Every year, parents and police departments worry about tricks in their kids' Halloween treats: razor blades in apples, poison in candy bars.
But incidents of candy poisoning are very, very rare -- if they exist at all.
"There have never been any substantiated cases of strangers tampering with Halloween candy," said Susan Whiteside, in an email to Booster Shots Friday. Whiteside is a spokesperson for the National Confectioners Assn., which provides an FAQ on Halloween candy safety and coordinates with law enforcement to track reports of tainted treats.
The Los Angeles Times has written about popular misconceptions about tampered Halloween candy. In this report from 1985, Anne C. Roark noted that one L.A.-area hospital had been X-raying candy for four years and never found anything. Four years later, columnist Mike Spencer pounded the message home, calling candy poisoning "a myth."
Both stories featured the work of sociologist Joel Best. In the 1980s, Best was a professor at Cal State Fresno; today he teaches at the University of Delaware. He has devoted almost 30 years to debunking the "Halloween sadism" myth, addressing it in books and scholarly papers and at great length on his website (where you can find updated information, including a catalog of reports of Halloween poisonings that later turned out to have other explanations).