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Safe and somewhat healthful treats for little tricksters

October 25, 2006|by LYNN F. LITTLE

Whether you are giving out treats or helping young trick-or-treaters collect them, there are some dos and don'ts to reduce the possibility of eating unsafe foods.

When deciding what to offer the youngsters who ring your doorbell, remember that traditional homemade favorites are no longer acceptable. Instead, consider boxes of raisins or other dried fruits, low-fat microwave popcorn, packaged fruit leathers, and coupons or other items besides. Consider other healthy snacks that can be provided as "treats." Also, be aware that some kids might have serious reactions to foods containing peanuts, nuts or other allergenic ingredients.

Parents share responsibility for the goodies that their trick-or-treaters eat. Remind kids to politely decline homemade treats, or food items that are not commercially wrapped. Also remind them that you want to see all the treats they get, so they shouldn't eat any until they return home.

Feed your children before they go trick-or-treating. Eating a healthy dinner, including vegetables, before trick-or-treating will help control the temptation to eat goodies before your children return home. Giving your children a small amount of candy or other food to eat while trick-or-treating also will help to curb the temptation to eat from their goody bag before their treats can be examined.

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At home, inspect all candy for torn or damaged packaging, pinholes or anything else that looks suspicious. Eat only those treats in their original, unopened wrappers. Throw away candy if wrappers are faded, have holes or tears, or signs of rewrapping. Throw away all unwrapped candy and homemade treats. If your child has a food allergy, pay particular attention to goodies that might contain allergens, such as peanuts, nuts, wheat or dairy products.

If you don't find the information you need on the package, you might need to check the manufacturer's Web site. Also, remember that for the youngest trick-or-treaters, caramel candies, peanuts and gum might pose a choking hazard.

Drugs can look like candy. Anything that looks suspicious should be thrown away. Some treats, especially chocolate, can be poisonous to pets.

For a party, serve pasteurized, rather than fresh, pressed apple cider.

Bobbing for apples is another possible concern. Mucous and saliva, which will wind up in the bobbing bucket, are known sources of cold and flu viruses.

If a child becomes sick after eating a Halloween treat, seek medical attention. If possible, take the remains of the suspected food or candy to help medical professionals determine the cause of the illness. If you have a poisoning emergency call, 1-800-222-1222.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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