Candy hearts aren't always kid-friendly, child finds
// Victoria Fawkes

When celebrating the spirit of the Valentine’s Day season, many people like to indulge in the chalky little conversation hearts everyone loves to hate. But what if those sugary confections that children come to know and love in grade school suddenly weren’t so innocent?

That’s what little 12-year-old Ciara Bush of North Highlands, California discovered when she discovered a candy in her bag that declared the recipient had “Nice Tits”. The racy candy was pulled from a bag of hearts bought by her mother at a local discount store. However, Bush was hardly flattered by the heart’s sentiment, and showed it to her parents, who were understandably shocked that something so mature had been packaged in a Valentine’s Day treat made for kids.

Derrick Deanda, Bush’s father, was so concerned by the heart’s message that he contacted the distributor of the candy, Sweethearts. Because of the racy nature of Deanda’s allegation, that Sweethearts answered his email quickly and requested that he mail the entire bag back to them so they could trace the source of the naughty heart.

Luckily for Sweethearts, Deanda does not plan to sue; he simply wanted to make sure parents were watching what their children were getting: “I wanted to bring it to everybody’s attention,” said Deanda. Sweethearts believes this was an isolated incident, since no other similar cases have been reported in the area.

So the question remains: how did a single racy conversation heart find its way into the waves of kid-friendly hearts that Sweethearts churns out every Valentine’s Day? The cause of the scandal may have been a simple mistake, as Sweethearts also manufactures a line of candy hearts aimed towards adult customers. It’s likely that the offending heart simply got mixed in with the candy hearts made for all audiences instead of just the adult ones by accident.

Despite the company acknowledging the mix-up as a mistake, Sweethearts stands by the claim that they are a company that provides a seasonal favourite for celebrators of all ages. Starting in late February through mid-January of the next year, about 100,000 pounds of conversation hearts are made a day, which then sell out in a little over six weeks.

Candy hearts have been around for quite some time, as is the case with the distributor of the offending heart. Sweethearts has been providing customers with cheekily printed hearts since 1847, but a simple “Be Mine” doesn’t go as far as it used to. During the 1990s, technology inspired new messages for hearts, such as “Fax Me” and “Email Me”. In recent years, Sweethearts has updated their hearts, with messages like “Text Me” and “Tweet Me”.

Although the Sweethearts candy heart debacle was on a relatively small scale, over the years, many other scandals have come to the public’s attention involving products marketed to children that were seen to be inappropriate.

In 2009, a “toy” called the Peekaboo Pole Dancing Kit was discovered in a Tesco store, one of Britain’s biggest department stores. It included a collapsible metal pole, play money for “tips”, and “sexy dance garter”. The toy was listed under the Toys & Games section of Tesco’s website, but was moved to the Fitness section of the website after complaints from customers.

La Senza, a company best known for lingerie and intimate apparel, has also come under criticism for a line of underwear aimed at girls younger than ten. The line includes lacy crop tops and underwear made to resemble their adult lines. At the time, David Davies, a Conservative MP, claimed La Senza was "willing to make profits at the expense of public morality.” He explained, “[England] currently [has] the highest level of teenage pregnancy in the whole of Europe and the last thing we need is to encourage further sexual experimentation in young children."

//Victoria Fawkes, staff writer
//Graphics by Rachel Gamboa

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