Is poisoned Halloween candy really a concern?

Posted at 12:49 PM, Oct 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-30 20:26:41-04

While the Jackson, Miss. Police Department is warning parents to look for narcotics masquerading as candy on Halloween, an official said parents should not be spooked by the warning.

The Jackson Police Department shared a photo taken from a Louisville, Ky. man of what appears to be hard candy. The photo is actually of ecstasy; a narcotic that causes people to hallucinate.

Jackson Police Department spokesperson Colendula Green said her department is not concerned, even though the department’s Facebook page shared the image.

“It has not been an issue,” Green said about prior trick-or-treat nights in Jackson.

Joel Best, an expert on Halloween sadism, has not found an incident of tainted Halloween candy given out by people not related to the children.

“There is this fear out there, and it is terribly overblown,” Best said. “They are worried that some maniac will hand them a contaminated treat, and I can’t find any evidence that has ever resulted to a death or serious injury. Most of the people that follow up on these incidents conclude that the great majority of these things are hoaxes, usually perpetrated by the kids.”

Green and Best agree that parents and guardians should not be too concerned about candy that has been tampered.

“One of my grad students brought this (photo) to my attention,” said Best, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware. “She said that if people aren’t going to spring for full-size candy bars, you’re not going to spend thousands of dollars for ecstasy.”

Best pointed out that he has seen warnings about candy containing THC, a chemical that is an active ingredient in marijuana. This concern has been amplified since recreational marijuana has been legalized in Colorado. But Best believes this is also not a concern.

“The problem is it is expensive, it was something along the lines of $10 a dose,” Best said. ‘It is a little hard to imagine people passing out $10 candies to trick-or-treaters.”

While Best said he has never checked his children’s candy, he said it easy enough for parents to inspect their children’s treats. He also encouraged parents to take other steps to protect their kids while trick or treating.

“Halloween is an extremely dangerous holiday,” Best said. “The reason it is dangerous is you’re sending tens of millions of kids into the dark. What happens is they get hit by cars, they get tangled up in their costumes and fall down and injure themselves, there are lunatics that let their kids out with open flames. There are terrible things that happen.”

Justin Boggs is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @jjboggs.