We've all heard the urban legend about the razor blade embedded in an apple or a candy bar, where the unsuspecting child (or adult) bites into their Halloween treat and winds up in the hospital. But, as Huffington Post reported Oct. 31, a boy in Pennsylvania found a very real razor blade in a pack of M & M's he collected as part of his Halloween treasure.
“I don’t know which house I got it from, because every other house I think I got a pack of M&M’s,” Matthew Hernley told KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. He said it was a one-inch blade. He discovered it in a fun-size package of the popular candy.
Police in Scottsdale, Pa., are investigating the incident, as is Mars Chocolate North America, the manufacturer of M & M's candies. Police say the finding seems to be what is referred to as a "manufacturing issue," where something becomes part of a product during manufacturing and/or packaging.
One Scottsdale police officer, speaking anonymously because he was unauthorized to do so officially, told ABCNews.com (via Yahoo News): "The package did not appear to be tampered with and we think this is probably is a manufacturing issue,"
As for Mars, a spokesman told ABCNews.com in a statement that food safety was "paramount" with the company, noting that Mars was "disturbed" that "a consumer had a product safety issue" with their M & M's. The statement contained an assurance that Mars would continue to investigate the matter.
But Matthew Hernley's mother, Lydia Nelson is enraged over the razor blade somehow being enclosed in a candy package. “I have a set of 6-year-old twins and a 5-year-old," she told KDKA-TV, "and I’ve seen them open packages of M&Ms or Skittles and they just dump it right in their mouth.”
Manufacturing issues aren't unheard of, either. Just last year, a woman in California opened a bag of Jolly Ranchers Crunch 'N Chew candies, which are a product of Hershey Company, and found a shank knife inside.
As ABC News pointed out, an upswing in reports of children finding razor blades and pins and needles in their Halloween occurred during the 1970s and 1980s, prompting police and municipalities to begin issuing safety warnings. Hospitals began offering free x-ray screenings of candies as well to help reassure parents and children that the candy they collected on Halloween night would be tamper proof and foreign object free. But times change and with incidences of tampering becoming extremely rare, hospitals stopped performing the screenings. However, public service announcements still warn parents and offer tips on how to check candies and treats for signs of tampering.
Snopes.com, the urban legend and hoax debunking website, cited research by Halloween historian Jack Santino that noted that nearly all the poisoned candy and razor blade/pins/needles-loaded candy reports were hoaxes. Beginning in 1967, what was once just poison candy stories began to give way to the sharp object-related candy stories. Police follow-ups on reports of tampered candies made from 1972 to 1982 found that "virtually all the reports were hoaxes concocted by the children or parents."
But not all...
A New Mexico father found a disposable razor blade embedded in a Reese's Cup that was part of his son's Halloween take in 2011.
It is apparent that sometimes finding dangerous foreign objects in Halloween candy isn't just the provenance of urban legendry, that not every tampering or razor blade story is a lie or hoax, as young Matthew Hernsley's experience well indicates. And when it comes to the safety of children, like the unsuspecting candy collectors of Halloween, erring on the side of caution with regard to their collected treats cannot be emphasized enough.