• Simply GenZ

Dangers of Halloween Candy

The unquiet spirits, vampires, and the omnipresent zombies that take over American streets every October 31 may think Halloween is all about spooky fun. But what Halloween masqueraders may not realize is that in the early 1970s and well into the next decade, real fear took over. The media, police departments, and politicians began to tell a new kind of Halloween horror story -- about poisoned candy.

Every year, reports of trick-or-treaters falling victim to tampered Halloween candy make headlines across the country, confirming concerned parents' worst fears. Razor blades, sewing needles, even poison – police forces across North America have reported cases of nefarious objects in treats for decades. Tracking incidences of candy tampering is difficult for police, as such behavior generally falls under the criminal charge of mischief, and no database of such crimes exists. The RCMP and local police services across Canada – including in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto, Halifax – were unable to confirm whether or not charges had ever been laid in connection with Halloween candy tampering.

The first report of Halloween treats being tampered with within North America was in 1959. That Halloween, a California dentist named William Shyne distributed 450 laxative-laced candies to children — 30 of whom fell ill. He was later charged with "outrage of public decency" and "unlawful dispensing of drugs”.

One of the only known cases of someone being charged in connection with Halloween candy tampering occurred in Minneapolis, Minn., in 2000. James J. Smith, 49, was charged with felony adulteration after four teenagers told police they received chocolate bars that were later found to contain needles, according to the Minnesota Star Tribune. One of the children was reportedly injured by a needle after he bit into a chocolate bar but did not require medical attention. Smith was deemed unfit to stand trial. The last available update on the case was a petition to have him committed to a mental health facility.

Other Halloween dangers

Health Canada urges kids to be careful when eating candies received while trick-or-treating – but that is primarily on account of food allergies and sensitivities. It also encourages parents to tell children not to accept or eat "anything that isn't commercially wrapped" and instructs parents to check candy for "small holes" in wrappers. That leaves those who want to offer an alternative to commercial candy products with few options.

Halloween, with its association with the powers of darkness, can allow many legends to flourish -- tales of dangerous outsiders, poisoned candy, and other alleged threats to American life. Social media may serve that role the rest of the year. But on Halloween, dark rumors may actually knock at the door.

Writer - Antra Pandey

Editor - Priyam Kusundal

Graphic Designer - Jhem Picache