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Jill Porter | Hershey's to change candy Pacs

AND NOW a final word about the Hershey Company's moronic marketing of a powdered breath mint that looks like street drugs.

AND NOW a final word about the Hershey Company's moronic marketing of a powdered breath mint that looks like street drugs.

After initially scoffing at the outcry over Ice Breakers Pacs, Hershey's is prepared to change the packaging so the dissolvable pouches no longer look like heat-sealed packets of cocaine. In other words: Your outraged voices melted the big chocolate mountain.

"We are evaluating changes of the design and appearance based on feedback from consumers, retailers and the community," company spokesman Kirk Seville told me yesterday.

"It was certainly never our intention to create any confusion with this product. We take consumer and community feedback very seriously and are acting quickly to address concerns."

The Pacs on store shelves won't be recalled and Seville refused to say whether distribution has been halted. He declined to provide details about the complaints, and said a decision about the changes would be announced "shortly."

It isn't clear whether "shortly" is tomorrow or next month, since Seville wouldn't say.

What is clear is that the indignation voiced by Philadelphia judges and police officials in my Nov. 30 column was echoed across the country and ended in a victory to consumers.

The mints come in dissolvable pouches of blue and orange that look uncannily like bags of cocaine or heroin or other street drugs. Some people dismissed the controversy as silly. But it was another complication in the impossible task police already face in battling the drug trade.

Although each Ice Breakers Pac has a small logo on it, officials feared that a child familiar with the mints would ingest real drugs - or drug dealers would exploit the look-alikes to evade prosecution or scam customers and invite retaliation.

Not to mention that police resources would be wasted confiscating and testing the mints to determine whether they were drugs, a Nebraska police chief pointed out. Whether it was an innocent blunder or a sales gimmick that backfired isn't clear.

Seville wouldn't even admit the product was a marketing mistake. But the company's reconsideration of the packaging speaks otherwise.

"The prudent thing to do is to redesign the product," said Bill Blackburn, Philadelphia police narcotics chief inspector, who, despite his professional expertise, was fooled by the resemblance between the Pacs and pouches of street drugs.

Blackburn said he was contacted by other police departments across the country after his published comments ricocheted throughout the Internet and made national news.

That set off a furor that Hershey's initially pooh-poohed - including boycott threats, petition drives and even a resolution condemning the company that was passed unanimously on Friday by Philadelphia City Council.

Hershey's could barely afford the bad publicity, considering the backlash generated by a plan announced earlier this year to close more than a third of its production lines and shift some production to Mexico.

Philadelphia Police Officer Linda Wagner - who lost her only child, a teenage daughter, to a heroin overdose - was one of those who wrote the company.

"There are so many deadly scenarios that justify the immediate discontinuance of this product," she wrote to CEO David West.

The fact that her voice was heard, along with many others, is a compelling commentary on the power of public opinion. Hershey's is to be congratulated for responding to it so quickly.

"A lot of times these things happen and nobody stands up and makes any noise about it," said Family Court Judge Lori Dumas-Brooks, who voiced her outrage in my earlier column.

"If it raised awareness, and it forces Hershey to change the package, I think that's a wonderful thing." *

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