Despite Mardi Gras-like partying on the part of grownups, the true objective of Halloween is for kids to put on costumes and collect and consume massive amounts of candy. We blogged on how to get organic chocolates, chews and lollipops last week and now return with more tricks to green your treats.
Chocolate is most coveted: at the end of the night, watch kids separate their haul into chocolates and everything else. Even the little ones know that there's something special in that sweet, but you can take care that other little ones weren't abused to make it. According to Amnesty International, almost half of all cocoa beans are grown in West Africa, where over a quarter of a million children labor on farms under terrible conditions for little or no pay. Fair Trade Certified chocolate is grown with no child labor, under ecologically sustainable conditions, and the workers are paid a living wage for their efforts.
Unethical labor practices aren't the only danger lurking in the candy sack. A recent outbreak of melamine contamination in certain Chinese products, most famously infant formula, caused the Food and Drug Administration to issue warnings against several products sold in the United States. White Rabbit "milk" toffees made the list, along with Blue Cat flavored drinks and Koala's March Crème filled cookies. You might also want to screen any foil-wrapped "coins" in your child's trove: the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has recalled Sherwood "Pirate's Gold" milk chocholate coins due to melamine. The Center for Disease Control says that ingestion of melamine can affect kidney function, leading to kidney stones and kidney failure, especially in the babies who relied on the tainted milk formula as their primary source of food. A small amount of melamine, from, say, a piece of White Rabbit candy you missed in your candy screening, probably won't hurt your child, but be safe and make sure you don't give out or receive any products listed on the FDA's website.
Sometimes the danger doesn't come from candy. While it's a green and healthy idea to give out crayons, coloring books, stickers and other little toys to trick or treaters instead of candy, in 2007 Fisher-Price recalled 1 million lead-contaminated children's toys manufactured in -- wait for it -- China. The Center for Disease Control cautions that plastic jewelry, glossy little toys and various candies from China or Mexico could still be contaminated, and the ultra-conscientious can pick up a lead testing kit to verify the safety of your children's Halloween treats, as well as painted costumes, masks and props. Symptoms of lead poisoning include coma, seizures, incoordination, alternation in state of consciousness, bizarre behavior and loss of recently acquired skills ... but again, one piece of candy isn't going to turn your kid into the Mad Hatter. Speaking of which, for nontoxic, phthalate-free costume ideas, click here.
Turns out scary stuff doesn’t always stick to the graveyards and haunted houses.
Story by Rachel Brown. This article originally appeared in Plenty in October 2008. The story was added to MNN.com.