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Halloween Food Safety

Posted in Food Safety on October 20, 2018

That time of year is coming when the spooky and adorable costumed children come knocking on your door. We love Halloween and everything about it. We really get into the spirit of things, and while we do not hand out as much candy we we once did before we had children of our own, I still find myself becoming quite festive in dressing the boys and taking them out trick-or-treating. Halloween food safety is a big deal at our place.

We have to be food-aware this time of year for more reasons than just our waistlines from indulging in one too many sweet treats though. Obviously we don’t take candy from strangers, but the FDA goes a little further into food safety when it comes to Halloween.

To make sure treats are safe for children, follow these simple steps:

  • Snacking: Children shouldn’t snack on treats from their goody bags while they’re out trick-or-treating. Give them a light meal or snack before they head out – don’t send them out on an empty stomach. Urge them to wait until they get home and let you inspect their loot before they eat any of it.
  • Safe treats: Tell children not to accept – and especially not to eat – anything that isn’t commercially wrapped. Inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pin holes, or tears in wrappers. Throw away anything that looks suspicious. Each year it seems that more and more rumors hit the internet with candy issues including needles and other horrifying information. Be sure to check and double check your candy stash.
  • Food Allergies: If your child has a food allergy, check the label to ensure the allergen isn’t present. Do not allow the child to eat any home-baked goods he or she may have received.
  • Choking hazards: If you have very young children, be sure to remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies, or small toys.

Bobbing for apples is an all-time favorite Halloween game. Here are a couple of ways to say “boo” to bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.

  • Reduce the number of bacteria that might be present on apples and other raw fruits and vegetables by thoroughly rinsing them under cool running water. As an added precaution, use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.
  • Try this new spin on apple bobbing from FightBAC.org: Cut out lots of apples from red construction paper. On each apple, write activities for kids, such as “do 5 jumping jacks.” Place a paperclip on each apple and put them in a large basket. Tie a magnet to a string. Let the children take turns “bobbing” with their magnet and doing the activity written on their apple. Give children a fresh apple for participating.

If your idea of Halloween fun is a party at home, don’t forget these tips:

  • Beware of spooky cider! Unpasteurized juice or cider can contain harmful bacteria such as Salmonella. To stay safe, always serve pasteurized products at your parties.
  • No matter how tempting, don’t taste raw cookie dough or cake batter that contain uncooked eggs.
  • “Scare” bacteria away by keeping all perishable foods chilled until serving time. These include finger sandwiches, cheese platters, fruit or tossed salads, cold pasta dishes with meat, poultry, or seafood, and cream pies or cakes with whipped-cream and cream-cheese frostings.
  • Bacteria will creep up on you if you let foods sit out too long. Don’t leave perishable goodies out of the fridge for more than two hours (1 hour in temperatures above 90°F).

Be sure to check to make sure that if you are applying makeup to your child (or even yourself) that you test a portion on your skin as allergies that can creep to other areas of your body. While not food safety related, the idea of having an allergic reaction to makeup when you are just trying to have some Halloween fun is definitely not on the menu for a good time. Many people choose to do their “test run” several days before the big event to ensure there are no issues.

Personally, we take our boys to the local assisted living facility which is also connected to a nursing home and rehabilitation center so that not only the residents can get a peep of the children in their adorable costumes but we also know that this is safer as far as accepting treats than going door to door. They also hand out a variety of snack bag sized portions instead of just mounds of candy. In our community there are also fun events at local fire departments and also the downtown businesses participate in a door to door style trick or treating that has children heading into the business spots instead of inside homes.

We have attended Halloween parties inside the homes of friends in the past, too. These bring forth a variety of food safety concerns especially when preparing foods for a crowd. When we host events in our home we make sure that the hot foods stay hot and the cold foods stay cold. We do not leave anything out and also use those warming trays for hot foods. They work great and are not very expensive when entertaining a bunch of people. We also prepare a lot of foods ourselves with ingredients that we get from local farmers who supply seasonal produce and the Halloween icon; the pumpkin!

Whether you find yourself heading out to trick or treat with your children, attending events or even hosting one inside your own home be sure to practice the above tips to ensure that everyone not only has a great time and makes many memories but also avoids sickness.

At the end of the night you want to remember what a great time that was had by everyone, and send your kiddos to bed so you can collect your parent tax– If you haven’t heard of that one be sure to look it up. I am one of the fortunate ones that has kids who aren’t really fond of candy and love to share.

By: Samantha Cooper, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)