US Med Voice

US Med


Vol. 5, No. 10 | October 2013




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The Modern Ghost Story
Poisoned Treats are Rare, Contrary to Popular Belief

US MED Gives BackToday, the scariest thing about Halloween, at least for parents, appears to be a horror story told and retold but with the substance of a ghost.

Halloween treats are not being poisoned.

They are not being sabotaged.

According to one expert, they never were. Joel Best, a University of Delaware professor, has made a name for himself from the 1970s researching incidents of so-called Halloween sadism -- the tainting of Halloween treats.

Best, who has scoured medical literature and newspapers since 1970, has found few reports of injuries due to Halloween candy and none turned out to be true.

The most popular myth is that children find a needle or pin in an apple or candy bar. Best says in all reports he finds only two examples of pins in food. One purportedly in the candy apple of a 55-year-old man who did not trick-or-treat. One pin was swallowed a week before Halloween.

With Internet, Best says he now finds occasional reports but these rarely turn out to involve injury. He found three such reports in 2012.

In fact, in the five cases where actual death has been attributed to trick-or-treating and candy, three deaths were found to be of natural causes. One death occurred when a child ate heroin found in a relative's home. One child ate candy poisoned by his father, who was subsequently convicted of murder.

Even though Best says the incidents are extremely rare, just talking about the subject can raise fears. People are afraid someone might really do it.

Recent polls suggest up to 24 percent of parents are concerned about poisoned treats.

In fact, most ER visits on Halloween are for hand injuries occurring while carving pumpkins.


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