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Back to Archives | Back to October 2009 Contents 


Halloween Safety Hotline

IACP and the National Confectioners Association joined forces in 1982, establishing the Halloween Candy Hotline to assist law enforcement officials and poison control nationwide in the event of suspected candy tampering. The Halloween Candy Hotline offers technical assistance and expertise in determining whether an incident is a real problem or a result of manufacture and/or shipment.

The hotline was started because of numerous complaints of razor blades, glass, and other harmful items placed in candy during Halloween. After a very intensive and continuous educational effort, reports of tampering incidents have declined. Maintenance of this success is important, and the hotline has established a Web presence ( where law enforcement officials and poison control centers can access this information easily. The telephone Hotline will still exist during Halloween.

The Hotline operators will put you in touch with experts for the confectionery item in question. The manufacturer’s expert will help determine whether it is a concern to be further investigated or a common and harmless occurrence, which can happen during shipping or the manufacturing process. For example, a “white powder” could be starch from a candy filling or “glass” might be crystallized sugar.

The Hotline Web pages for law enforcement officials and poison control are available during the Halloween season. Please keep in mind that the Web pages and Hotline are NOT for the general public. To contact a Hotline operator during the Halloween season, call 1-800-433-1200.

Visit The Halloween Hotline Web site ( for frequently asked questions, safety recommendations, and other useful information to print out and to help create awareness for the Hotline.

Possible Shipment/Manufacture Occurrences in Confectionary Products

This document is a listing of possible effects on candy from manufacturing and shipping. However, do not consider these occurrences normal if the product or its package appears to have been tampered with or is suspicious in any way.
AppearanceNormal Condition
Air BubblesResult of manufacture
Color VariationNormal Condition
Graying Chocolate (resembles light powder)Fat "bloom" caused by exposure to heat
Sugar "bloom" caused by exposure to dampness
White Powder-Like SubstanceFood starch used as a release in manufacture or during packaging
Unmixed ColorResult of manufacture
Shiny Crystal-like SubstanceLarge sugar or crystals resulting from manufacture
Hard unexpanded malted milk ball center
Tree sap, a gum sometimes present from nuts (from trees)
IndentationsResult of manufacture; sometimes due to a timing imperfection in wrapping
LumpsNormal Condition
HardResult of manufacture; may be peanut but, stem, or fruit bit
White Particles on CandyResult of manufacture; may be starch that has not dissolved or sugar or salt from peanut butter
Metallic TasteCandy burned in manufacture
White Particles on ContainerSugar or starch from manufacture
Holes (looks as if made with the tip of a pin)Air holes or starch holes that result from chocolate enrobing process; holes from sizing units
Whitish-Yellow PowderOn product or in container from crushing of chocolate; on surface below chocolate covering, may be starch
Spotted SurfaceBlack or brown spots may be sugar burned in manfacture
Looks or Feels Like a Little PebbleHard pieces of unexpanded malted milk ball center
OtherNormal Condition
Unexpected TasteCitric or ascorbic acid that has not dissolved may be unusually bitter or sour; unusually strong flavoring may result from air bubbles with concentrated flavoring
Wet LookMoisture from product of polish solution
Stringy Substance on SurfaceEscaped cream or other center

Cell Phone and Texting: Driving Risks

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, a part of the Virginia Poyltechnic Institute and State University has released the results from studies documenting driver distraction and cell phone use. Several of the findings are contrary to popular beliefs.

Conducting several large-scale, naturalistic driving studies (using sophisticated cameras and instrumentation in participants’ personal vehicles), Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) provides a clearer picture of driver distraction and cell phone use under real-world driving conditions. Combined, these studies continuously observed drivers for more than 6 million miles of driving. A snapshot of risk estimates from these studies is shown in the table below.

CELL PHONE TASKRisk of Crash or Near Crash
Light Vehicle/Cars 
Dialing cell phone2.8 times as high as attentive driving
Talking/Listening to cell phone1.3 times as high as attentive driving
Reaching for object (i.e., electronic device and other)1.4 times as high as attentive driving
Heavy Vehicles/Trucks 
Dialing cell phone5.9 times as high as attentive driving
Talking/Listening to cell phone1.0 times as high as attentive driving
Use/Reach for electronic device6.7 times as high as attentive driving
Text messaging23.2 times as high as attentive driving

In releasing these results, Dr. Tom Dingus, director of the VTTI said “given recent catastrophic crash events and disturbing trends, there is an alarming amount of misinformation and confusion regarding cell phone and texting use while behind the wheel of a vehicle. The findings from our research at VTTI can help begin to clear up these misconceptions as it is based on real-world driving data.”

VTTI’s studies that included light vehicle drivers and truck drivers show manual manipulation of phones such as dialing and texting of the cell phone leads to a substantial increase in the risk of being involved in a safety critical event (for example, crash or near crash). However, talking or listening increased the risk much less for light vehicles and not at all for trucks. Text messaging on a cell phone was associated with the highest risk of all cell phone–related tasks.

Eye glance analyses were conducted to assess where drivers were looking while involved in a safety critical event and performing cell phone tasks. The tasks that draw the driver’s eyes away from the forward roadway were those with the highest risk.

Several recent high visibility trucking and transit crashes have been directly linked to texting from a cell phone. VTTI’s research showed that text messaging, which had the highest risk of over 20 times worse than driving while not using a phone, also had the longest duration of eyes off road time (4.6 seconds over a 6-second interval). This equates to a driver traveling the length of a football field at 55 mph without looking at the roadway.

Interestingly, recent results from other researchers using driving simulators suggest that talking and listening is as dangerous as visually distracting cell phone tasks were not verified by the VTTI’s studies. The VTTI studies found that talking/listening to a cell phone allowed drivers to maintain eyes on the road and were not associated with an increased safety risk to nearly the same degree. For example, talking and listening to a cell phone is not nearly as risky as driving while drunk at the legal limit of alcohol.

VTTI reports that recent comparisons made in the literature greatly exaggerate the cell phone risk relative to the very serious effects of alcohol use, which increases the risk of a fatal crash approximately seven times that of sober driving. Using simple fatal crash and phone use statistics, if talking on cell phones was as risky as driving while drunk, the number of fatal crashes would have increased roughly 50 percent in the last decade instead of remaining largely unchanged.

These results show conclusively that a real key to significantly improving safety is the driver keeping his or her eyes on the road. In contrast, “cognitively intense” tasks (such as, emotional conversations, “books-on-tape,” and so forth) can have a measurable effect in the laboratory, but the actual driving risks are much lower in comparison.

VTTI Recommendations: Based on the findings from VTTI research, the institute recommends reinforcing the following driving behaviors:

  • Driving is a visual task and non-driving activities that draw the driver’s eyes away from the roadway, such as texting and dialing, should always be avoided.
  • Texting should be banned in moving vehicles for all drivers. As shown in the table, this cell phone task has the potential to create a true crash epidemic if texting continues to grow in popularity and the generation of frequent text message senders reach driving age in large numbers.
  • “Headset” cell phone use is not substantially safer than “hand-held” use because the primary risk associated with both tasks is answering, dialing, and other tasks that require your eyes to be off the road. In contrast, “true hands-free” phone use, such as voice-activated systems, are less risky if they are designed well enough so drivers do not have to take their eyes off the road often or for long periods.
  • All cell phone use should be banned for newly licensed teen drivers. VTTI research has shown that teens tend to engage in cell phone tasks much more frequently, and in much more risky situations, than adults. Thus, studies indicate that teens are four times more likely to get into a cell phone–related crash or near crash event than their adult counterparts.

The Disconnect Between Naturalistic and Simulator Research: VTTI states it is important to keep in mind that a driving simulator is not actual driving. Driving simulators engage participants in tracking tasks in a laboratory. As such, researchers that conduct simulator studies must be cautious when suggesting that conclusions based on simulator studies are applicable to actual driving. With the introduction of naturalistic driving studies that record drivers (through continuous video and kinematic sensors) in actual driving situations, it is possible to have scientific methodology to study driver behavior in real-world driving conditions in the presence of real-world daily pressures. As such, if the point of transportation safety research is to understand driver behavior in the real world (such as, increased crash risk due to cell phone use), when conflicting findings occur between naturalistic studies and simulator studies, findings from the real world should be considered the gold standard.

It is also critical to note that some results of recent naturalistic driving studies, including those highlighted here as well as others, are at odds with results obtained from simulator studies. Future research is necessary to explore the reasons why simulator studiessometimes do not reflect studies conducted in actual driving conditions (that is, the full context of the driving environment). It may be that controlled investigations cannot account for driver choice behavior and risk perception as they actually occur in real-world driving. If this assessment is accurate, the generalizability of simulator findings, at least in some cases, may be greatly limited outside of the simulated environment.

In 1996, VTTI was designated as one of the three Federal Highway Administration/Federal Transit Administration Intelligent Transportation Systems Research Centers of Excellence. In 2005, VTTI was designated the National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence. For more information, visit ■



From The Police Chief, vol. LXXVI, no. 10, October 2009. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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