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How may children since 1958 have been poisoned by a stranger’s candy on Halloween?

More than 30,000?

Between 10,000 and 30,000?

Between 1,000 and 3,000?

Less than 1,000?

The answer: How about none.

I cannot find any evidence that any child has ever been killed or seriously hurt by a contaminated treat picked up in the course of trick or treating

— Joel Best, professor of criminal justice and sociology at the  University of Delaware

As a parent, I cannot say that I ever was concerned about anything like this. In any case, the trick-or-treating scene has turned into a pathetic, lamb-like, super-controlled event. It happens only at certain times, in certain locations, lots of cops driving around. That seems odd to me. Isn’t trick or treating time a time when more parents are usually out with their kids, at least the younger kinds? You might argue that more predators are out too. The data on child abductions and assaults, etc. is similar to the candy contamination.

And just some little points of reflection for those in the state congregation:

  • How many pieces of candy did the FDA inspect coming out of the factory?
  • How many pieces of candy did the FDA inspect between the supermarket and our homes?
  • How many pieces of candy did the FDA inspect between our homes and our childrens’ plastic pumpkins?

And a final note, think of what our complete overestimation of certain risks and underestimation of other risks does for policy. We’ll illustrate that in future posts.

Happy Halloween (how soon until we are not allowed to utter that in polite company, like “Merry Christmas”?)

2 Responses to “Scaring Ourselves to Death”

  1. Harry says:

    Friday afternoon I stopped for a school bus and watched a boy who appeared to be a ninth grader get off and get into a car driven by his father to be chauffeured home; the whole street has to be less than a quarter mile. This is out in the country.

    The kid’s parents think he is still in first grade. The FDA thinks we are all in first grade.

    Of course, when you and I were kids, we walked five miles through the snow to get home.

    Happy Halloween!

  2. Jim Pier says:

    My high school freshman daughter came home with an assignment to interview me about how things were different when I was her age. It was for a communications course, so the first things were tweeting, the internet and cell phones. But when she asked me to break down how I had communicated with my friends, I recalled that one of the biggest changes since then is how much easier and more routine it was for me to spend actual face-to-face time with friends. I estimated that at least half of my communication with friends, outside of school, occurred face-to-face. I imagine it was well above that, even. I could walk or bike to any friend’s house, and there were no worries when I did so, from about first grade on. (Granted, I lived in a smaller town, but today we are in a suburb of Cleveland that is relatively safe.) With every child carrying a cell phone and Amber alerts, I don’t know the statistics on child abductions, but I do know intuitively that the perceived risk is many times greater than the actual one.

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