Harrowing tales abound on Halloween. You’ve heard the stories: needles, razor blades and little pieces of glass hidden inside candy treats. It’s the nightmare parents have been dreading since, well, the beginning of the holiday, even if most consider it to be an urban legend. But the instances that have made their way to the mainstream have scared enough parents into believing that anything’s possible, and so the stories persist.
Broadly speaking, the stories began back when mom-and-pop shops started transforming from wholesome, intimate storefronts to industrial giants. The birth of assembly-line production allowed manufacturers to churn out mass quantities of goodies to the public, thanks to the help of their employees. And as more than one “stranger” started handling the goods, the speculation that at least one nefarious employee reveled in putting sharp objects into chocolate bars went wild, however strange it sounded.
Whether urban myth or not, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t, at the very least, heard about shady candy practices. Sensationalized? Maybe. But that’s not stopping people from being overly cautious. Chicago Parent had a great throwback of safety tips from 1985, one of which touched on candy safety. And wouldn’t you know it, someone’s cousin stumbled upon a razor blade stuffed inside a candy bar 30 years ago. So whether you subscribe to the idea that tainted candy is a real danger or not, the fact remains: bad people continue to do bad things. There’s no downside to doing a quick check on your kids’ bounty.
It got us thinking about a few specific candies to watch for, and we’ve put together a quick list of the prime candidates based on several factors: size, content and disguise. Our list is also based on previously documented stories and findings online. We also have two professional dads in our midst who have seen their share of candy-coated delights, so science-based or not, you know you’re getting the advice of two sound experts in the field of kid candy mayhem.
Snickers are big. Snickers are dense. Snickers are long. Snickers are prime candidates for tricks instead of treats. The chocolate coated, caramel and peanut-based treat encompasses just about every red flag when it comes to hiding something. It’s easy to pack a little in a lot: pennies, razors, nails and broken shards of glass. Or it’s easy to simply hide something sinister like a pin needle in a dense center without drawing much attention. The Lakewood neighborhood in Denver reported several needles being found inside Snickers Bars last Halloween, prompting the city to issue a warning.
Inspect for frayed edges, already opened packaging and small holes that look suspicious. Your best bet is to break the bar in half and do a quick scan of the contents. And when in doubt, throw it out.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Reese’s are big. Reese’s are dense… You get where we’re going. Peanut butter cups have almost the same characteristics of a Snickers bar only the danger lies closer to the surface. Your child is more likely to take a bigger chomp out of a Reese’s cup, which may induce them to swallow the razor rather than biting it. And the thinner the razor, the harder they are to find.
In 2011, a father in New Mexico discovered a razor blade in his son’s Reese’s cup, slid sideways into the buttery portion with an edge protruding on the side. Thanks to dutiful inspection, John Martinez was able to spare his son the consequences of a traumatic outcome.
The Contra Costa Times published a disturbing story about an 8-year-old girl who happened to stumble upon 0.1 grams of crystal meth in her candy bag. And for those of you who don’t know anything about meth (with the exception of having watched a few Breaking Bad episodes) would be surprised to learn that the crystalized drug looks identical to the crystals of rock candy that has proven to be popular among kids. In fact, diehard Breaking Bad fans have reproduced rock candy to look like the meth on the show. So that should give you a good idea of how easy it is to disguise this particular trick.
The likelihood of stumbling upon crystal meth is pretty low. Even so, it’s happened. This trick is difficult to test in any form, so if there’s any hint of skepticism, chuck in the garbage.
Lollipops and Gummy Bears
Believe it or not, Lolli’s and Gummy’s are even more “disguisable” than you think. Last year, the Denver Police put out a Public Service Announcement on its Facebook page, warning parents of marijuana-laced treats that looked nearly identical to the real thing. Translucence is a big key to figuring out the difference, but it’s minute. As recommended by a few experts, it’s best to allow your kids to trick-or-treat with a small container and then dumping the contents into a bigger bag that parents can control. That will prevent kids from eating random pieces of candy before you’ve had a chance for inspection. As is often the case, parents can see things that a child can’t, so make sure at least one adult has had a chance to look things over. One more thing: Never accept fruit or anything that isn’t wrapped. And again, when in doubt, throw it out.
Have a safe Halloween, everyone.