It is time we de-bunked the myth that trick-or-treat candy is in need of an x-ray before our children are allowed to dig in. (Reprinted from Oct 1999 GNN story) Fact: There has never been a single confirmed serious injury from “tainted treats” having been altered by a stranger since fears began spreading among the public in the late 50’s

University of Southern California sociologist Barry Glassner checked the facts. Glassner points to Southern Illinois University sociologist Joel Best who investigated every incident of tainted Halloween candy since 1958, but couldn’t find a single instance of serious injury or death resulting from corrupted candy doled out by a stranger. Nearly all of the alleged tamperings were in the end proven to be false alarms or hoaxes, usually perpetrated by young pranksters.

Professor Glassner says that many reporters don’t check the facts, and end up repackaging the same fears year after year. Glassner’s book, The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things, asserts that the media, in search of ad dollars and ratings revenue, publicize “poignant anecdotes in place of scientific evidence, the christening of isolated incidents as trend and depictions of entire categories of people as innately dangerous.”

Incidentally, the two Halloween fatalities uncovered were tales of children poisoned by their own families, one to hide an accidental ingestion of heroin and the other to collect insurance.


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