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Chowline: Safe Halloween Treats Without the Scary Tricks

Trick or treat is next week and this is the first year my little guy is old enough to go out candy gathering. What can I do to make sure he is safe, but also has a good time trick-or-treating?

In terms of food safety, parents can use a few quick checks to evaluate if treats contain allergens relevant to their child, if the product’s package integrity has been tampered with, or if a treat represents a choking hazard based on the child’s age.

The first thing you can do is make sure your kiddo understands that he is not to eat any candy or other treats that he bags during trick-or-treat until after you have had a chance to inspect those goodies at home.

One good way to inspect the candy is to take a close look at the candy under a bright light, paying close attention to whether it has been unwrapped and re-wrapped, if the paper is ripped or if the candy has a funny or unusual smell, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

You should also check to see if the candy had any discoloration, tiny pinholes or has any stains on the wrapping and whether or not the candy or treat is in its original packaging, FDA says.

To help your little one avoid the temptation of sneaking a piece of Halloween candy before they get home, it’s a good idea to make sure your child has already eaten dinner or some kind of snack before going trick-or-treating.

Other trick-or-treat tips from FDA:

  • For children with food allergies, you should always check the candy or treat label to ensure the allergen isn’t present.
  • Make sure you tell your kids not to eat anything that isn’t commercially wrapped. That includes homemade caramel or candy apples, popcorn balls and rice crispy treats.
  • Parents of very young children should remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies, or small toys from the Halloween trick-or-treat bags.
  • Throw away anything that looks suspicious.

FDA also has some safety tips for those who plan to attend Halloween parties:

  • Unpasteurized juices – like raw apple cider – are at higher risk for containing foodborne pathogens. Look for the warning label to identify juice that hasn’t been pasteurized or otherwise processed, especially packaged juice products made on site. If unsure, always ask if juice has been pasteurized or not. Normally, juice in boxes, bottles or cans from your grocer’s frozen food case, refrigerated section, or shelf has been pasteurized.
  • Before bobbing for apples, you can help reduce bacteria levels on the surface by thoroughly rinsing the apples under cool running water and using a produce brush to remove surface dirt.

“You should also be sure to use potable water and a clean, food grade container for the game,” said Abigail Snyder, an assistant professor and food safety field specialist in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) at The Ohio State University. “To reduce the risk of spreading foodborne illnesses even further, consider an alternative game other than bobbing for apples for your Halloween party.”

Other than that, have a great time trick-or-treating! And make sure you remind the kiddos to brush their teeth after eating all those great Halloween treats and remember not to eat too much at a time – they might end up with a scary tummy ache!

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu

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