Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tainted Halloween candy?

OCTOBER 15, 2011


The news as I see it and the views as I want them.

October 15 is … White Cane Safety Day

I often use a cane but it is never white. Perhaps children could use one on Halloween.

I have been preparing for Halloween. Since my children are fully grown and I have no grandkids, preparation means that I buy candy twenty days before my wife and I really need it. That gives us plenty of time to eat the first and second supply of Halloween candy requiring I go out on the 31st of October to buy what will be handed out to the visiting trick-or-treaters. In reviewing the available options of affordable candy I have decided the candy companies should quit making the ‘fun’ size candy bar. There is nothing ‘fun’ about these products.

The truth in labeling and false advertising laws must be violated with the moniker some product developer gave to these pieces of pseudo-candy. It is no fun opening fifteen of these candies just to get a proper taste. The only way to really have fun with one of these treats is to throw it at a friend in a game of ‘candy war’, melt them in the microwave or feed them to the dog.

I think the ‘fun candy’ should be renamed the ‘we make more money with this size’ candy or the ‘this is what you can afford’ candy. They could also be called the ‘the parents don’t care if they have fat kids but we do’ candy.

Growing up, we used to start trick-or-treating three days before Halloween. Everybody gave out real treats in the normal size, not in a size marked ‘not intended for individual sale’. People even gave out home-made treats. We cannot do that anymore because people don’t have the time to prepare the home-made treats and because parents do not trust anything not pre-packaged. Everyone forgets at Halloween that there are 10 to 15 product recalls every year. Recently we have cantaloupe recalls, several meat recalls, beans in a can recall, frozen chicken, steak fajita products, frozen ground tuna, yeast tablets and shredded iceberg lettuce.

I think a home-made treat from a neighbor has a better safety record than mass produced food products that are shipped all over the globe.

People are still afeared of adulterated products handed out at Halloween. For a period of time, hospitals would x-ray your treats looking for items inserted into them. None were ever found. How much damage did the x-ray cause to the products later eaten by the children. The stories of strangers handing out Halloween treats harming children are myths and scare tactics.

Did you hear about the little girl who bit into a candy bar and died because a stranger had tainted it with poison? Maybe in the story you heard, a little boy bit into an apple and cut his mouth on a razor blade. The stories of evil strangers tainting Halloween candy and apples with poison, glass and razor blades have prevailed for several decades. But are they true?

Although there have been a few reports of candy tampering over the years, nearly all of them have been debunked as hoaxes or pranks. Until 2000, there hadn't been a single proven incident in which a child was injured by Halloween candy from a stranger. That Halloween, James Joseph Smith of Minneapolis was charged with one count of adulterating a substance with intent to cause death, harm or illness after he put needles into candy bars and handed them out. One child was pricked with a needle when he bit into a candy bar, but neither he nor any other children were seriously injured. The idea of tainted candy from a stranger may have started with a 1964 incident involving a New York homemaker named Helen Pfeil. Irritated at the idea of handing out free candy to older kids, Pfeil gave out packages of steel wool pads, dog biscuits and poison ant buttons. Although she made it clear that her "goodies" were inedible, Pfeil was charged with endangering children.

There have been at least two confirmed deaths linked to tainted Halloween candy, but strangers didn't cause them. In a 1970 case, family members sprinkled a 5-year-old child's candy with heroin to hide the fact that he'd gotten into his uncle's drug stash. In the other case, which occurred in 1974, a man named Ronald Clark O'Bryan of Houston, Texas, laced his son's candy with cyanide and the child died. The motive was a big insurance policy that O'Bryan had taken out on his son. To make the poisoning appear random, O'Bryan also poisoned his daughter's candy and the candy of three other children. None of them ate it, however. He was eventually convicted of murder and died by lethal injection.

Although these were isolated incidents, the idea of candy tampering spread through cities and suburban neighborhoods, making parents fearful about the contents of their children's Halloween baskets. The candy-tampering scare reached its height in 1982, when seven people in the Chicago area died after taking tainted cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules. About 40 communities actually went so far as to ban trick-or-treating. That year, the candy industry set up a telephone hotline to collect police reports of candy tampering, but it hasn't received a single verified report of a child being seriously hurt by tainted candy from a stranger. Despite the lack of evidence, parents still sometimes panic over candy that looks strange. Usually the appearance is due to variations in the manufacturing process or in storage. Chocolate can appear gray when the candy has been exposed to too much heat or moisture; it is normal.

Although the odds of someone actually tampering with Halloween candy are slim-to-none, most experts recommend that parents check their kids' Halloween haul before letting them eat it. Although you don't need to have your candy x-rayed at the local hospital or airport (and many of them offer the service), you should throw out any candy that's unwrapped, homemade (unless you know the person who made it) or has a torn wrapper, just to be on the safe side.

We have enough to worry about. Tainted Halloween candy should not be one more thing to be concerned with.

Just a couple of thoughts I had and you should too or at least think about.


DEKALB, IL 60115



Go to web sites below to buy books by Bruce A. Brennan. It is still a good time to purchase any of my books. The books are interesting and inexpensive reads. My third book is now available. The title is Public EneMe? (do a quick search, Title, my name) Do a Title or author search.

Book Titles:

Holmes the Ripper

A Revengeful Mix of Short Fiction

Public EneMe?

"Anger is never without reason, but seldom with a good one." - Benjamin Franklin