Both sides of the Toys "R" Us checkout aisle are lined from beginning to end with junk food, up until you reach the cash register. Below is a visual of one side of the checkout lane I was standing in. As you can see, they had a variety of candy on this side.
And look – more candy of this side! In this case it was a vast assortment of PEZ.
PEZ – Disney princess
This PEZ Disney Princess contains GMOs, trans fats (hydrogenated oils, mono and diglycerides), artificial flavors, and artificial colors. When I tried to research the ingredients online, it was not surprising to me that I couldn't find them on the PEZ website. I find that to be a common theme among conventional candy companies. I prefer to buy products from companies that are transparent with their ingredients. If they have nothing to hide, they should have no issue disclosing their ingredients, especially since there are so many children with allergies these days. If your child does have a food allergy, Check out my friend Robyn O'Brien's organization called AllergyKids.com. Their mission is to protect kids from additives found in our food supply.
Disney's Lunch Box Snacks
Disney is no stranger to chemicals. So much so, they have a "Management of Chemicals in Consumer Products" page dedicated to their chemical management strategy of licensed products on their website. However, I'm not sure how effective it is. In October 2003, Greenpeace detected a hormone disrupting chemical called nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) on four of their pyjamas. In 2004, Greenpeace released a report entitled: Toxic Childrenswear by Disney" stating how the printed letters on Disney t-shirts contained hazardous chemicals. In November 2013, Women's Voices of the Earth, in support of the Center for Environmental Health, released a report, Playing with Poisons, indicating the presence of flame retardants in furniture boasting some of Disney's most famous children's characters. And earlier this year, researchers found the same hormone disrupting chemical they did in 2003, nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), in Disney's Cars t-shirts, plus another commonly known hormone disruptor (which mimics estrogen in the body) used to soften plastics called, phthalates.
So it didn't surprise me that when I took a look at the ingredients of Disney's licensed snack products, in this case their Lunch Box Snacks, I found trans fats, artificial flavors, and GMOs. And as you saw above with their licensed candy products, PEZ also contained all of these aforementioned chemical additives, plus the bonus of artificial colors. With chemicals seemingly omnipresent in so many of Disney's licensed products, it makes me wonder who manages Disney's Management of Chemicals in Consumer Products policy….just saying.
By the time we were standing in line for pay for our toys, my youngest wanted a drink. As you can see above, my choices consisted of high-fructose corn syrup laden soda, ice tea (Nestea), and juice (Five Alive), as well as Minute Maid 100% Apple Juice (this did not have any high-fructose corn syrup, or other chemical additives), and water (found at the very bottom right of the fridge). I opted for the water.
Upon leaving the store, Toys "R" Us makes one last effort to sell my kids candy by strategically placing a gumball unit in front of the exit door. And it gets them every time.This is how our conversation often goes:
My 8-year-old: "Mom, can I please have money to buy bubble gum?"
My 8-year-old: "Please?"
Me: "You know why. It has chemicals that aren't good for you. Can you tell me what kinds of chemicals?"
My 10-year-old: "Food coloring."
My 8-year-old: "You're no fun."
Me: "Yeah, I know."
If Toys "R" Us offered healthier bubblegum options, like Glee Gum, I wouldn't have to say no every time. Here's a closer look at the ingredients found in the bubblegum machines above – made up mainly of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives:
My goal for writing this exposé is to make you aware of how chemicals could run rampant somewhere as seemingly innocuous as a toy store. By collectively asking Toys "R" Us to ban toxic chemicals from their products, AND to offer healthier options, we could all feel better (and safer) about shopping in their stores.
It is my understanding that Toys "R" Us did at one point experiment with of a "healthier section." Unfortunately they were not committed to the program and the project was dropped. It is my hope that they will now make it a priority. They say timing is everything, and now the timing is right.
According to Erin Switalski, Executive Director of Women's Voices for the Earth (WVE), retailers can make a huge difference when it comes to chemical exposure because they can regulate what is, and isn't, allowed to be sold in their stores. She referred to this authority as "Retail Regulation." Her organization recently spoke with Target to help them develop criteria around chemicals, including feminine hygiene products. In May 2013, Lisa Tsakos and I wrote, Label Lessons: Your Guide to a Healthy Shopping Cart, and we made people aware that companies like Procter & Gamble do not have to disclose the ingredients in their tampons and pads because they are considered "Medical Devices." In November 2013, WVE released a report titled Chem Fatale in which they presented research from the chemicals found in feminine hygiene products. Together with WVE, we are petitioning Procter & Gamble to fully disclose the ingredients in their tampons and pads.
The world is changing. Consumers are no longer accepting things as they once were. We have the right to safer products, especially when it comes to the health of our children. Their growing bodies and immature immune systems are more susceptible to these dangerous chemicals, which can lead to illnesses they should not be getting in the first place if only companies like Toys "R" Us took a stand. We have the right to find these safer products where ever we choose to shop.
According to the Toys "R" Us website, they have the following written on their Vision & Values page:
At Toys“R”Us®, we love kids! Since the company’s founding more than 65 years ago, kids have been central to who we are and what we do. We approach our business operations with responsibility and integrity, understanding the trust parents place in us to do the right thing and act as a reliable partner as they navigate the various stages of parenthood.
In delivering on our mission to be the World’s Greatest Kids’ Brand, we not only offer parents and families a broad selection of products to create magical playtime memories along with everyday essentials, but we provide the resources necessary to keep their kids safe. This is a core value at the forefront of all we do.
Please join me in asking Toys "R" Us to keep our kids safe by removing toxic chemicals from the products sold in their stores. Please SIGN OUR PETITION NOW asking Toys "R" Us to make a change. Children everywhere will thank you.
- Sign the Petition Now
- Read Page 1 of the Exposé
- Easy Bake Ovens & Other Desserts
- Blizzard & Slurpee Makers
- Jelly Belly Jelly Beans & Other Candy
- TM! Cosmetics
- Tattoos, Body Art, Scented Toys, and Other Cosmetics
- Exiting the Store Through a World of Junk Food