October 22, 2016

The FDA Has Advice for Keeping Halloween Safe, Not Scary

The FDA has some food safety advice to keep Halloween this year safe, not scary. Always check the treats your children bring home after going out in their costumes. I’m old enough to remember the scares in the 1980s when some very disturbed people tampered with Halloween candy.

HalloweenDon’t let people snack on their treats and candy while they are out trick-or-treating. They should eat a meal or snack before they leave the house, and should not go out on an empty stomach. Always check the candy and treats before the kids eat them. Look for strange appearances or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in the wrappers. Don’t let the kids accept anything that isn’t commercially wrapped; if your kids are older, warn them about this before they go out. And always throw away anything that looks suspicious.

If your child is allergic to something, whether it’s nuts, milk, or chocolate, check the label to make sure that ingredient isn’t in the treat. There is a new trend this year for children with allergies: if a person puts a teal-colored pumpkin on their front step, that means that house is offering allergen-free treats. But don’t depend on that; always check each treat before your child eats it.

Choking hazards are always a worry for small children. Do not let small children eat gum, peanuts, or hard candies. And watch out for small toys too.

Halloween parties can be problematic. Bobbing for apples, believe it or not, is a risk. Bacteria are often present on raw fruits and vegetables. Always wash them thoroughly before eating by rinsing under cool running water. Use a clean produce brush to scrub produce before eating. Instead of bobbing for apples in water, cut apples from construction paper and glue a paper clip to each apple. Let the kids “bob for apples using a magnet to pull the apples from a container.

If you are throwing a Halloween party, be safe! Never serve unpasteurized apple juice or cider to guests. There is currently an E. coli outbreak linked to raw apple cider produced at High Hill Ranch in California, and Uncle John’s apple cider in Michigan is being recalled for E. coli contamination. Unpasteurized juice is just as unsafe as unpasteurized milk.

Don’t eat raw cookie dough or cake batter. Uncooked eggs and raw flour are both E. coli and Salmonella hazards. Outbreaks have been linked to uncooked cookie dough and to eggs in the past.

Always keep an eye on the treats you have set out at a party. Keep perishable foods chilled until it’s time to eat; those foods include sandwiches, cheese platters, fruit salads, cold pasta salads, any meat, poultry, seafood, or egg dishes. Be careful with cream pies, and cakes and cupcakes with whipped cream and cream cheese frostings. Use a crockpot or hot plate to keep hot foods hot, and use ice bowls to keep cold food cold. And never let perishable foods sit out of refrigeration longer than 2 hours (1 hour when temperatures are over 90°F.)

Have a wonderful and safe Halloween! Enjoy every minute.

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