same thing about Californians and the rest of the country. Avocado toast may have gone mainstream, and you can get a sound bath in New York now, but let's just say there's only one city here that proudly is advertising its hot dog and spaghetti dish as Mediterranean.

Just Born at least appears up to the Golden State's challenge, telling the Post that its development team is looking for other options.

While they’re at it, maybe they can make it so that the whole box of Peeps doesn’t calcify like it just saw a Medusa at the first tear of the plastic wrapping.

Happy Easter. Hit me up if you are interested in Peep diorama collabs.

Follow @bleonardcns
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