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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Hangover: Candy's Hateful History

Posted By on Tue, Nov 1, 2011 at 8:19 AM

These children are about to glut themselves on a legacy of horror.
  • These children are about to glut themselves on a legacy of horror.

Seeing as how you're now in possession of several half-bags of fun-sized candy bars, or trying to convince your children that you're confiscating their haul because Smarties are a "sometimes" food, today might be a good time to fortify your resolve with Felisa Rogers' Salon.com piece on the tragic side of candy.

Candy was a very, very sometimes food up until the 20th century, Rogers writes, and not a big part of Halloween until the 1950s. In fact, through the middle ages, it was as much medicine as treat, a luxury for nobility rather than a midmorning snack for the common worker. That's until, of course, Spain invaded the Caribbean and brought sugar cane -- and African slaves -- to the islands. The post-Civil War Industrial Revolution helped sugar prices drop even lower, leading to the proliferation of candy factories where low-wage workers toiled in appalling conditions.

"The less the public knows about candy making, the better," the manager of a large candy factory told a representative of the Consumers' League of New York. The results of the league's 1928 survey of candy factories backed this assertion: Temperature in factories hovered around 45 degrees, and 14-hour days were common. The investigator was appalled by the sanitary conditions in some factories.

See? Candy bad. Except when it isn't.

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Jonathan Kauffman

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