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Poisoned Halloween Candy for Kids

Updated on October 27, 2012
Trick or Treat!
Trick or Treat! | Source

Halloween Candy Poisoing

Real Candy Poisoning Cases on Halloween

In Detroit, Michigan, in 1970, a five year old boy, Kevin Toston, died after ingesting what seemed to be heroin-laced Halloween candy. However, it turned out later that he had accidentally taken some of his uncle’s heroin, causing the overdose. The family, in an attempt to protect the uncle, had then sprinkled the heroin onto the candy to cover up what really happened. In a similar case in New Britain, Connecticut, in 1994, a three-year old boy died after eating Halloween candy. After an investigation, however, it was determined that he had actually ingested cocaine at some unknown time, and that was the culprit.

Other non-poisonings include another incident in 1991 when a 31-year-old man died after eating his child’s Halloween candy; it was determined that he had died of heart failure. Another death was that of a seven-year-old girl in 1990; she died of congenital heart failure, unrelated to anything she ate. Finally, in 2001, a four-year-old in Vancouver died the day after Halloween. Her candy was initially blamed, until an autopsy showed that she had died from non-contagious sepsis-causing streptococcus, which had nothing at all to do with any of the candy she had gotten or eaten.

There’s really only one case that involved actual Halloween candy being poisoned, and that occurred in 1974 in Houston, Texas. In that incident, however, there was nothing accidental or random about it. Ronald Clark O’Bryan put cyanide in Pixie Stix and allowed his eight-year-old son, Timothy Marc O’Bryan, to eat them in order to collect on an insurance policy. In that case, the father was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, finally being executed in 1984.

Halloween Candy Tampering

Pins and Needles, Needles and Pins

According to Professor Joel Best, there have been approximately 80 cases of sharp objects in food since 1959, but the majority of them were hoaxes, and only ten resulted in any actual harm to the “victims.” In most cases, it was a sibling or another child who was attempting to pull a prank, not understanding the actual harm that could be causes. In 2000, James Joseph Smith, a 49 year old Minneapolis, Minnesota, resident, put needles in Snickers bars that he was giving out for trick-or-treating. Only one child was injured – a 14-year-old boy, but it was a minor prick from the needle, and no medical attention was required to help him.

Halloween in Mid-City New Orleans. Xy lets the neighbor kids take a reach in her candy pot.
Halloween in Mid-City New Orleans. Xy lets the neighbor kids take a reach in her candy pot. | Source

How to Prepare Candy for Trick or Treaters

Real Halloween Dangers

Halloween can be dangerous, though. Children often wear masks or contact lenses that keep them from seeing well, or they may not wear reflective clothing or use flashlights or glow-sticks to be seen by others. Interestingly enough, another danger comes from drinking

non-pasteurized apple cider that can cause illness.

The CDC website provides tips for a SAFE HALLOWEEN that center more on staying with a group, not eating too much candy, being careful to be visible to vehicles, avoiding physical injury by not wearing contact lenses and patch-testing any make-up to avoid allergic reactions, and avoiding candles that may come into contact with Halloween costumes. For more details from the CDC, check out their Halloween page at

Pet Safety

Family pets seem to be more at risk than children. In fact, there are four dangers that, if you have a cat or dog, you may want to look out for.

First, remember that chocolate is toxic to most pets. Dogs especially seem to like chocolate, the darker and bitterer, the more they like it, but the darker and more bitter, the more toxic it is! If you’re worried your animal may have eaten chocolate, call the vet. Some signs to look out for include seizures, lethargy, diarrhea, agitation, vomiting, elevated heart rate, and increased thirst.

Second, don’t let your pets eat too much! While kids may eat a bit too much candy and get a stomach ache, animals who eat too much candy can get pancreatitis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the pancreas. It can take up to four days after the ingestion of the candy for the signs to show up, so be on the lookout for abdominal pain, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, decrease appetite, and even kidney failure.

Third, avoid letting your pets eat “healthy” Halloween snacks. Raisins are often a healthy alternative for kids, but for pets, it can cause kidney failure in dogs and cats. Look for the other symptoms of poisoning: abdominal pain, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and decrease appetite.

Finally, watch those candy wrappers! They are often tasty because there is a bit of candy left behind on them, but if your pets eat them, the wrappers can cause blockages in the bowel that can be life-threatening. Make sure that you throw away your wrappers where your pets can’t get them. Symptoms to look for include decreased appetite, an inability to defecate, lethargy, or vomiting.


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