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October 2011

Halloween Safety Hotline

The 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 an intensive and continuous educational effort, reports of tampering incidents have declined. Maintenance of this success is important, and the hotline has established an online 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 police officers 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 Candy Hotline website at 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 manufactureHard unexpanded malted milk ball centerTree 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 manufacture
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

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From The Police Chief, vol. LXXVIII, no. 10, October 2011. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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