Is Halloween Candy Safe?
Trick or Treat?

Is Halloween candy safe to hand out to our kids to eat? We’ve seen the reports of melamine in candy and genetically modified sugar in Hershey chocolate As Halloween approaches, I am even more troubled about buying and handing out candy than usual. Common treats are full of artificial sweeteners with high fructose corn syrup and excitotoxins, partially hydrogenated oil, artificial colors, and preservatives.

Witch with Candied Apples

In years past, I’ve wrestled with the discomfort I feel about handing out the mass produced treats. I’ve told myself that these kids are eating the foul stuff anyway and after all, it’s one night a year. I have even purchased expensive candies in the bulk section of Whole Foods, but this year, I may just turn out the lights and go to bed. Last year I was lucky enough to be sick and so I didn’t even consider handing out candy to neighborhood kids.

But this year, I'm actually questioning the safety of Halloween candy. It’s come to my attention that Cadbury chocolates manufactured in China were found to contain traces of melamine, a dangerous industrial chemical. Remember the Chinese infant formula disaster and tainted milk scandal? Reports say the Cadbury products recalled were sold in parts of Asia and the Pacific. Hershey is the sole US distributor of Cadbury and has said that US products are not affected. Thinking about all those poor pets who suffered and died from the tainted pet food, I’m not so sure I’d take anyone’s word for it.

Indonesian tests indicated the presence of melamine in product samples produced in China, though Kraft Foods who makes Oreos and Mars who makes Snickers and M&M’s have questioned the findings.

And what about all the other ingredients that may have Chinese origin? Chocolate coins sold at Costco and Dollar Stores across Canada were recalled earlier this month, October 2008, after they were found to contain melamine. The government spokesman made a point of saying how low the risk is. Maybe. Maybe not.

Hershey has also come under fire for using genetically modified sugar in its products. Consumer pressure in Brazil caused Hershey to stop using the GM sugar, but not in the US. Not yet. In America, there is very little factual information about GM foods and the sore lack of true safety tests or existing evidence that GM foods can cause sickness and even death.

In fact, the most recent mainstream news on GM food I’ve seen was a report about a genetically modified purple tomato preventing cancer in mice. The genetically modified tomatoes are high in an antioxidant found in other foods such as blueberries. Is the antioxidant that much higher in the bioengineered tomatoes? And how does it compare to other powerful immune system enhancers like beta glucan? There are many who believe that cures for various cancers exist. But such cures may be cheap and natural and not profitable to drug companies. After all, someone can patent that purple tomato.

In any event, the question for me now is whether I lock the doors and turn out the lights on Halloween, or whether I can identify a healthy, but not too costly alternative. If Halloween candy isn't safe, will ordinary parents think fruit is ok? Earlier this week on the Today Show, it was suggested in one segment that people could give out tooth brushes. I don’t think I’d be very popular if I did that!

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