BANGOR, Maine — Most of us have heard the horror stories -- razor blades inside of apples, candy laced with drugs, goodies that are poisoned. These concerns live on each Halloween, as parents are reminded to enjoy the holiday with their children, but to not completely let their guard down.
"(People are) concerned about their kids accepting candy from strangers," expressed Betsy Lundy, a parent and the downtown coordinator for Bangor. It's why she works with the city to organize a safe, communal trick or treat, where kids can go to different businesses and collect candy they know can be eaten.
"Candy safety is a huge issue, you know -- you hear more and more about people...not being safe with candy and people using candy unfortunately," said Stacey Duran, a parent from Glenburn, sharing similar thoughts.
To try to console parents, local law enforcement officials in the area offer them pretty simple instructions -- try to avoid any homemade or unwrapped snacks unless you trust the person handing them out.
"Whether it's candy bars or gum or fruit snacks or whatever -- those type of pre-packaged things that come from the factory...are the things I would really recommend that your kids eat," Captain Daniel Merrill of the Orono Police Department explained to NEWS CENTER Maine.
He also recommends that parents turn candy safety into a fun, game-like activity by looking through the delicious finds once the night is over. Kids can get excited once again about the treats they collected, and parents can use it as an opportunity to do some safety scanning.
"(Food safety is) just like anything else," Merrill said. "If you're going into a neighborhood that's not familiar to you, or you don't know all of your neighbors -- you just have to be cautious."
For some parents, though, that precaution takes place in more ways than one. This year, the Teal Pumpkin Project is catching on around Maine and the U.S. The bright color indicates that the child carrying the Halloween basket has food allergies. Conversely, if a teal pumpkin is sitting on someone's doorsteps -- that likely means they're offering allergy-friendly treats.
"I've heard word about it going pretty quickly, so hopefully it catches on," Muriel Emerson, a Bangor parent, told NEWS CENTER Maine. Her young daughter, Clara, has an allergy to walnuts, and Emerson says that navigation around certain allergy-inducing treats can be difficult.
"Sometimes it's really hard for the kids to understand that they can't have it," Emerson said. "They end up with a lot less candy than everyone else."
While the Teal Pumpkin Project isn't able to cure these kids' allergies or allow them to eat those forbidden sweets, it raises awareness about inclusion for children who can't enjoy every type of treat out there -- but who still want to participate fully in the holiday.
For people out there who don't have allergies or children with allergies, Emerson has one request.
"Be more aware and willing to look it up. There's a lot of (allergy-inducing) candies -- I don't even know them all."
To learn more about the Teal Pumpkin Project, visit its page on the Food Allergy Research and Education website.