Tampering with tradition

Trick-or-treating is an essential part of childhood

By Lauren Lukens, Editor-in-Chief.

As a child, the changing of leaves and the necessity to wear a jacket only meant one thing—Halloween. There was nothing more exciting than going from one spooky house to the next in a costume, either creepy or cute, and gathering absurd amounts of candy. When settling at home after multiple trips around the block, I remember sorting out all of my favorite candies and eating them with my sister and friends until getting a stomach ache or passing out; whichever came first.

Traditions of Halloween, trick-or-treating in particular, have gone on for decades, but in recent years, children and adults have been hearing and sharing rumors that pranksters taint Halloween candy with drugs, razor blades, pins, needles, harmful substances and even poison, then randomly distribute the goodies to innocent trick-or-treaters.

The slim possibility of this happening has resulted in the media encouraging parents to prevent children from trick-or-treating and to create alternative traditions for the holiday, such as going to a Halloween-themed party.

It is sad that a holiday that has been thoroughly enjoyed and looked forward to by kids across the U.S. for so long is slowly being sanitized out of existence in the name of safety. It is even more devastating that there appears to be little reason for it.

While it is a possibility to come across altered candy while trick-or-treating, documented cases of such tampering are rare and non-existent in the case of poison. Nearly all such cases turn out to be nothing: they are pranks, false reports, a manufacturing accident or a coincidence.

For example, a woman from Reno, Nevada was angry and terrified to find what looked like prescription pain medication wadded up with a lollipop in her son’s Halloween bag in 2013. After police arrived, it was confirmed that the pills were vitamins and the case reported was uncommon, according to KOLO 8 News Now on Nov. 2, 2013.

Another false case occurred on Halloween in 2013 when a Facebook post from a mom warned parents that several children in the Amelia, Ohio area had been taken to the hospital after ingesting Halloween candy. Upon further investigation and validation of local hospitals, police confirmed that no such cases were reported and the Facebook post was a hoax, according to Cincinnati’s WLWT 5 on Nov. 2, 2013.

Similarly, a wrapped insulin needle was found in a bag of Halloween candy in Algonac, Michigan in 2013. When the child got home, the mother checked the bags of candy and found the insulin needle in cellophane wrapper. Because no other reports of this issue occurred and nothing else in the bags of candy indicate candy being tampered with, it is believed to be an accidental manufacturing issue, according to The Times Herald on Nov. 1, 2013.

While it is understandable for parents to be concerned for their children’s protection, it is important to allow small children the opportunity to participate in the classic traditions of Halloween. Trick-or-treating as a child is one of the most memorable and cherished memories as one grows older, and nobody should miss out due to the slim possibility of a mishap.

Instead of prohibiting a child from trick-or-treating altogether, parents should take extra precautions to ensure their child’s safety. Those old enough to go without adult supervision should also be aware of safety procedures.

Make sure to be visible to automobile drivers because the real terror of Halloween is that a child is four times more likely to be hit and killed that night than any other time of the year, according to Science Daily in 2010. Trick-or-treaters can make themselves stand out with reflective tape on a costume or bag, a flashlight, glow sticks or highly visible colors. Also, an adult should accompany children under 10-years-old, and trick-or-treating should only be done in familiar areas.

Before leaving to go trick-or-treating, make sure to have a filling meal so that kids will not be tempted to snack on candy during their voyage around the neighborhood. After porch lights are off and children have returned home to evaluate their collection of candy, nothing should be eaten until someone of accurate judgment evaluates the stash and throws away any candy that appears to be unwrapped, rewrapped or suspicious in any other way. Once old enough, kids can judge their own candy and make educated choices for themselves.

Foreign objects hidden in Halloween loot have become a part of the trick-or-treat experience over time, but these incidents are few and far between. The fear of such events happening is greatly out of proportion with the likelihood of it occurring. Do not let the fear of an avoidable accident prevent young children from enjoying a tradition that has gone on for decades.