Spooky Halloween Regulations

Halloween costumes GettyImages-1166217450

Halloween is this week. That means costumes, spooky decorations, trick-or-treating, and pumpkin spice everything. The 185,434-page Code of Federal Regulations and its cousin, the United States Code, contain several rules to keep everything safe and tidy. Here are a few examples:

  • 16 CFR § 240.7 – As part of the 1936 Robinson-Patman Act, which is intended to prevent anti-competitive business practices, this antitrust regulation covers, among other things, manufacturers’ attempts to manipulate retailers’ product placement. This can include seasonally themed packaging for Halloween candy, special placement on aisle endcaps, and other promotional  considerations. 
  • 21 CFR § 73.2995 – This covers reflective or glow-in-the-dark makeup for Halloween costumes. It may not contain more than 10 percent by weight luminescent zinc sulfide. It also must be “intended for use only on limited, infrequent occasions, e.g., Halloween, and not for regular or daily use.”  
  • 16 CFR § 1610.1 – Flammability testing for costumes. It specifically exempts hats, gloves, footwear, and interlining fabrics. 
  • 10 USC, Subtitle A, Part II, Chapter 45, Sections 771 and 772 specify that only USPS letter carriers may wear the official uniform. It is illegal to wear one for a Halloween costume. A 1970 court case,  Schact v. United States, carved out an exemption for “theatrical purposes.” Congress, operating on a slight lag, in 1990 changed Section 772 of the statute law to reflect the Court’s decision. There remains no Halloween costume exemption, so anyone dressing as Newman from “Seinfeld” does so at their own risk. For more on this regulation, see Mike Chase’s excellent new book, How to Become a Federal Criminal, pp. 16-21. 
  • 40 CFR § 180.34 – Pesticide residue requirements for pumpkins. 
  • The FDA has labeling requirements for canned pumpkins

Countless other regulations maintain order during the rest of the year. For more on the size of the regulatory state, see Wayne Crews’s Ten Thousand Commandments 2019: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State.