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Trust Index: Should you be worried about tainted Halloween candy?

Tales of razor blades in apples and poisoned candy have been around about as long as the modern concept of Halloween. Today we're putting those claims through the Trust Index.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tales of razor blades in apples and poisoned candy have been around as long as the modern concept of Halloween.

For decades, parents and police departments have warned children that real-life monsters want to spoil all the spooky fun. Now we’re putting those claims to the Trust Index.

One of the first widely reported Halloween candy scares was in 1970. The New York Times published an article suggesting the possibility of strangers using Halloween candy to poison children. It mentioned two unconfirmed incidents in upstate New York.

Two days later, a 5-year-old in Detroit died on Halloween from a heroin overdose. His uncle claimed the boy was exposed to the drug in tainted holiday treats. It was later reported that the child found the drug in his uncle’s home and not in a bag of candy.

There was another widely reported story in the 1970s. A man dubbed the “candyman killer” poisoned his 8-year-old son with a cyanide-laced pixie stick. He had racked up a considerable debt and had taken out life insurance policies on his children. Police found other pieces of tampered candy before other children could eat it. The man was later executed.

Fifteen years later, researchers at the University of Delaware looked at 30 years of suspected poisoning. They didn’t find a single instance where a child died or was seriously injured because of tainted Halloween candy. The university continues that research today and has labeled poison candy claims an “urban legend.”

If we’re simply talking about people maliciously tainting candy to hurt children, we’d also label these claims as “not true.” But modern developments have complicated that a bit. With the popularity and legalization of edible marijuana in some states, there have been several instances of drug-laced candy ending up in schools and Halloween bags — both intentionally and by accident.

There are still no records of a child being seriously harmed by drug-laced candies during Halloween, many law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration urge parents to inspect their children’s Halloween candy as a precaution. For that reason, we’re going to give this a “be careful” label.

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About the Author:

This Emmy Award-winning television, radio and newspaper journalist has anchored The Morning Show for 18 years.