Secrecy and Candy, Expensive Habits

10.20.11 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

“The United States is the world’s largest candy consumer,” reported an article yesterday in the online Christian Post (“Halloween Treats Can Be Tricky for Parents,” October 19).  And that may well be true.

But the article went on to state that the U.S. spent “more than $8.8 billion on various sweets in 2009, according to the Information Security Oversight Office.”  That is a dizzying misunderstanding.

The Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), led by director John P. Fitzpatrick, is the government agency responsible for oversight of the national security classification system.  It does not gather data on candy consumption.  (As far as we know.)  The $8.8 billion figure — which must be far more than Americans actually spend on candy [not so; see correction below] — was presented in ISOO’s 2009 report on security classification costs as the total cost within government (excluding industry) for protecting classified information.

In 2010, the annual classification cost figure reported by ISOO reached $10.17 billion.

Update / Correction: It appears that Americans spend even more on sweets than on secrecy, including $13 billion per year on chocolate alone, according to the California Academy of Sciences (h/t Jameel Jaffer). And the National Confectioners Association reported (.ppt) retail candy sales of $29.3 billion in 2009.