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Tainted Halloween Candy

Every year for decades children and adults alike have been hearing and passing along rumors of dangerously tainted Halloween candy: goodies laced with poison, drugs, razor blades, pins, needles, and other sorts of harmful substances randomly distributed to innocent trick-or-treaters by depraved pranksters. While documented cases of such
tampering are rare (and in the case of poison, non-existent), these rumors persist, in part, because every year numerous cases of suspected candy tampering are reported by the news media in the days immediately following Halloween.

Nearly all such cases turn out to be nothing: they're pranks played by children on their parents, siblings, or friends; they're false reports generated by attention-seeking children and adults; they involve material that accidentally, rather than deliberately, ends up in children's goodie bags; or they're examples of coincidence mistaken for causation (e.g., a person eats a piece of candy and shortly afterwards feels ill, then erroneously attributes the illness to tainted Halloween candy). But often no follow-ups are done on such news stories after the initial, unconfirmed reports, leaving the public with the impression that all of them involved genuine cases of tainted candy being distributed to trick-or-treaters. Below we've collected a round-up of such news stories from Halloween 2013, some of which are already known to involve false reportings:

A Facebook post warning parents that several children in the Amelia, Ohio, area had been taken to the hospital after ingesting tainted Halloween candy was determined to be hoax:

After a rumor spread on Facebook, many were worried that candy had been tampered with and passed out during trick-or-treating in an Amelia neighborhood.

According to Amelia police, the post was a hoax.

Concerned residents reached out to police because of the following Facebook post:

"any one that took your kids to Amelia (Quail Creek) PLEASE check your kids candy REALLY GOOD! Candy that was in wrappers like Tootsie rolls, gum and smarties, had something put in them that put 6 kids in Clermony Mercy ER!"

Police said representatives with the local hospitals have confirmed no such cases have been reported.

After confirming that the post was untrue, police said they tracked down the person who created the original post and ordered them to remove it.

A report in Nashua, New Hampshire, of a razor blade found in a boy's trick-or-treat bag turned out to be merely a bit of broken pencil sharpener that accidentally got mixed in with his collected loot:

Nashua police said it appears that concerns about a razor blade placed amongst a child's Halloween candy may have been the result of a misunderstanding.

The parents of the boy reported finding the razor blade in the bottom of the boy's bag when they went to check his Halloween candy.

Police said the boy was using his school backpack to collect the candy and it appeared the razor blade came from the child's broken pencil sharpener that was in the backpack.

A Florida girl who claimed to have discovered a piece of razor blade in a Halloween candy bar was found by police to have lied about the incident:

Panama City Beach police say a child lied about finding a razor blade in a piece of Halloween candy.

When a Lynn Haven girl got home from trick-or-treating in Panama City Beach, she unwrapped a Snickers bar and bit into it. She told her mom there was a piece of a razor blade inside.

The girl was not hurt, but her mom called police, worried it could happen to another kid.

Beach Police responded to the home and conducted an investigation. They say the girl lied about the incident and the case is now close.

A boy who went trick-or-treating in Pennsylvania said he found a razor blade in a package of M&M's, but police believed the incident to be a manufacturing issue:

A 12-year-old Pennsylvania boy says he found a razor blade in a package of M&M's while trick-or-treating, prompting investigations by local police and the candy's manufacturer.

Matthew Hernley said he found a one-inch blade in a fun-size package of M&M's during his town's sanctioned period of trick-or-treating in Scottdale, Pa.

Scottdale Police said they were investigating, but as the boy indicated, it would be difficult to determine from which house the candy was received.

"The package did not appear to be tampered with and we think this is probably is a manufacturing issue," a Scottdale Police officer [said].

A couple of incidents were reported in Algonac, Michigan, and El Centro, California, of children finding still-wrapped diabetic needles among their Halloween candy:

A wrapped insulin needle found in a bag of Halloween candy in Algonac appears to have gotten there accidentally, according to a press release from the St. Clair County Sheriff Department.

A deputy was called to a home on Marine City Highway about the incident.

The caller reported the kids had been trick-or-treating in the area of Columbia Street and Liberty in Algonac.

When they got home, their mother checked the bags and found the needle still in a cellophane wrapper.

The deputy checked the candy in both bags and found nothing that would indicate the candy had been tampered with. At the request of the mother, the candy was disposed of.

There were no other reports of any issues with needles or any other substance in candy bags in Algonac or elsewhere in St. Clair County.

A small diabetic needle in its packaging was discovered in the candy bag of young girl, according to El Centro police logs. The needle was disposed of at the police station by the child’s mother.

Parents in Albuquerque, New Mexico, reported that their children were given anti-abortion fliers while trick-or-treating:

You’re thinking about a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup or maybe some Junior Mints, and right there in your pile of Halloween candy comes a message straight from the abortion rights battlefield. That’s the unexpected treat a few Albuquerque trick-or-treaters got — a message from the Right to Life movement, just in time for the city’s special abortion rights election.

The messages were dropped into bags in northwest Albuquerque.

Frank Valdez said he immediately noticed the anti-abortion handouts when his kids returned from trick-or-treating.

"It's kind of offensive to a parent. You're pretty much getting told what to talk to your kids about," he said. "The kids had just finished trick-or-treating."

Now some residents are hoping the person who attached these notes to the candy realizes some people took offense.

The cards were made by a national organization called Abolish Human Abortion.

A couple of brief reports (from Thunder Bay, Ontario, and Calvert County, Maryland) of children finding sewing needles in their trick-or-treat bags made the news:

City police are investigating a report of a sewing needle being found in Halloween treats.

Officials with the Thunder Bay Police Service report that the complainant's children went out trick or treating in the Kakabeka Falls Village. When the children returned home their candy was checked and the needle was discovered.

Police say they are looking into the incident to determine if it was accidental or possibly intentional.

Authorities in Calvert County, Md., say they received a report of a sewing needle found inside the wrapper of a Hershey's chocolate bar.

The report came from the St. Leonard area. The sheriff's office said that they believe this is an isolated incident.

The investigation is ongoing.

Police in Camden, New York, received a report of a razor blade being found in a child's bag of Halloween candy:

Camden police are investigating the instance of a razor blade found in a child’s bag of Halloween candy.

Police received a complaint about a utility razor blade that had been found amongst a child’s candy.

Nobody was injured and the razor appears as though it was dropped into the bag, not put into any candy, police said.

A teenager in Brockville, Ontario, was reportedly slightly injured when he bit into a peanut butter ball containing a needle (although he had purchased the candy at a store and not collected it while trick-or-treating):

No one wants to find a hazardous item inside a piece of candy.

But it happened to one 15 year old in Brockville after he bit into a peanut butter ball.

Insp. Scott Fraser: "He didn't sustain very serious injuries but needless to say, it could have been a lot worse. The needle did stick into his lip."

It happened just before 10 o'clock Halloween night after the teen and his family purchased the candy at a local Brockville store.

While police won't say what store the candy was purchased at, they are working closely with them saying they have taken all of the peanut butter balls off the shelves. They are also working closely with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency who is also contacted the company that produced the candy.

Insp. Scott Fraser: "At this point we are still investigating and we will continue to investigate it and try and find out where it originated, this needle."

At this point police say it appears to be an isolated incident.

Police in Fernley, Nevada, responded to a report that a couple of pieces of one child's Halloween candy were found to contain a piece of plastic and a pin:

The Lyon County Sheriff's Department said investigators believe a report of tainted Halloween candy from the Southwest Meadows subdivision is an isolated case confined to one child and two pieces of candy in the child's trick or treat bag.

Law enforcement was called around 7:30 Halloween night after Acting Lt. Shawn Clanton said, "It was store bought candy and one of them had a piece of plastic in it which was taken out by the child. The child ate the candy anyway. The other piece of candy had a stick pin in it."

Deputies searched 13 homes the child had visited while trick or treating and found nothing amiss. They did discover one home had a bucket of candy out front where children could help themselves because the residents were not home. Clanton said, "The possibility of a third party might be tampering with that is there, but we are still looking into all possibilities and continuing to investigate.

Parents in Langley, Ontario, and Prince Rupert, British Columbia, reported finding pin in candy bars their children were given on Halloween:

Langley resident Tanya Verbeek says her brother-in-law found a pin in her nieces's KitKat bar.

The family went trick-or-treating in Surrey, but it was not until they came home that they found the pin.

"My [brother-in-law] was kind of rifling through [the candy] to have a small snack," says Verbeek, "when he saw a small hole in the wrapper, and when he opened it further, he found the pin." She says it looks like a sewing pin. "It looks like somebody tried to push it in and then hand it out," she says.

Verbeek’s brother-in-law did called the [police] non-emergency line, but was told since they do not know what house the candy came from, police cannot pursue the matter further.

Brenna Stanley found a metal pin in a Coffee Crisp chocolate bar that one of her three children brought home after going trick-or-treating in their neighbourhood.

She says she discovered the tampered chocolate bar when she was checking the candy.

"I came across a chocolate bar that was already opened. And I looked in it and there was a pin in the chocolate."

Constable Monte Webb with Prince Rupert RCMP confirmed they have received a report of Halloween candy with a sharp pin embedded in a small snack size chocolate bar.

"The end of the wrapper had been opened and the sharp pin pushed in to the candy bar which was discovered by the child's mother while inspecting the candy for safety. The child was not injured in the incident as the diligent examination taken by mother prevented the child from biting in to the candy," said Webb.

Prince Rupert RCMP are investigating the matter.

A treat bag that a 6-year-old Pennsylvania child brought home from his school's Halloween celebration was found to include a prescription anti-depressant pill:

A western Pennsylvania school issued a warning after a drug discovery inside a child's Halloween candy bag.

Officials called parents to tell them that an elementary student found a pill with candy obtained during a class Halloween party.

Dr. Wesley Shipley, the district superintendent, confirmed that a Lexapro pill was found in one child's candy bag. Lexapro is a prescription drug used to treat depression. He said that it's not yet known from where the pill came.

Shipley said [a] phone alert [issued to parents] was strictly precautionary, adding that he believes the incident to be isolated. There were no other similar reports.

A similar report of prescription pain medication being found in a Nevada child's Halloween bag turned out to be a package of vitamins:

Tonja Hamilton says she was angry and terrified when she discovered what looked like prescription pain medication in with her son's Halloween candy. She says they were in a waded up pharmacy bag, about 10 pills with a lollipop. Police arrived quickly after she reported the shocking discovery. "[The policeman] said he looked them up and said that they were just vitamins," explains Hamilton, "... it's not common, he told me it's not common."

Two California residents, an adult woman in Salinas and a child in Moreno Valley, reported feeling ill after eating some Halloween candy they believe may have been laced with drugs:

A Salinas woman ate a candy bar she said was laced with drugs on Halloween.

While driving home, the 32-year-old mother reached into her 16-month-old daughter's candy bag, pulled out a Snickers bar and ate it, her family said. Almost immediately, she knew something was wrong.

"She was feeling the effects of almost a panic attack and then euphoria all mixed in," said her brother, Eduardo.

Only later did the woman realize something was also wrong with the candy bar's packaging.

"(It's) almost completely normal except for the folded seam on the inside, there's a small hole that definitely would not have been there," Eduardo said.

The woman was taken to Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital and treated for symptoms doctors liken to those experienced by people who've taken LSD. She said her daughter was given the candy while trick-or-treating in Salinas' Creek Bridge neighborhood. Police are investigating.

Salinas police are specifically looking into houses on [the streets she visited], Crabill said. Their investigation will center on whether the candy was indeed poisoned and, if so, if the tainting was intentional, he said.

The results of the woman’s blood panels aren’t yet available, Crabill said. However, a physician deemed her symptoms to be consistent with "an acid-based substance," such as LSD.

This incident is isolated, Crabill said. He couldn't recall any past reported incidents involving tainted Halloween candy.

A Moreno Valley child who showed symptoms of ingesting illegal drugs may have been sickened by eating Halloween candy that was tampered with, according to sheriff's officials.

Authorities believe the candy might have been collected while trick-or-treating on Halloween.

"At this time, there have been no other reports of anyone in the community becoming ill from ingesting tampered candies," according to [a press] release.

The child who became ill had been playing with other kids at a neighbor’s house on Saturday, Nov. 2, according to the release. The child’s age was not disclosed.

Soon after arriving home, the child began exhibiting symptoms of being under the influence of illegal drugs, so his mother took him to the hospital immediately.

"During the investigation, officers discovered the child may have consumed candy that was tampered with," according to [a press] statement.

Investigators were looking into the possibility that the child could have been sickened from another source, but at this point, they believe it was the candy collected during trick-or-treating. Testing was underway to determine what kind of drugs were involved.

A mother in New London, Missouri, claimed she found that several pieces of candy her children collected while trick-or-treating contained pellets she believed to be rat poison:

Like countless parents around the country, Amber Dolbeare of New London took her children trick or treating. Dolbeare claims her youngsters were given candy containing poison during one of their stops in Hannibal.

Dolbeare didn’t pay much attention to the candy her youngsters had been given until her son brought to her a Snickers bar that he had just bitten into. Hanging out of the candy bar was a light green pellet, approximately a quarter inch in length.

"When I pulled it out, it looked like rat poison," said Dolbeare. "Thank God he did not bite into the pellet."

According to Dolbeare, the candy bar's wrapper appeared sealed when her son opened it.

"Somebody must have re-glued it," she said.

After her son's discovery, Dolbeare collected all her children's candy and began going through it. The next two items she opened — Milk Duds and Skittles — also contained pellets. Only the Skittles container appeared to have been tampered with.

Last updated:   4 November 2013

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