Should your child eat chocolate-covered spider legs?

Halloween is just around the corner! Some youngsters have been busy for weeks planning their gruesome costumes. Others reject menacing attire for the more sublime, as in the case of my 4-year-old neighbor who insists on being a "princess."

Today's parents are tasked with the ultimate responsibility of making sure the Halloween candy their kids collect from neighbors and friends, sometimes even strangers, is safe for them to eat. There are lots of scary stories circulating, but with a little vigilance, Halloween can be a fun time for both you and your children.

Here are some great tips to ease the minds of anxious parents and help them decide which candy to keep and which to discard.

  1. Plan a hardy meal for your children before they are scheduled to Trick or Treat, so they can better resist the allure of the candy.
  2. During dinner discuss (again) with your children why the safety of their candy is important to you and to them. Explain that because you care so much about their health you will monitor, and perhaps confiscate, some of the candy they collect. Reassure them that they will have more than enough left to enjoy over the next few days.
  3. Make sure your children understand that they are not to eat any of their candy until you can inspect their candy stash. Your children should not be surprised when you begin to look though their candy pile, they should expect this process as a necessary prelude to indulging in their first sweet bite.
  4. Look for these signs and confiscate the goods: unwrapped candy, candy whose wrappers show signs of tampering such as discoloration, pin holes or tears, candy with wrappers in a foreign language, unwrapped fruit and homemade goodies (unless you personally know the baker).
  5. Check for choking hazards in the "goody bags" of small children: hard candies, gum, nuts, and small toys.
  6. Inspect lists of candy ingredients for foods your children might be allergic to: peanut butter, strawberries, nuts or milk products.
  7. Do not give other children candy that you would not allow your own children to eat if someone gave it to them.
  8. Talk to your children about responsible candy-eating. Tummy aches can ruin the fun! Perhaps limit the number of pieces they can have per day or set an expiration day for the candy's life cycle.
  9. Stay away from apple-bobbing games, juice or cider that is not pasteurized and raw cookie dough and cake batter. Do not let finger sandwiches, fruit or vegetable trays or cheese platters remain at room temperatures for more than two hours. These foods have the potential for harmful bacteria.
  10. For older children, involve them in the process of deciding what candy is safe and what is not. They can do internet searches for lists of hazardous candy, both foreign and domestic. They can even find out if wrapped, chocolate-covered spider legs are safe for them to consume.

Above all, if you come across any questionable candy, remember:
When in doubt, throw it out!


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