Skittles owner Wrigley has issued a short statement describing a meme shared by Donald Trump Jr, which compared refugees to the candy, as "inappropriate".
On Monday evening, the son of Republican presidential hopeful of the same name posted an image on Twitter which pictured the sweets under text which read: 'If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you, would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.'
The tweet contained his father's campaign branding, with the slogan 'Make America Great Again' plastered underneath the photo. "This image says it all," Trump Jr noted in his caption, "let's end the politically correct agenda that doesn't put America first #Trump2016."
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) September 19, 2016
The tweet has provoked a mammoth backlash on social media, not least from the confectionery brand itself, which sent out a carefully-worded statement to reporters in the aftermath of the post.
"Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don't feel it's an appropriate analogy," a spokesperson for the company told Bloomberg journalist Siraj Datoo, adding: "We will respectfully refrain from further commentary as anything we say could be misinterpreted as marketing."
Trump jr: Think of refugees like Skittles.
Skittles: No, don't. "Skittles are candy. Refugees are people." pic.twitter.com/NgXCGI1GTt
— Siraj Datoo (@dats) September 20, 2016
Twitter and Facebook users have taken to social media to express their disdain for the metaphor, with many using powerful images (mainly of children) from Syria alongside the word 'Skittles' to highlight the absurdity of Trump's comparison.
— Nish Weiseth (@NishWeiseth) September 20, 2016
— N (@_narbie) September 20, 2016
— Jason Sparks (@sparksjls) September 20, 2016
The meme appears to have originated from Conservative congressman Joe Walsh, who praised Trump Jr's post.
Hey @DonaldJTrumpJr, that's the point I made last month.
Glad you agree. pic.twitter.com/Nssw6KC1HY
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) September 20, 2016
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was also among those to share their views on the matter.
— Hillary Clinton (@VoteHillary2016) September 20, 2016
People aren't skittles.
And skittles aren't people that get vetted for months running for safety.
How dare you. https://t.co/lgYdZnTdtj
— Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti) September 20, 2016
Even if we did bring in a few bad Skittles - and there's no evidence we do - you take that risk to save these Skittles, you monstrous dope. pic.twitter.com/KpA7Mnl8Nm
— Rex Huppke (@RexHuppke) September 20, 2016
To add to the furore, the BBC has reported that the photographer behind the image used in the post is himself a former refugee. David Kittos, from Guildford in England posted the snap of Skittles in a bowl to Flickr six years ago and woke up this morning to find it at the centre of a social media storm.
"This was not done with my permission, I don't support his politics and I would never take his money to use it," he told the broadcaster BBC, adding: "In 1974, when I was six-years old, I was a refugee from the Turkish occupation of Cyprus so I would never approve the use of this image against refugees."