Press Releases

Landmark Settlement Protects Children from Lead-Candy Risks

Mars and Hershey Among Candy Makers Agreeing to Strong Protections for Children’s Health 

CA – In a landmark agreement signed today,
major candy makers including subsidiaries of Mars and Hersheys have for the first time agreed to strict standards
for protecting children from lead exposures in candies imported from
Mexico. Government officials and
health advocates have long known of the lead-poisoning risks to children from
some imported candies, but today’s settlement of a lawsuit brought nearly two
years ago by the Environmental Health Coalition (EHC), the Center for
Environmental Health (CEH), the California Attorney General, the Los Angeles
City Attorney and the Alameda County District Attorney is the first binding
agreement that forces the industry to test their products to insure that candy
does not pose a health risk to children.

“Today’s agreement is a great victory for
children’s health,” said Michael
Green, Executive Director of CEH. “Parents deserve to know that
the candy that their children eat is safe, and children deserve to be protected
from lead.”

The lawsuits on lead in candy were filed
in July 2004 against over thirty candy makers under California’s Proposition
65 law, which requires warnings on products that can expose the public to
cancer-causing substances or reproductive toxins. Among the companies signing
the settlement today are some of the world’s largest candy makers and the three
leading sellers of popular spicy candies from Mexico. The
three are Effem Mexico, a
subsidiary of the U.S.-based Mars candy company; Grupo
Lorena, owned by U.S.-based Hersheys; and the Mexican-based Dulces Vero company.

The candy makers agreed to reducing lead
in their products to less than 100 parts per billion of lead. The companies also
agreed to contribute to a fund that will be used for outreach on reducing lead
risks to California communities that could be most
at-risk from lead candy exposures, a fund to assist smaller companies in
complying with the agreement, and a fund to provide lead testing equipment used
for candy testing. The companies will also pay penalties and attorney fees
totaling $954,000, including $100,000 civil penalties and $379,000 in payments
in lieu of penalties, and the remainder in investigative costs and attorneys fees.

Based in California and in Mexico, EHC has long been leading the
fight to eliminate lead risks from imported candies. Last fall, a bill (AB 121)
sponsored by EHC that would make it illegal to sell lead-tainted candy in
California was
signed into law by the governor. Standards for lead levels under that law are to
be released in

July, and the groups involved in today’s
settlement believe that their agreement will form the basis for the state’s
standards and help fund implementation of the law.

EHC’s Leticia Ayala directs the organization’s
lead campaign and said, “These two victories go hand-in-hand.  AB121 created the
law, but the settlement signals the willingness of the candy manufacturers to
start making the necessary changes and provides funds to implement the law.  The
settlement is historic because it provides for funds to assist smaller Mexican
candy companies to come into compliance to prevent children from consuming
contaminated candies anywhere in the U.S. or Mexico.”

Along with today’s victory, CEH’s longstanding work to protect children’s health has
resulted in elimination of health risks from toxic metals such as arsenic in
children’s playground equipment, lead in lunchboxes, lead in jewelry, and lead
in baby powder products.  For more information on CEH’s work with lead in candy and other consumer products, please click here.