Every year around Halloween, parents are advised to check their children’s candy prior to allowing them to eat it. Warnings from police and newspapers about candy laced with drugs or apples containing razor blades looms large. Are they justified? Is someone out there poisoning candy or are concerns about Halloween candy safety the result of an urban legend?
Dr. Joel Best, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware examined nearly forty years of newspapers for candy tampering stories. He then followed up with hospitals, police and families for evidence of random violence during Halloween. Best found no conclusive evidence of tampering by strangers. The majority of contamination reports turned out to be hoaxes or pranks.
The National Confectioners Association runs a hotline for police and medical personnel to report evidence of tampering. Susan Whiteside, spokesperson for the National Confectioners Association, indicated prior to Halloween 2011 that there has never been a substantiated case of poisoning candy by strangers at Halloween.
We’re not saying that you shouldn’t exercise good judgment. For those interested, there have been two cases of death to children by candy at Halloween. Both resulted from the actions of family members who placed poison or drugs in candy that were ingested (accidentally or not) by their children. These incidents make it concievable that something could happen. There have been manufacturing defects which have led to unsafe candy. So Do inspect your candy for suspicious packaging and throw out questionable or homemade items. But place your safety concerns in the appropriate place and don’t be unduly paranoid. Instruct your children to watch out for inattentive drivers (pedestrians are four times more likely to be killed by a car on Halloween than any other night of the year), don’t enter stranger’s homes, ensure costumes are safe and eat healthy. The CDC provides an extensive list of tips for how to stay safe at Halloween.