Keep trick-or-treaters' food safe

Whether you are giving out treats or helping your young trick-or-treaters collect them, there are a few dos and don'ts to reduce the possibility of eating unsafe foods.

When deciding what to offer the youngsters who ring your doorbell, consider boxes of raisins or other dried fruits, low-fat microwave popcorn, packaged fruit leathers, coupons or other non-food items.  

There are many healthful snack choices that can be nutritious substitutes for candy and offered as "treats." Also, it's important that you be aware that some kids might have serious reactions to foods containing peanuts, nuts or other allergenic ingredients. Avoid those if possible.  

Parents share responsibility for the goodies their trick-or-treaters eat. Remind kids to politely decline homemade treats, or food items that are not commercially wrapped. Also remind them that you want to see all the treats they get, so they shouldn't eat any treats until they return home.  

Feed your children before they go trick-or-treating. Eating a healthful dinner, including vegetables, before heading out for trick or treat will help control the temptation to eat goodies before your children return home.  

Giving your children a small amount of candy or other food to eat while trick-or-treating will also help to curb the temptation to eat from their goody bag before their treats can be examined.  

At home, inspect all candy for torn or damaged packaging, pinholes, or anything else that might look suspicious. Eat only those treats that are in their original, unopened wrappers.  

Throw away candy if wrappers are faded, have holes or tears, or signs of re-wrapping. Throw away all unwrapped candy and discard all homemade candy and baked goods.  

Wash all fruit thoroughly, inspect it for holes, including small punctures and cut it open before allowing children to eat it. If your child has a food allergy, pay particular attention to goodies that might contain allergens, such as peanuts, nuts, wheat or dairy products. If you don't find the information you need on the package, you may need to check the manufacturer's website.  

Remember that for the youngest trick-or-treaters, caramel candies, peanuts and gum and small toys might pose a choking hazard.  

Drugs can look like candy. Anything that looks suspicious should be thrown away. Some treats, especially chocolate, can be poisonous to pets.  

If you are planning a party, serve pasteurized, rather than fresh, pressed apple cider. Unpasteurized apple cider may cause serious illness in children and adults.  

Bobbing for apples is another possible concern. Mucous and saliva, which will wind up in the bobbing bucket, are known sources of cold and flu viruses.  

If a child becomes sick after eating a Halloween treat, seek immediate medical attention. If possible, take along the remains of the suspected food or candy to help medical professionals determine the cause of the illness. If you have a poisoning emergency call, 800-222-1222.

Check out these websites for more Halloween safety tips:  and search for "Halloween Food Safety Tips for Parents, or go to

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.




Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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