Kids Safety 101
halloween candy

How Safe Is Halloween Candy, Really?

Every year, we hear horror stories about Halloween candy. When I was growing up, the threat was razor blades in toffee apples or popcorn balls. More recently, it’s been the possibility of treats laced with cannabis. But how many of these tales are just urban legends?

How to Check Candy

You could argue that the biggest threat from Halloween candy is the sugar, fat, and sodium content. The vast majority of candy is bought fresh each year and handed out in individually wrapped packages by well-meaning adults.

Check the wrappers to make sure nothing is opened or expired. Throw out homemade treats unless they’re from a trusted source. Make sure to screen for any food allergens, too. Little kids shouldn’t have hard candies, as they can be a choking hazard.

How One Man Tried to Ruin Halloween

It’s extremely unlikely that someone would sacrifice their expensive edibles in order to foist them on unsuspecting children. The same goes for handing out CBD gummies. Twitter has a field day each year when police departments and watchdog groups release serious PSAs about the danger of marijuana brownies ending up in your child’s trick-or-treat bag.

But that doesn’t mean Halloween candy is 100% safe, either.

20 years ago, a man named James Joseph Smith hid needles in wrapped Snickers bars and handed them out at Halloween. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured–although an unlucky teenager got an unpleasant and painful surprise when they bit into one of the chocolate bars.

But, other than a practical joker who handed out laxatives instead of candy way back in 1959, there are vanishingly few reports of people tampering with Halloween treats. The paranoia over bad candy is largely rooted in two tragic incidents from almost 50 years ago.

Real-Life Monsters

In 1970, a little boy from Michigan died after ingesting heroin. Investigators found residue of the drug on the five-year-old boy’s Halloween candy. As you can imagine, the press ran with the story.

But the parents soon confessed that the child had accidentally found his uncle’s stash of heroin and eaten some of it. They sprinkled the powder on his candy afterward to cover up what had happened.

The other incident involved a man named Ronald Clark O’Bryan. In 1974, O’Bryan and a neighbor took their kids trick-or-treating. His eight-year-old son died later that night after eating a Pixie Stixx from his treat haul. O’Bryan claimed that someone had been handing out poisoned candy, but the truth was even more horrific.

Investigators soon discovered that O’Bryan had intentionally murdered his own child for the life insurance. He’d laced the Pixie Stixx with cyanide before pretending to pick them up from a treat bowl at another house.

Even worse–O’Bryan had also given poisoned candy to his five-year-old daughter and three other children. Thankfully, none of the other kids ate any.

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Erin Long