How to Respond to Two Needle-in-Halloween Candy Incidents?

Readers, I am sorry to report that, working their way through their Halloween stash, two kids in different parts of Canada found a yiryhrbkhs
needle in their candy

As every year I reassure parents that no child has ever been killed by a stranger’s candy on Halloween (that still holds true), a mom wrote to ask how would I respond to these  incidents. Her feeling was that she wasn’t going to panic, but she did want her child to “be aware.”

I wrote back that this made sense…kinda. Certainly, kids should know that if they bite down on a needle — stop eating! But I’m pretty sure that would happen automatically.

What’s more: They won’t bite down on a needle.

When something like this — awful and unnerving — happens once or twice in the more than $2 billion worth of Halloween candy sold throughout Canada and the United States, we still have to keep it in perspective. For instance: If one child falls off a swing, should we get rid of all swings? That seems to be the only solution we consider decent now. An entire school district in Washington State just vowed to get rid of each and every one. Yet most of us realize that that just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t even make sense to become more worried about swings, which have been with us since prehistory. They have not suddenly become more dangerous.

Similarly, we can dutifully tell kids not to eat a single bite of candy till they bring it home and we “vigilantly” comb through it, as an article about the pins-in-candy suggests. But I believe we are actually allowed to say, “The chance is so infinitesimal, let’s not worry about it.”

Those words are almost blasphemous in a  world that warns about every horror that happens anywhere, no matter how rare or remote. But the alternative — actively fretting about each incredibly slight chance of disaster — is a warped way to live.

The “Be very, very careful!” message tells our kids is that they are in constant danger from everyone, everywhere, when in fact they are in almost no danger from everyone, everywhere. Fear turns neighbors into suspects, and parents into bodyguards. Kids go from being happy citizens to victims-in-waiting.

Yes, it is positively gut-wrenching to hear of people so sick they’d put pins in candy. The more I think about it, the more upset I get. That’s why sometimes the only answer is to avoid the news, which presents all dangers as present and pressing, and turns us into anxious, angry people. I prefer to focus on the unremarked-upon news that approximately 10,000,000,000 pieces of candy did not contain needles. That’s low risk! You are twice as likely to be killed by falling space debris. So to act as if all our kids have a somewhat decent chance of being harmed by Halloween candy is to get it really wrong.

That’s why I say: Eat your candy on your way home, kids. Sure, if it looks weird or torn, skip that piece. But enjoy the holiday — and the odds.

Scary stuff?

Scary stuff?


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20 Responses to How to Respond to Two Needle-in-Halloween Candy Incidents?

  1. jenn November 20, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

    This just happened too! So sad. But I too believe the chance is infinitesimal.

    I will teach my kids to be careful, but not to live in fear.

  2. J- November 20, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

    I think there have been more reputable Bigfoot and Loch Ness Monster encounters than dangerous Halloween candy incidents.

    It seems odd that a stranger would hand out candy all night and spike only one piece. The best real example I can find on tampering with a product in order to hurt someone was the Chicago Tylenol Murders in 1982 and that guy poisoned 8 bottles and killed 5 people. I get the feeling that this is a hoax of some kind.

    Never underestimate what a crazy parent will do for notoriety. If you don’t believe me, I have a boy trapped in a weather balloon that needs your prayers.

  3. Erica November 20, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

    We had two bags of moldy M&Ms in our Halloween buckets, but I’m pretty sure there wasn’t any malicious intent there. Someone probably just use last years candy but stored it in a damp place. My daughter opened the bag and showed us the odd looking M&Ms without us telling her about all those dangerous people lurking about laughing maniacally while twisting their mustache and thinking dastardly thoughts.

  4. KronWeld November 20, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

    Please don’t tell the kids to eat their candy on the way home. They throw the wrappers on the side, the yards, the street, etc. and I’m tired of picking up after them!

  5. CrazyCatLady November 20, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

    I think, to add to the things in Halloween Candy, that a wedding ring was lost in a bowl and then handed out. So…find a needle…ow, find a wedding ring…WOW!

  6. Pophouse November 20, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

    On the one hand I think we shouldn’t overreact to the alleged threats on Halloween, but on the other hand I like a good story to scare the tar out of my kids on Halloween. What is a person to do?

  7. J.T. Wenting November 20, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

    And that same candy could well have ended up in a kid’s possession at any other time of the year for whatever other reason.

    So let’s ban candy!

  8. Bob Bleck November 20, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

    I looked for suspect items and all I found were unwanted U2 albums.

  9. Gina November 20, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

    The solution, it seems to me, is to ban all sewing needles. Somebody might put one in a piece of candy.


  10. Nadine November 20, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

    Maybe we should tell them to pick up after themselves instead KronWeld. I would be pretty peeved if I knew my kid litters. it would be litter pick up duty in the whole street the next day. Free Range is also about a kid being responcible with its freedom

  11. Michelle November 20, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

    KronWeld, I put a lot more effort into teaching my kids not to litter than to wait for me to inspect their candy. My kids are required to put their used candy wrappers back into their candy bags until they can get home.

  12. Donald November 20, 2014 at 8:53 pm #

    “It seems odd that a stranger would hand out candy all night and spike only one piece.”

    I don’t believe that it’s real. It happened but it was done BECAUSE of the fear culture. It was done in order to get attention knowing that the needle would be discovered before eaten

  13. SOA November 20, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

    If my kids got messed with candy the one to most likely eat it would be me. My son has a peanut allergy so most of the candy he cannot have anyway and I take it because I am a glutton for chocolate.

    So if someone sticks a pin in a snickers I would be the one eating it.

    So I don’t worry about it. We are some of the last few hold outs on real trick or treating in our area. Most people around here do trunk or treats instead or just drive to grandparents houses

  14. Peter November 21, 2014 at 2:01 am #

    Gina felicitously suggested that all sewing needles be banned. that was the solution in at least one fairytale – Sleeping Beauty. The law didn’t work the princess still pricked herself and slept for 100 years along with everyone else.

    The Buddha as a child was prevented from seeing death, sickness or aging in any form even to the extent of ridding the palace grounds of fallen leaves. This was to prevent him from becoming a holy man. If he saw anything negative like this he would depart from the princely path he was suppose to take. These efforts didn’t work and the Buddha went on form a major world religion.

    There may be a lesson for helicopter parents today from these stories.

  15. BL November 21, 2014 at 6:25 am #

    “I don’t believe that it’s real. It happened but it was done BECAUSE of the fear culture. It was done in order to get attention knowing that the needle would be discovered before eaten”

    That thought occurred to me too.

  16. Richard November 21, 2014 at 8:59 am #

    On the topic of trick-or-treating and homemade(!) goodies, there was a “For Better or For Worse” comic strip from Lynn Johnston where two kids, Michael and Lawrence, are out trick-or-treating along with John, Michael’s father. John comments about not being able to trust homemade goodies and insists on assessing the safety of such goodies…by eating them. Lawrence then comments to Mike about the items that John has saved them from, including “6 chunks of homemade fudge.” Interestingly, this specific strip was published on October 31, 1979, and was included in the book “I’ve Got the One-More-Washload Blues” (pg .20)

  17. Emily Morris November 21, 2014 at 9:22 am #

    I’m much more disturbed at the idea of people spiking candy to make a point than a crazy murderer spiking candy.

  18. Donna November 21, 2014 at 9:43 am #

    Even if it did really happen, it was likely just someone wanting to cause a sensation and not someone trying to hurt kids. We hear about needles in candy all.the.time before Halloween. It doesn’t surprise me that someone decided to do it just for kicks and giggles. Wanting to hurt a random person for no apparent personal reason and not even being around to see the ultimate payoff would be a very odd crime.

  19. Warren November 21, 2014 at 11:41 am #

    If it is a rea incident or a stage incident, doesn’t matter. Excuse the language, but shit happens, it’s over, move on. Nothing to see here, folks, just go about your regular day.

  20. Harrow November 22, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    Spiking only one piece of candy sounds like the kind of jackassery that kids of a certain age would find funny.