Should you be checking Halloween candy? The answer isn't as straightforward as you would expect.
In 1970, five-year-old Kevin Toston died of a heroin overdose. Police investigators found the drug on his Halloween candy. In 1974, eight-year-old Timothy Marc O'Bryan died from cyanide-laced Pixie Stix. The specter of ill-intentioned strangers tampering with Halloween candy has plagued trick-or-treaters ever since.
As a result, parents spend the night of every October 31 checking Halloween candy. And it would seem prudent. Other cases of Halloween deaths and sicknesses came in 1982, 1990, 1991, 1994, 1996, and 2001.
What doesn't get reported, however, is that none of these cases were from random strangers handing out poison-laced candy. In fact, most of them weren't related to Halloween candy at all. Rather, they were unfortunate coincidences. (The notable exception being Timothy Marc O'Bryan; his father laced the Pixie Stix with cyanide in hopes of collecting on a life insurance policy.)
There is a slightly higher possibility that the old "razor in an apple" tale could happen. Even then, the only confirmed case of tampering with Halloween candy (outside of several ill-advised pranks) is from Minneapolis. In 2000, "49-year-old James Joseph Smith was charged with one count of adulterating a substance with intent to cause death, harm, or illness after it was determined he’d put needles in Snickers bars and handed them out to children on Halloween."
With the facts as they stand, does this mean parents can skip checking Halloween candy?
Checking Halloween Candy:
4 Ways to Keep Your Children Safe
Even though it's unlikely that a stranger will hand out harmful candy this Halloween, there are plenty of dangers every parent needs to look out for—both with candy and with trick-or-treating.
1. Discard homemade treats
Unless you know the person handing out homemade candies or baked goods, stick to commercially wrapped goodies. Why? The possibility of food poisoning or cross-contamination of allergens is high when you accept food from someone you don't know. Poor food safety habits are scarier than any monster costume out there. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, foodborne illnesses send approximately 128, 000 people to the hospital each year.
2. Inspect commercially wrapped treats
Check candy bars and other treats for signs of tampering. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends throwing away anything that looks discolored, torn, or has holes in the wrapper.
3. No snacking
As tempting as it is to grab a bite-sized Kit Kat out of the Halloween candy bag, don't let your kids snack while they are out trick-or-treating. It's too hard to notice signs of tampering (or freshness, for that matter) when it's dark out.
4. Look for choking hazards
If you have young trick-or-treaters, look out for hard candy, gum, and other possible choking hazards.
5 More Halloween Safety Tips
There's a lot more to staying safe on Halloween than checking Halloween candy. These tips will help keep your little ghouls safe:
1. Keep your kids visible
According to the National Safety Council, October is the second deadliest month for motor vehicle deaths. Of those, pedestrian deaths are primarily due to poor visibility, dark clothing, and running into the road. To help make children more visible, apply reflective tape to their costumes and try to stay in well-lit areas.
2. Keep your kids with you
Stay with your kids as they go trick-or-treating. They will want to run from house to house, and if you're in a busy area, it's easy to lose sight of them. Have a plan if you get separated (such as waiting for a parent or adult at the end of each block).
3. Know what to do in an emergency
Talk with your kids about what to do in an emergency. If they get lost, they can call 911 if they have a phone. If they don't have a phone, instruct them on how to get help. Security expert Gavin de Becker suggests teaching children to approach a woman for help. "A woman approached by a lost child asking for help is likely to stop whatever she is doing, get down to the kid’s eye level, commit to that child, and not rest until the child is safe."
4. Plan a route
For older children who may go out on their own, plan a route with them, including a return time. Remind them to be aware of the fact that drivers may not see them and to take extra care in crossing streets.
5. Teen safety
Safewise suggests that teen drivers should take Halloween night off, "due to the number of drunk drivers on the road." Likewise, teens should know that Halloween pranks are often dangerous and illegal. Stick to watching scary movies with friends.
One other way to ensure the wellbeing of your family is through home insurance. At Pekin Insurance, we take pride in treating you like family. Contact your local agent today to get the best coverage around.