Halloween is around the corner. This is a time where children and adults alike dress up as their favorite fictional characters, monsters, or even real life personalities while enjoying the darker and scarier things in life (at least a little bit). But with all the goblins, ghosties, and ghouls around, it can be difficult to remember some of the hidden dangers that are associated with this holiday.
Treats that are consumed on and around Halloween can be dangerous, deadly even. Not only are the treats high in sugar and fat, making them tempting but wholly innutritious (yes! that’s a word), but there can be actual dangers associated with them. Both commercially manufactured and homemade treats have their own dangers, and they can be difficult to spot.
Allergies, Choking and Razors – Oh, My!
Food allergens are always a concern. For those who suffer from allergic reactions, Halloween can be an especially dangerous. While commercially manufactured treats are required to have allergens labeled, homemade treats are not labeled with allergens. These are like a game of Russian Roulette for those with food allergies. Do those cookies contain nuts? Or maybe wheat? Is the nog made with soy or eggs? An allergic reaction can send someone to the hospital. Look at labels when applicable and avoid things that do not have labels.
Choking hazards are also big concerns, especially for those with small children. Parents must watch the small children and check their goodies for items that are not age appropriate. Peanuts, gum, hard candies, and even small toys can become lodged in the throat of children, blocking their airways. If not treated appropriately with immediate medical attention, the results can be deadly.
We have all heard the urban legends about razor blades in candy. But what if they were no longer just urban legends? According to foodbeast.com, the following items have been found in Halloween treats, commercially manufactured and homemade:
- sewing needles
- razor blades
- rings (and other jewelry
In many cases, these things appear to have been added after they were processed and sold. The individuals handing out the candy seem to be directly responsible for the danger, intentionally or otherwise. However, even in cases where there is no malicious intent, there is still the possibility of contamination during the manufacturing process.
This isn’t to say that you should keep your kids from going out trick-or-treating. The most important thing is to be vigilant while doing so. Before letting your kid have any candy they collect from neighbors, check it over to make sure it doesn’t contain anything dangerous to them – whether it’s meant to be there or not.
For more food safety information, see our Food Safety Guide.
Beware the Homemade Treat
Items that are commercially manufactured are generally held to strict manufacturing standards. The production lines must be clean and free of foreign debris. The processes are closely monitored for any deviation and packaging is inspected before the product is released.
Can you say the same for the lady down the street with six cats? The treats that she has produced in her kitchen likely won’t meet such high standards and may contain cat hair, saliva, parasites like mites or fleas, or even cat litter.
If the neighborhood party is more your scene, there are sanitation risks there as well. The cider may not have been pasteurized, allowing for bacteria, such as salmonella, to grow rapidly. How much will the bacteria increase after it sits out at room temperature for two hours? Four hours? Bobbing for apples might not be any better, as it is teaming with saliva and germs from everyone at that party. This is a great way to spread illnesses like the flu.
At parties, there may also be a bigger danger of exposing yourself – or worse, your kids – to unwanted and illegal drugs. In 2013, Pennsylvania cops busted a drug ring and found 40 lbs. of candy laced with THC, a main component of marijuana, on a college campus right before Halloween. In 2015, Florida cops found candies wrapped in plastic that contained meth, while a separate case found candy containing ethylone, a Flakka-like drug that has psychedelic and stimulant properties. While many incidents of Halloween candy-tampering turn out to be hoaxes, it is still important to keep an eye out to make sure your children stay safe.
Stay Safe This Halloween
This Halloween season here are a few things you can do to help keep both yourself and your kids safe:
- Check wrapped candies individually before they are eaten.
- Throw out anything that is homemade, looks questionable, or seems to have been tampered with.
- Keep the trick-or-treating to communities and houses you are familiar with.
- Keep food and beverages chilled until they are served.
Be safe in this season of tricks and treats!