Halloween candy: How much is OK for kids to eat?

A court has decided that children under 13 can eat Halloween candy, but what exactly is allowed under legislation? Halloween candy: How much is OK for kids to eat? Last week, a federal court…

Halloween candy: How much is OK for kids to eat?

A court has decided that children under 13 can eat Halloween candy, but what exactly is allowed under legislation?

Halloween candy: How much is OK for kids to eat?

Last week, a federal court in Florida ruled that children under 13 can eat Halloween candy without parental supervision.

The decision drew mockery from parents and pushback from candy distributors, as well as criticism from legislators who said it violated children’s rights to free speech. But would it really be allowed?

Many bills regarding candy and trick-or-treating put forward in recent years have tried to protect kids from overindulgence. But recent research on how children process sugar has focused on the dangers of sugar ingestion by 4-year-olds and beyond.

The FDA classifies the average amount of sugar children consume each day at 78g. For comparison, the recommended amount of daily sugar is between 30g and 50g.

Schools with a “moderate serving” of chocolate bars recommended for under-12s, while the government agencies that oversee the distribution of all confectionery in this country maintain guidelines on how much candy the government considers acceptable: Children can take on average 1.5 times the amount of sugar they consume at home.

However, some levels of sugar consumption become associated with particular health effects – a recent study from Brigham Young University found that bingeing on candy is linked to obesity in men under 20. (Sadly, nothing stops that from happening when kids are allowed to consume more than the allowance set by the government.)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that children ages two to 19 should be encouraged to consume no more than 12 grams of sugar a day from all sources, including fruits, vegetables, grains, milk, and juice.

Previously, under-twos were largely allowed to take on limits of no more than 5g of sugar a day, a figure defined by the federal government as “partially sweetened soft drinks with more than 5g of added sugar”.

Other cities and states that have intervened in trying to limit kids’ exposure to sugar, including the California town of St. Helena, have found that though they may ban sweets, they cannot prevent them from drinking and eating sugary drinks. (A law requiring elementary schools to offer water in lieu of soda during the school day was overturned last year by the California supreme court.)

Experts who study children’s consumption have reported that the sorts of “too much candy” effects you might expect from teens have faded away as some children are already getting out of the lab and into the real world.

Children under 10 who didn’t start off eating chocolate bars and other kinds of sweets regularly may actually start to consume fewer of them. But the thresholds they’re supposed to be limited to may actually become too low. A different study in the Journal of Obesity found that some children may have been exposed to limits set too low when they were just infants, even moreso than adults.

For parents, many of the strategies for protecting children’s diets have shifted: restrictions on sugar-containing beverages have replaced limits on candy, milk and other foods the FDA has deemed acceptable. Restrictions on sugary beverages have reduced how much candy children consume compared to what they ate without restrictions.

Despite the government’s zero tolerance stance on sugar, research shows that getting kids to start eating less sugar later in life does not take away from the benefits kids receive from consuming large amounts of sugar in childhood.

Obesity rates in the US were slashed by 37% in the past 10 years, particularly among children, and the rate of low birth weight has dropped significantly, and although obesity rates among children continues to rise, it’s still a drop from where it was a few decades ago.

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