The Poisoned Candy Myth

The summer heat has broken, the sky is gray, and it is nearly Halloween once again. That special time of year when the mystical and the paranormal are at the forefront of Americans’ minds and imaginations. A time for urban legends, ghost stories, and (unfortunately) drug myths. Specifically, a very old drug myth which has undergone an update in recent years, and has surged back into popularity—the so-called “poisoned candy” myth. 

Those of us in Anderson County who are, as they say, “of a certain age” can recall a time when parents across the country were terribly afraid of their children biting into razor blade-harboring Granny Smiths, chemical-laced homemade cookies, or drug-infused candy bars. Some of us will recall being made to toss out any treats which weren’t individually wrapped, or any suspicious-looking candies which may have been the subject of tampering. 

The enduring poisoned candy myth has been repeatedly, thoroughly debunked by a variety of experts over the past one hundred and twenty-five years, including scientists, folklorists, and public health and law enforcement officials. As early as the 1890’s, the US Bureau of Chemistry (a predecessor agency of today’s Federal Food and Drug Administration) analyzed samples of hundreds of common candies sold throughout the nation but found no evidence at all of the presence of poisons or “industrial adulteration” (or chemical contamination from the industrial process of candy making and packaging). Since then, many tests, studies, and investigations have been conducted, but no evidence has ever been found to support a single case of a malevolent stranger killing or permanently injuring a child with poisoned candy. 

Today, the poisoned candy myth has evolved somewhat, although the myth still reflects common anxieties and repeats two consistent themes, imminent danger to children and food contamination. In recent years, fears of poisoned candy have become fears of so-called “rainbow fentanyl,” brightly multi-colored fentanyl pills or tablets, home-pressed instead of in a lab, which resemble candies. While rainbow fentanyl pills certainly do exist, the myth is that malicious strangers intentionally distribute these pills (which can resemble candies) to children on Halloween, as explained last year by NPR. Just like the myths of common candies being contaminated by industrial processes back in the 1890’s, this myth has been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked.

The reality is this: according to USA Today, the greatest threat to children’s safety and health on Halloween each year is traffic. More kids are hurt and killed on Halloween in car collisions and being struck by cars than any other single cause. And it’s never a bad idea to keep medication that might be in the home safely stowed away so kids don’t get the bright colored shapes confused with their favorite candy, especially anything that comes in gummy form. Contact us if you need a medication lock box for your home. So, while it’s never a bad idea to monitor a child’s Halloween bag or bucket for any unusual items, the best way to keep him or her safe is to keep a sharp eye and hold little hands anywhere near moving traffic. And most importantly, have a happy Halloween!

Red Ribbon Week

Lastly, October 23-31 is Red Ribbon Week! 

According to nfp.org, the Red Ribbon Campaign was created after the murder of a US Drug Enforcement Agency official in 1985. Today, Red Ribbon Week is the largest and oldest annual awareness campaign for alcohol, tobacco, drug-use, and violence prevention observed in the United States. Red Ribbon Week and the Red Ribbon Campaign are sponsored by National Family Partnership (NFP), a grassroots nonprofit organization founded in 1980, and today a national leader in substance use prevention education and advocacy, to raise awareness of drug use issues and touch the lives of millions of people around the world. 

This year’s celebration includes the 13th Annual National Red Ribbon Week Photo Contest, and students, families, and schools all across America are invited to participate. The contest is intended to promote a drug-free lifestyle through creativity. Submissions are accepted through November 1st, and there are prizes to be won, so everyone should start snapping now! Just go to redribbon.org to submit your photos and enter the contest, and visit ASAP’s website for more resources.

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