Writer's Circle: A call for an end to candy tampering

A call for an end to candy tamperingAs far back as I can remember, a big bowl of Halloween candy has always come with a side of fear.

When I was a kid, it was the perceived terror of a madman pushing pins into candy bars to hand out to unsuspecting boys and ghouls. I’m told there was a time when Halloween trick-or-treating was an evening of innocent fun, but that ideal is as much a myth to me as the “razor in a candy apple” may be.

I was 9 years old the year some sadist put cyanide in Tylenol capsules, heightening a public panic that has never really ceased. The urban legends of Halloween candy-tampering have made neighbors wary of each other and shifted post-trick-or-treating rituals from gleeful to grim. Instead of children dumping their bounty onto the living room floor for sorting, parents took the first pass at the goodies, sitting under the hot glare of the dining room light to inspect each snack-sized bar for trouble.

We stood there holding our paper masks and pillowcases, hovering over our parents’ shoulders while they turned over each piece of  candy. We prayed silently that at least none of the full-size Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups had any pins in them. A handful of sweets each year at our house was deemed too risky. Sometimes a corner of a wrapper was partially torn (most definitely from the mass of little hands punching down into the bowl of goodies to grab and go), and anything homemade — like popcorn balls and candy apples — were discarded on sight.

To a kid, that was injustice we could barely stomach, to let your parents put their mitts all over your hard-earned treats before you even got a sample of the evening’s catch. (This after being forced to wear your Batgirl cape over a puffy winter jacket and dark jeans over the Batgirl tights, which really left a lot to be desired in the costume department.)

But what were we to do? It was either let Dad discard what he wanted to or risk losing the loot altogether. (My husband’s mother would press her thumb into every piece of candy, testing for anything sharp. Talk about candy tampering!)

Today that buzz over a perceived threat has sprouted such silliness as retail trickor-treating and designated Halloween days. Last year Oct. 29 was proclaimed “Halloween” in some towns, and all trickor-treating had to be done then. It didn’t matter that the “real” Halloween was on a Saturday; the date change was done for safety reasons, the local police departments said.

Now that I have kids of my own, I find it ironic that we as parents are generally more worried about the one-in-a-million chance of a pin in a peanut butter cup than we are of the very real threats of childhood obesity or a mouthful of cavities.

These days the fear that surrounds the giant bowl of candy in my foyer is based more on the knowledge that I will eat the leftovers. All of them. Every single bite-sized bar that doesn’t go to the neighborhood kids will go to me. That will be thousands of empty calories and many, many ounces of artificial ingredients consumed just as the diet-busting holiday season approaches.

Perhaps if I stick my thumb in each one they’ll be less appetizing, but I doubt it. When it comes to Halloween, I’m still a kid at heart. Pass the peanut butter cups!

Robyn Passante is a freelance writer and mother of two who will diligently inspect her children’s Halloween candy before she eats any of it. In addition to writing for regional publications and niche websites, Robyn writes two parenting blogs. Her essays and musings on parenthood can be found at robynpassante.blogspot.com.

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