The danger of stationery that looks like sweets

If you’re a parent like me, you’d probably be a little concerned if you found your nine-year-old with a macaroon eraser perched between their lips.

I was onto it quickly: “Get that out of your mouth! Why would you put that in your mouth?”
“But Mum, it smells so good.”

And it does. It actually smells sweet, like sugar. And it’s bright, colourful and so attractive to children. It draws them in like magnets. Take your pick from the endless array of treats: macaroons, doughnuts, gum-ball machines, icy-poles, cupcakes, ice-cream, cakes, biscuits, fries, hamburgers and soft drinks

In a climate of booming childhood obesity and the recent awareness of the harmful effects of sugar, how can we, as parents, teach our children that sugar is harmful while at the same time send them to school to be taught and to learn the same thing, with a pencil case full of lolly erasers?

We have people like Jamie Oliver fighting and winning to have a sugar tax introduced in the UK, telling Australia to “pull your finger out” and do the same. Yet we allow these items to be directly marketed and sold to our children.

If you’re not a fan of the anti-sugar talk, let’s talk about the choking risks. Despite international regulations which exist for “certain products that appear other than they are and endanger the health and safety of consumers” — a regulation for which there is no equivalent law in Australia — the ACCC found that the gumball eraser “does not present a risk profile higher than many other similar household products … such as marbles or jaffa sweets”.

But the jaffa looks like a jaffa — because it is a jaffa. A gumball eraser looks like a gumball and smells like a gumball and is sold inside a gumball machine — but it is not a gumball.

The ACCC found that the gumball eraser is not suitable for children under 36 months but if my nine-year-old had a macaroon between her lips, what’s to stop her from putting a gumball there too? Accidents do happen.
What of the chemicals used to make the erasers smell good? Why do these erasers have to smell like lollies? Why does the whole shop have to smell like lollies?

What price are we willing to pay for the safety of our children?

Adapted from an article by Koraly Dimitriadis for www.dailytelegraph.com.au

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