The Hershey Co. is halting production of Ice Breakers Pacs in response to criticism that the mints look too much like illegal street drugs, the company's president and chief executive officer said Thursday.
Hershey CEO David J. West disclosed the decision during a conference call about the company's newly released fourth-quarter earnings report.
Ice Breakers Pacs, which first hit store shelves in November, are nickel-sized dissolvable pouches with a powdered sweetener inside. The pouches come in blue or orange and bear the Ice Breakers logo.
Members of Philadelphia's police narcotics squad said the mints closely resemble tiny heat-sealed bags used to sell powdered street drugs. They charged that the consequences could be serious if, for example, a child familiar with the mints found a package of cocaine.
"Some community and law-enforcement leaders have expressed concern" about the shape of pouch and the Xylitol sweetener inside, and about the possibility of the mints being mistaken for illegal substances, West said.
"We are sensitive to these viewpoints and thus have made the decision that we will no longer manufacture Ice Breakers Pacs," he said.
Ice Breakers Pacs remain on store shelves but are expected to be sold out early this year and no more are being made, West said. Kirk Saville, a company spokesman, said they had been distributed nationally on a limited basis.
Hershey has said the mints were not intended to resemble anything, and West said consumers who tested and purchased the product liked it.
Linda Wagner, a narcotics officer with the Philadelphia police whose daughter died of a heroin overdose in 2001, had protested the product in letters to both company and government officials. She said she was pleased by Hershey's decision but questioned why it took so long.
"I will not buy a Hershey's product" again, she said. "I think they were really irresponsible" in marketing the product.
Bill Katzel, a community activist who lives near Tucson, Ariz., and worked with Wagner in fighting Ice Breakers Pacs, said the product remains widely available at stores near him.
"A better solution would have been a total recall of this product," said Katzel, a retired medical administrator for the federal government.