Suggestions for Handling Your Child’s “Trick or Treat” Treasures

SweetsChances are, your kids will come home from trick-or-treating too tired to eat much of the junk they collected. (We hope so anyway.)  But, in the weeks ahead, they may be snacking on it all afternoon and evening if you let them.  Here are some post-Halloween suggestions for dealing with that stash of sweets hidden under their beds.

Parental concerns about the Halloween treats their children receive fall into these three categories:


1) Might they have been tampered with a danger to eat?


2) Are my kids going to consume way too much junk and wind up sick the next day or week? 


3)  Will all that treasured candy stashed under their beds become contaminated and a health risk as it ages?


Here are some suggestions for dealing with the first two unwanted possibilities, and some reassurances regarding the shelf life of candy.


1) Check to be sure the treats are safe.


 The contents of  Halloween bags of  younger kids should  be scrutinized by a parent (or other trustworthy adult) before  the children eat any of their loot.  Older children, who are likely to be out trick or treating without adult supervision, should be told that all edible items should be carefully examined before consuming; explain why.  If it’s dark and they can’t see the item well, will power should be employed and treats saved for later inspection. Even wrapped commercial products should be examined before eating because it is possible to tamper with these.


•  Tell children to discard any unwrapped edibles or homemade items, whether the latter is wrapped or unwrapped.  If it’s a home-baked brownie, for example, who knows what’s in it?


2) Make rules about the mountains of junky sweets that kids collect.


If allowed to do so, some kids will gobble up too much candy in one day; others will hide and hoard their Halloween bootie forever. Most children need the parental guidance of a few rules about their goodies. Here are some you might want to try:


• After a young child has been trick or treating, take the bag, hide it , and, if asked,  bring it out once a day for the child to choose two pieces of candy for that day.  Older children may resent having their loot taken away, but a similar limit on how much should be eaten each day is a good idea.  Explain why.


• The day after Halloween, encourage kids to throw out anything unwrapped and anything they don’t like. Also, confiscate any treats you think will be too hard for them to chew or a choking hazard.  Those actions may get the goodies down to a manageable size.


• Halloween “boo!” turns into “boo-hoo” when “goodie” bags lead to fights between siblings.  “Joey stole some of my candy!”  “Lisa got better stuff than I did!”  Sound familiar?  Nip these kinds of carryings on in the bud by stating at the onset that, if there is discord between siblings about their Halloween candy, you will discard all bags in dispute.


• After a few days, when their possessive feelings die down, encourage kids to share their treats—offer some candy to visitors that come to your home, share with a friend who was sick and missed trick or treating, and so on.


3) Don’t worry about “old” candy.


You may fear that, from endlessly eating large quantities of Halloween goodies, your kids might expand horizontally faster than vertically. You might also be concerned about cavities developing and braces being destroyed.  However, danger from old candy is something you don’t need to worry about, according to the food scientists we asked. Dr. Clair Hicks assures us, “There is very little risk of microbiological spoilage in candies made for the retail market. Candy can become stale, but it will become unpalatable prior to becoming a health risk.” As long as the candy remains in its original wrapping, it should be safe to eat though the quality will deteriorate in time. Candy has a long shelf life because it contains very little water and a lot of sugar (a preservative).  Prof. Joe Regenstein points out that candy with nuts can go rancid and taste terrible, but a little is not harmful. 


The long shelf life of chocolate is due to both the high sugar content and chemicals known as flavonoids, which hinder the oxidation of fats and thus slow down spoilage.  Dr. Karin Allen notes that even if chocolate develops a white film because it gets warm and then solidifies again, it’s safe to eat.


“Use by” dates on various bags of Halloween candies run from several months to a few years. Hard candies last longest. Solid chocolates have a longer shelf life than chocolate with nuts or creams in them.


You may want to put a limit on how long your kids can keep their Halloween candy for other good reasons, but don’t do it because you’re afraid that after awhile it will become dangerous to eat.  It won’t.  Nevertheless, by Valentine’s Day, when most kids receive a new batch of sweets, you may want to coax them into discarding the remains of Halloween. 




Joe Regenstein Ph.D.  Cornell University, Dept. of Food Science


Karin E. Allen, Ph.D., Utah State University, Dept. of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences


Clair L. Hicks, Ph.D. University of Kentucky, Dept. of Animal and Food Sciences  “Halloween Tricks!”




You must be logged in to post a comment or question.

Sign In or Register for free.