Salt water taffy is the official state candy of New Jersey.

June 16th, 2014 was a monumental day for New Jersey, for that was the day a bill was approved to make salt water taffy the state’s official candy.

The legislation was proposed by a group of 70 fifth grade students from Samsel Upper Elementary School in Sayreville, NJ who were inspired by a presentation made to them by State Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville) about how a bill becomes a law (CBS).  Said Wisniewski,  “I commend the Samsel Upper Elementary School students for the creative way they have taken their civics lesson and made it real with their suggestion to introduce this bill.” (Cape May County Herald).  The bill passed by a vote of 61-7-9 (Cape May County Herald).

The fact that a group of middle-schoolers could get a law passed is a testament to the power of collective resolve and ambition.  Even more inspiring, however, is the reason behind these budding activists’ movement. Tyler Graham, a student at Samsel Upper Elementary, suggested that declaring a state candy would attract tourists back to New Jersey’s boardwalks, many of which are still reeling from the effects of Superstorm Sandy. We happen to agree.

Indeed, salt water taffy and New Jersey beaches go way back.  The chewy treat was allegedly born after a storm caused flood damage to a beach town candy store, contaminating the taffy supply with salt water. The owner sold his taffy to a curious customer, and the rest, as they say, is history (CBS).  How poetic it is that a piece of New Jersey’s past may be the key to helping it rebuild its future.

Although this may seem to be an unconventional order of business for lawmakers, it is not the first time that an official state candy has been proposed.  In 2008, Representative Mike Armstrong of Washington presented a piece of legislation which would declare Aplets and Cotlets, an apple and walnut treat resembling Turkish Delight, as the state candy of Washington.  Ironically, Rep. Armstrong was also presented on behalf of a group of middle-schoolers.  Aplets and Cotlets are produced by Liberty Orchards in Cashmere, WA, and are regarded by locals as a symbol of American values. However, Rep. Armstrong’s proposition was met with much resistance by fans of Almond Roca, another confectionary favorite of Washingtonians which itself was nominated as the official state candy back in 2001 (The Seattle Times, Video). To date, Aplets and Cotlets are not a Washington state symbol (Washington State Legislator).

Aplets and Cotlets.  Photo via Micah & Heather's Weblog

Aplets and Cotlets. Photo via Micah & Heather’s Weblog

It would appear that even candy can be a topic of vigorous debate among legislators.  Our applause to New Jersey for passing the state candy bill and making the U.S. sweeter one state at a time. We hope other states get on board soon.  What would be the official state candy where you are from?  Comment below!

 

References

(2009). House State Government & Tribal Affairs Committee. Retrieved JUly 24, 2014 from http://www.tvw.org/index.phpoption=com_tvwplayer&eventID=2009010123

Assembly Passes Bill to Make Salt Water Taffy New Jersey’s State Candy. (2014, June17).Cape May County Herald .

N.J. State Assembly Approves Bill To Make Salt Water Taffy Official State Candy – CBS NewYork. (2014). CBS New York. Retrieved July 24, 2014, from http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2014/06/16/n-j-state-assembly-approves-bill-to-make-salt-water-taffy-official-state-candy/ater-taffy-official-state-candy/

State Symbols . (n.d.). default. Retrieved July 24, 2014, from http://www.leg.wa.gov/symbols/pages/default.aspx

Washington state candy: a sweet battle over fruits and nuts. (2008, December 31). The Seattle Times.

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The controversy surrounding sugar only seems to be growing each year, leaving the the confectionery industry with a quandary regarding the use of sweeteners in its products.

There are multiple sugar substitutes available such as honey, fruit sugar and high fructose corn syrup. However, each has downsides and many are no healthier than conventional sugar.

Stevia, however, is different from most other sugar substitutes: it has zero calories and is actually sweeter than conventional sugar. Coca Cola has already put its support behind stevia, working hard since the mid 2000s to legalize and develop rebaudioside A, an extract of stevia. The company also has exclusive rights to develop and sell rebaudioside A in beverages, leading PepsiCo to develop rebaudioside D, another steviol glycoside.

Sugar Substitutes

Sugar Substitutes

The soft-drink industry is using the anti-sugar movement as an opportunity to expand and diversify their product range: Coca Cola has released Coke Life in countries in South America and Europe, and plans to bring it to the US by the end of this year. PepsiCo, not to be outdone, is set to release a stevia-sweetened version of Sierra Mist in the fall.

Coca Cola partnered with Cargill, the makers of the increasingly popular Truvia® branded products, to research and develop rebaudioside A, with both companies successfully petitioning the FDA to lift its ban on stevia extracts as food additives. PepsiCo co-developed rebaudioside D with Whole Earth Sweetener, a subsidiary of Merisant, the sweetener subsidiary of Monsanto. Merisant’s PureVia®, launched as a competitor to Cargill’s Truvia®, has met success in Europe, though it has not been as successful at home.

Fresh Stevia Rebaudiana and sugar in a spoon

Stevia leaves

Production of stevia is growing at a substantial rate as well, with some tobacco farmers switching to the new crop for which they anticipate a large market. Some say that stevia may one day, in the not to distant future, account for up to one third of the $58 billion sweetener industry.  Given that stevia is relatively new to the marketplace, it is difficult to determine whether it is more expensive to use as a sweetener than sugar. Despite this, the price seems advantageous enough to the soft-drink industry.

While many products on the shelves of supermarkets today may claim to be sweetened with stevia, it is actually a misnomer. Stevia, a plant whose leaves were used as a sweetener by ancient South Americans is currently banned by the US Food and Drug Administration, which has named concerns over its effects on “blood sugar and…the reproductive, cardiovascular, and renal systems.” Instead, these products are sweetened with steviol glycosides, purified extracts from the stevia plant, and are simply marketed as ‘stevia’ giving it a more wholesome, ‘all natural’, image.

One critique of products sweetened with steviol glycosides is their sometimes-bitter aftertaste. Coca Cola has addressed this issue by mixing in sucrose. Of course, this only solves half of the problem, as more than half of the sweetener is sugar. However, research is currently underway to eliminate this bitter aftertaste, meaning that stevia extracts could very well become the healthy sugar alternative that the confectionery industry needs.

 

Julian Sahyoun

 

Sources

https://cspinet.org/new/pdf/stevia-report_final-8-14-08.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebiana

http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Regulation/Stevia-sweetener-gets-US-FDA-go-ahead?utm_source=copyright&utm_medium=OnSite&utm_campaign=copyright

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-24/growers-dump-tobacco-for-stevia-see-58-billion-market.html

http://www.stevia.com/Stevia_article/Stevia_Sweetener_of_Choice_for_Future_Generations/2413

http://blog.candy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/sugar-infograph-png-011.jpg

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/healthyeating/9987825/Sweet-poison-why-sugar-is-ruining-our-health.html

http://herbs.org/greenpapers/controv.html#stevia

http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/Transparency/Basics/ucm214864.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stevia

http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/05/31/us-cocacola-cargill-idUSN3124162820070531

https://truvia.com/pdfs/maki_et_al_DM_2008.pdf

http://www.healthy.net/Health/Article/FDA_Approves_Stevia_as_a_Safe_Food_Additive/8199

http://www.fda.gov/ucm/groups/fdagov-public/@fdagov-foods-gen/documents/document/ucm403848.pdf

http://www.ift.org/food-technology/past-issues/2011/april/features/ensuring-the-safety-of-sweeteners-from-stevia.aspx?page=viewall

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/w_DietAndFitness/sweet-nothings-artificial-sweeteners-splenda-equal-sweetn-low/story?id=16548908

http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/FoodAdditivesIngredients/ucm397725.htm#Steviol_glycosides

http://www.businessinsider.com/stevia-natural-zero-calorie-sweetener-2014-6

https://www.tum.de/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/long/article/29621/

http://fortune.com/2014/06/27/zevia-pepsi-coke/

http://www.beveragedaily.com/Manufacturers/PepsiCo-CEO-slams-maniacal-cola-focus-says-Stevia-does-not-suit-category

http://designyoutrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Coke.jpg

http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20130330/ISSUE01/303309964/pure-via-takes-on-truvia-in-the-non-sugar-bowl

http://news.morningstar.com/articlenet/article.aspx?id=656951

http://globalsteviainstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Steviawithsugarinspoon.jpg

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by TammyJo Eckhart

Are you sure what you’re eating is chocolate?

I run a blog called “The Chocolate Cult[1]”, and we’ve tested products from 201 different brands and companies in our five-year history.  We have a fairly broad definition of chocolate and chocolate-related products — if it contains at least one ingredient that comes from the cacao tree or the cocoa bean, we consider it to be “chocolate.”  However, when it comes to foods, candies, and drinks, we also prefer more pure or simple ingredients; the shorter the ingredient list, the better, in our experience. Most of the samples we are sent to feature are chocolate — white, milk, or various degrees of dark — but some are not.

Why does that matter?

It matters if you care about what you put into your body and where you spend your money.  While you may want to believe that companies in the USA are forced to be honest, the fact is that unless someone files a complaint, the amount of oversight in the food industry is relatively low (you can thank your Congress for that, since they oversee spending).  Time and again we see food and drink recalls on our newscasts; the Chocolate Cult has a weekly update on these matters.  From these constant recalls, it is clear to see that the US government is not strictly enforcing the regulations that exist.

Now, let’s be fair.  The simple fact is that businesses in the USA must, legally and practically, be focused on making profit.  However, in the name of profit some business owners will lie or mislead, subtly decreasing the percentage of chocolate and cocoa in their products, adding in potentially harmful or at least unnecessary ingredients, and even cutting costs through lax hygiene standards at their kitchens and factories at the expense of your safety.  But in the end it isn’t the companies’ job to protect your health; that’s your job.

Step One in protecting yourself and getting the best value for your money is to know what is and is not chocolate.

Many countries have food regulations – not all, but many.  While it is the job of the food producers and sellers to know what these regulations are, it is your job as the consumer to know as well. How can you trust what a label says if you don’t know what it should or should not say?

The Food and Drug Administration is the USA’s federal agency that oversees food and drug regulations, and this is where you need to turn first to learn about chocolate and cocoa regulations for products sold in America.[2]  If you consume chocolate or cocoa from other countries you’ll need to check their regulations; they are not the same.  Not only are there federal or nationwide food regulations, but individual states also have food regulations that you may need to be aware of.  Finally, differences in chocolate are a reflection of local or regional tastes and traditions, which is why Swiss chocolate seems creamy, German chocolate seems buttery, and Mesoamerican chocolate seems spicy.

According to FDA regulations milk chocolate and white chocolate are limited by how much chocolate liquor (in the case of milk chocolate[3]) and how much cocoa butter (in the case of white chocolate[4]) they contain, as well as what added ingredients are allowed.  The FDA does not have a definition for dark chocolate, though they do list regulations for several other chocolate and cocoa variations. Please do check out the regulations to be aware of what you should be looking for if you want to enjoy or use chocolate.

Product labels generally express the amount of an ingredient as a percentage based on weight, so you will see products labeled “45% chocolate liquor” or “70% cacao.” By law the label must list the ingredients in order of greatest to least in the product.  Simply by checking the ingredient list you can get a good idea of whether a product meets FDA standards, but not all companies reveal everything on their labels, even if they are legally required to do so.

Perhaps in later months I’ll talk about the legal definitions of other types of chocolate. But for now, let’s look at one type of chocolate that repeatedly fails to meet FDA standards and that tends to be the most misleading of those we are sent to feature on The Chocolate Cult: white chocolate. By FDA regulations, at least 20% by weight of white chocolate’s fat content must come from cocoa butter.  It may also have “nutritive carbohydrate sweeteners,” a long list of dairy ingredients, “emulsifying agents,” antioxidants, whey or whey products, and several spices and flavorings that do not imitate ”the flavor of chocolate, milk, or butter.”  The legal code gives percentage information for all of these allowed ingredients, but just knowing which ones are allowed at all can help you determine if a product is white chocolate or not.

The most common problem with “white chocolate” that we find is the addition of palm oil.  Aside from ecological questions or health concerns, this is simply not one of the allowed ingredients.  In fact, any fat or oil that is neither cocoa butter nor one of the listed dairy products is illegal if the manufacturer sells the product as “white chocolate.”  Frankly it is also unnecessary, given that there is no upper limit on the amount of cocoa butter the maker could add if it really needed a more buttery flavor in its white chocolate.

Remember, your body and your wallet are directly affected when you buy “chocolate” or “cocoa” products.  In order to protect yourself and your loved ones, and to get the best quality for your money and not just the greatest quantity, you need to know the facts.

 

Check out TammyJo Eckhart at thechocolatecult.blogspot.com

InspiredTheChocolateCult

 

Check out TammyJo Eckhart at thechocolatecult.blogspot.com

 

[1] http://thechocolatecult.blogspot.com/

[2] http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?CFRPart=163

[3] http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=163.130

[4] http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=163.124

 

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Doing an ice cream bar for your next big summer party?  Here’s a great idea for party favors that keep with the ice cream bar theme, but won’t melt before your guests get home.  Melville Ice Cream Cone Lollipops!

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Melville Ice Cream Cone Chocolate Lollipops

 

These chocolate pops are handmade and dipped in hard cardy, creating a beautiful glossy shell in vibrant colors.  It doesn’t hurt that they’re delicious too!  They come in two different sizes, the standard size pop with a red candy cherry,

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Melville Ice Cream Cone Chocolate Lollipops with Cherry on Top

 

and the giant size with sprinkles.

melville, candy, company, ice cream, cone, chocolate, lollipop, summer, parlor, parlour, treat, party favor, bar, sprinkles, giant,

Melville Giant Ice Cream Cone Chocolate Lollipops with Sprinkles

 

There are so many fun ways that you could present these.  We did the big ones standing up in a big jar,(with some help from some painted wood shavings and a styrofoam block) while the small ones fit perfectly in a sundae glass.  Lastly, we added a little sign to let people know they’re lollipops, and give the whole set up a vintage ice cream parlor feel.

melville, candy, company, ice cream, cone, chocolate, lollipop, summer, parlor, parlour, treat, party favor, bar, sprinkles, cherry, giant, container, sign, inspiration, ideas

Lollipop sign and container ideas

 

Thanks for reading!  Let us know what you think!

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