Does Easter Candy 'Cross' Line?

Frank Borrell, 94,of Beacon, N.Y. and Orlando, Fla. talks to reporters on board the decomissioned battleship in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii after a Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010 ceremony marking the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II. Borrell served aboard the USS Missouri during the war and came to Hawaii to see his ship one last time. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
AP Photo
A symbol of Christianity that sits atop church steeples, dangles from necks and hangs on walls is now ending up in the mouths of the faithful, over the objections of some religious officials.

A mass-produced chocolate cross is being sold this Easter by Russell Stover Candies Inc. in about 5,000 stores nationwide, which experts say is apparently a first for a major American company.

"Obviously they've seen that there's a market for chocolate crosses at Easter," said Lisbeth Echeandia, a consultant for Candy Information Service, which monitors candy industry trends. "I don't see it growing tremendously but I think there would be growth in the Christian market."

However, not all Christians are happy about it. Chomping on a chocolate cross can be offensive to some, said Joseph McAleer, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic diocese in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

"The cross should be venerated, not eaten, nor tossed casually in an Easter basket beside the jelly beans and marshmallow Peeps," he said. "It's insulting."

Nonetheless, Kansas City-based Russell Stover, the third-largest American chocolate manufacturer, said it is targeting some of the most devout Christians — Hispanic Americans.