I was 10 years old and still a trick-or-treater myself in 1982, the year our city hospital started offering free X-rays on bags of Halloween candy. Stories of poisoned Tylenol, needles hidden in candy and other evil deeds were all over the national news, and parents across the country were taking extra precautions to keep their kids safe. One precaution my parents took was to only allow me to trick-or-treat at the homes of people they knew. Fortunately, my dad was a mailman, so he knew lots of safe homes along his route. Today, safety issues surrounding Halloween candy may not be quite as dramatic as the hidden needles of my youth, but they are nonetheless real. Here are some things parents should consider as they inspect their children's treat bags this Halloween.
Perhaps the greatest danger to at least some trick-or-treaters this season is the presence of dangerous allergens in their candy. Many candies contain nuts, or were manufactured in facilities with nuts, and can be deadly to a child with nut allergies. Some kids are just as allergic to milk products, eggs, wheat, and various other foods that may be present in Halloween goodies. Kids with severe allergies should never eat any of their candy before it is approved as safe.
One thing I'm reading more about each year is the difficulty many parents have trying to match Halloween candies with their children's gluten-free diets. I strongly suggest you talk to your child's doctor or nutritionist to find out what goodies are safe, and then follow the plan of one of my friends. She promised to get her child all the allergen-free candies they want and trade for those that they can't have.
My daughter broke a front tooth in an accident. Now she has to avoid certain foods that could cause the repair to break. Hard or particularly sticky candies that she might bite into could damage her dental work. Many kids face the same sort of problems with fillings or braces. When expensive dental work -- sometimes worth thousands of dollars -- could be in jeopardy, parents need to be especially diligent about making sure their kids' Halloween candies are safe to eat.
At the risk of raising the ire of the First Lady, I don't believe any time of year is a good time for shaming kids about occasional treats. Most kids who eat a healthy and balanced diet, especially those who also get at least moderate exercise, aren't going to be harmed by indulging in a splurge of Halloween candy.
However, there are some kids who need to be extra careful. Children with diabetes, for instance, may have to follow strict guidelines as to how much candy they can have, if any. If your child has a health condition that could be exacerbated by a spike in blood sugar, definitely talk to your doctor for guidance on how to handle Halloween treats.
Sometimes people do put needles in candy bars and razor blades in apples, and there have been reports of similar isolated incidents as recently as last Halloween. The best way to keep your kids safe is still to trick-or-treat only at the homes of people you actually know and trust, or perhaps participate in Halloween events centered more on family fun and less on collecting candy from strangers. Of course, you could always take advantage of the local hospital's offer to X-ray candy, but it might be more fun to just cut each candy in half before it is eaten, and then steal a few halves for yourself!