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Easter Bunny: Public Enemy No. 1

The Chattering Classes On … The Easter Bunny: He has become an unwitting pawn in the increasingly surreal battle between nutritionists and the food industry in the run-up to Easter Sunday – when kids across America will get an all-day pass from their parents to feast on chocolate eggs, jelly beans and other candy.

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The Washington-based National Confectioners Association says there are 90 million chocolate Easter Bunnies manufactured each year and 16 billion jelly beans made especially for Easter. It’s the second top-selling confectionery holiday after Halloween. But some health commentators and critics have been more alarmist than others.

Hence, the kerfuffle.

This article, “Call To Turn Easter Bunny Into A Healthy Lifestyle Pin-Up,” published on Medical News Today, quotes a public health specialist, Dr. Nathan Grills. Grills says the Easter Bunny – whom he mostly refers to with the initials E.B. – “promotes energy-dense, nutrient-poor food to children.”

Grills believes the Easter Bunny’s greatest role awaits. “Given the E.B.’s potential for good, it could become a public health pin-up bunny, supporting campaigns that encourage children to eat the recommended daily five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit,” he writes. “Chocolate egg hunts could become Brussels sprout hunts.”

But he doesn’t stop there. He notes that excessive chocolate intake contributes to dental cavities and obesity, and further warns that obesity has been linked to “a significantly higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, gall bladder disease, liver disease, and heart disease and stroke, and to a small increased risk of cancer.”

In response, the Center for Consumer Freedom sent out its own seasonal Easter missive this week, entitled “Food Cops Arrest Easter Bunny.” The Washington-based organization’s name may confuse some people. It receives funding from and represents interests in the food and drinks industry, so it clearly has a vested interested in this issue.

It doesn’t pull its punches and readers may find its anagrams of questionable taste: “As parents and children make their final preparations for Easter Sunday, some nutritional nags are plotting an offensive against two enemies they say go hand-in-hand: the Easter Bunny and his stockpile of CMDs or Candies of Metabolic Destruction.”

Talking to Pay Dirt, J. Justin Wilson, senior researcher at the Center for Consumer Freedom, sounded quasi-scientific. “They want to disconnect food from pleasure because they dislike the very notion of food being a pleasurable experience,” he says. “It’s a frustratingly reductionist opinion of people’s cognitive abilities.”

Other commentators have been more judicious in their language. Susan Weiner, a New York-based dietitian, advocates exercise and sharing: “I don’t believe in depriving children of all candy. Baskets with mini-chocolate bunnies tend to be received really well by kids. But a lot of the big Easter Bunnies are made for five to six people.”

The Hershey Company has already thought of that with its milk chocolate “Snapsy” Bunny, which breaks apart into pieces like a chocolate bar, thereby encouraging sharing. The chocolate company is also partnering with Universal Pictures to celebrate Easter and the release of the animated movie Hop.

NCA spokeswoman Susan Smith says the White House is on-side. She says the annual Easter Egg Roll will be themed “Get Up & Roll” and says the White House lawn will have physical activity stations. Smith adds that take-home gifts for kids will include candy “because Mrs. Obama understands that all foods can fit into a healthy, happy, active lifestyle.”

Do you think candy companies get a bad rap?


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    • I love that book and the idea of painting ltilte rocks is just amazing! I’ll be doing that with Emma… she already got 3 huge chocolate eggs for Easter but has not idea if what she’s celebrating, having a book like that would make it easy. Thanks for sharing!

    • I called the bunny reusce lady this morning and shes going to keep her eyes open for another neutered male bunny who needs a new home..Sadly many people get bunnies for their little children at Easter without knowing much about bunnies. Bunnies are strong willed usually dont like to be picked up and will often scratch when picked up.

    • Spot-on, Jason H. And I would also point out that Easter candy is a reward for whatever vices (candy, dessert, for example) the kids gave up for Lent the preceeding 40 days.

    • I don’t agree with Dr. Grills approach at all. Easter is ONE DAY out of 365 – it’s the other 364 where parents and authority figures should be doing a better job of teaching the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Yes, some of the chocolate and candy rolls over with the frugal-minded youngsters who want to save some for later, but you could argue that behaviour is born out of moderation which is typically a more healthy mindset anyway. Depriving people of simple pleasures, chocolate being a primary one for kids, has long been proved to show increase in their desire for it – it is teaching the regulation and reducing the glut of overstimulation that needs to be the focus. I am a perfectly healthy adult in part because my parents regulated my access to processed “sweets” as a kid and explained why they did so. That should be the focus, not turning Easter into a vegetable-fest. You can talk about that idea all day as a theory, but it’s an absolute waste of time because in practice it would never be adopted due to the fact that vegetables are not seen as a treat by kids, and the whole premise of Easter is treat-based.

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