Free-Range Kids

Dirty Needle in the Halloween Candy? Nobody Panic


Reason TV

Oh how I cackled! Reason TV's Jim Epstein and I posted a video of me in a witch hat explaining "The Three Ways Parents are Ruining Halloween." One way was with over-hyped fears of poisoned candy.

But recently, a reader informed me that this year, two children found needles in their candy up in Canada. What did I have to say about that?

A lot, as it turned out. Mostly about keeping risk in perspective, which can make a gal sound truly witch-like. See, if you fan the flames of hysteria—"No child is safe!"—you are seen as a caring individual. Or at least a caring TV correspondent, with a special report at 11. Stay tuned! But if you fan the flames of rationality, you risk sounding heartless. As I wrote on my blog, Free-Range Kids:

We can dutifully tell kids not to eat a single bite of candy till they bring it home and we "vigilantly" comb through it, as an article about the pins-in-candy suggests. But I believe we are actually allowed to say, "The chance is so infinitesimal, let's not worry about it."

Those words are almost blasphemous in a world that warns about every horror that happens anywhere, no matter how rare or remote. But the alternative—actively fretting about each incredibly slight chance of disaster—is a warped way to live.


Warped, yes. But popular. Now all of Canada is worrying about two needles, despite the fact that more than $2 billion worth of Halloween candy is sold throughout North America. Assuming each dollar buys just five pieces of candy (and way more of the cheap stuff I buy), the odds of finding a projectile in any one of them is 1 in 10,000,000,000.

Those are good odds. So good, you'll never hear them on TV. That is what's so scary. 


NEXT: Friday A/V Club: Ronald Reagan Says 'Open the Border Both Ways'

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. In other news, reason endorses feeding dirty needles to children. AS IF WE’RE SURPRISED.

    1. Um… War on Children?

      1. War is hell. And hell is for children. So yes, war on children.

  2. The irony is that Lenore actually looks worried.

  3. Parents comb through their kids’ Halloween candy so they can steal the good stuff, not because they think there are needles in it. Duh!

    1. Speaking of which, the five year old still has candy left thanks to parental rationing. Think I’m going to have a mini Babe Ruth tonight after dinner.

      1. Just like how rationing works when the government does it.

        1. Not really. I don’t just take it and say fuck you. I ask. And being the sharing sort, the kid always says yes.

          1. It’s funny, my son never shares with my wife but always shares with me. It’s probably because she just takes stuff from him while I either ask or he volunteers.

      2. I just take it and when they ask I tell them it is a tax.

        1. Just wait until they impose their own taxes on friends and siblings based on your example. Then you can then tax them for that behavior.

          Just like formalizing and enforcing quid pro quo; It’s the lesson that keeps on giving.

      3. I’m all out. I had to buy a twix yesterday.

  4. I’m not sure I even believe that “two children found needles in their candy in Canada”. The article is pretty damn sketchy with details.

    1. It does have a “my neighbor’s grandmother’s best friend knows someone who heard about this” feel to it.

    2. It’s bullshit. Canada?! Come on, at least come up with a name that sounds real.

    3. Notice on this and the one from Colorado the day after Halloween, they use file photos. No actual evidence, but hey, SCARY!!!!! That’ll get the clicks. At least in the Colorado one they used a picture of a needle (“what a needle may look like”).

  5. Barron von Reesespieces by Proxy.

    Some people’s live just aren’t complete without LOOK AT ME drama.

  6. A better breakdown of the odds are that somewhere around 50 million children in the US and another 5 million in Canada and only 2 of them found any laced candy making your odds somewhere around 1 in 25 million. And that assumes that both cases are legitimate and not hoaxes

    1. Better to do the Bayesian analysis where the prior distribution of finding kids dead with a razor in their throat (or PCP oozing from their pores, HIV+ needle sticking out of their face, w/e) and a half-eaten candy bar in hand is zero.

  7. Anybody live near Towamencin,PA? It was reported a 13 yr. old found a razor blade under the wrapping of a “fun size candy bar.” Never heard any follow-up? Did the kid hoax us or was it a real sicko?

  8. And here we have both the source and the target audience for this bullshit:

    Beverley Bell ? Top Commenter ? Sir John A. Macdonald, Ottawa
    This has always been a problem, even back when I was little, we had to inspect our treats very carefully. razor blades were the most common problem then.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.