That Tainted Halloween Candy Myth Just Won’t Go Away

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Despite a deficiency of evidence, warnings astir dangers lurking successful treats person been an yearly ritual for decades. The newest twist involves weed.

A radical  of trick-or-treating children attended the Haunted Fountain astatine  the Cathedral, a Halloween event, past  twelvemonth  successful  New York City.
Credit...Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet for The New York Times

Oct. 27, 2021, 5:45 a.m. ET

As children spell trick-or-treating, it is exceedingly improbable that your neighbour volition enactment a razor leaf successful an apple, poison a wrapped Snickers bar, or, successful this year’s mentation of the aforesaid aged story, swap THC-laced gummies for regular candy, tricking guiltless youngsters into accidentally getting high.

Historically, specified acts person not conscionable been rare, but precise adjacent to wholly undocumented. The deficiency of grounds has done small to reassure parents, the constabulary and immoderate successful the media, who person repeated the mostly unverified claims for decades.

Typically, the warnings travel earlier Halloween, instructing parents to inspect their children’s haul for immoderate signs of foul play. In caller years, with marijuana becoming ineligible successful much states, the interest has shifted to children accidentally ingesting edible weed candies, laced with THC and designed to look similar accepted snacks. “A antithetic sweetener high: Bensalem constabulary pass of ‘weed candy’ this Halloween,” read 1 header from Pennsylvania this month.

The specter of THC-laced candies is nary much threatening than past baseless legends, said Joel Best, a sociology prof astatine the University of Delaware who has studied the taxable since 1983. He’s recovered virtually nary grounds of it happening successful existent life, contempt the yearly ritual of headlines and warnings.

“This spreads chiefly among radical who person nary thought what this worldly costs,” helium said.

A 500-milligram container of a THC-infused Cheetos-like snack tin beryllium recovered online for $15 and up, portion THC-laced imitations of Sour Patch Kids volition outgo astatine slightest $20. That terms makes them thing fewer radical would springiness away, helium said.

The fable whitethorn person its roots successful 1959, erstwhile a dentist successful California handed retired laxative pills coated successful candy, causing 30 children to autumn sick. The constabulary said 450 of the pills were “put into the trick-or-treat bags of youngsters,” according to a UPI study published successful The New York Times a fewer days aft Halloween that year.

Mr. Best, who has tracked media sum successful large newspapers each twelvemonth since 1958, said the fearfulness deed its highest successful the aboriginal 1970s.

“Those treats whitethorn beryllium tricks,” The Times warned successful 1970.


Credit...The New York Times

“Take, for example, that plump reddish pome that Junior gets from a kindly aged pistillate down the block,” The Times wrote that year. “It whitethorn person a razor leaf hidden inside. The cocoa ‘candy’ barroom whitethorn beryllium a laxative, the bubble gum whitethorn beryllium sprinkled with lye, the popcorn balls whitethorn beryllium coated with camphor, the candy whitethorn crook retired to beryllium packets containing sleeping pills.”

Concerns died down for a bit, Mr. Best said, until 1982, erstwhile cyanide-laced Tylenol pills killed 7 people opening successful September, prompting copycat attacks and adjacent much fears of contaminated items. Amid the nationwide attention, immoderate communities banned trick-or-treating, and market stores reported candy income dropping 20 to 50 percent.

The net property would let for much pranksters to assertion they had recovered overseas objects successful their candy. After all, kids playing tricks connected adults is 1 of the main points of Halloween, and it’s not hard to make a fraudulent Instagram post, helium said. But helium continued to find fewer confirmed cases of children really being harmed by treats.


Credit...The New York Times

Over the years, occasional reports of a kid being harmed would look successful the media. But a comic happening happened erstwhile Mr. Best investigated what happened next: Nearly each time, the claims would later autumn isolated arsenic hoaxes. In 2015, for example, 2 teenagers successful Chester County, Pa., claimed they had recovered needles successful their candy, but they recanted their stories days later.

“I can’t find immoderate grounds of immoderate kid being killed oregon earnestly wounded by a contaminated dainty picked up successful the people of trick-or-treating,” Mr. Best said.

He recovered 5 deaths that had been attributed to Halloween sadism, each of which aboriginal proved to person unrelated causes. One kid died successful 1970, aft eating heroin that the constabulary primitively said had been successful his Halloween candy; it aboriginal emerged that helium had found the heroin successful a relative’s home. An 8-year-old died aft eating cyanide-laced candy, but helium had gotten the candy from his father, who was convicted and executed for the murder.

One related illustration had thing to bash with Halloween. In 2018, the strawberry manufacture successful Australia was affected aft immoderate people, including a 7-year-old miss who was not physically harmed, recovered needles successful their fruit. For months, supermarkets pulled strawberries from their shelves, and yet a supervisor astatine a strawberry workplace successful Queensland was arrested; charges against her were dropped this July.

As for the marijuana treats, Mr. Best said helium hadn’t seen immoderate confirmed reports of children being sickened by them. But warnings from constabulary departments person often been repeated successful section media outlets successful caller years.

“These treats tin look similar accepted candies, but tin person harmful effects if consumed by a child,” the Drug Enforcement Administration’s St. Louis part wrote successful 2018. “The D.E.A. and instrumentality enforcement agencies passim the state person seen an summation of seizures of drug-laced edibles, including but not constricted to chocolates, suckers and gummies.”

It continued: “The D.E.A. St. Louis Division has not identified immoderate circumstantial threats but issues this arsenic an advisory.”

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