The Sweetest Urban Legend of All

Keeping the holiday theme going, we now turn to the perennial Halloween boogieman, the anonymous candy poisoner. For decades, parents have been warned to check their kids’ candy carefully, lest a cyanide-laced Sugar Daddy make in into junior’s mouth. As Iain has taught us, however, the record books are mighty slim when it comes to any children actually being harmed by psychos intent on taking advantage of the candy-giving season:

Every year, newspapers and television programs warn parents about the “threat’ [from poisoning trick-or-treat candy, along] with grave reminders to check apples for razor blades and needles.

This year [2003], the Food and Drug Administration has joined in the tale-telling, warning parents to inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers. Throw away anything that looks suspicious.

But the FDA is telling just another scary tale, with as much truth as the legend of Hookhand: Halloween candy-tampering is a myth. University of Delaware sociologist Joel Best studied national criminal data going back to 1958 and found only 76 reports of any kind of tampering, of which almost all turned out to be mistaken or fraudulent.

In other words, parents, relax. Snopes, by the way, also has the low-down on mythical poisoned Halloweencandy.