Sadly, in the days after Halloween, police officers in Chester County are investigating reports of needles being found inside Halloween candy in the Stenning Hills area of the Borough, placing multiple children in danger. The candy was not discovered and reported to the police until midnight on the day after Halloween.
Needles were found inside several wrapped Twix candy bars, reportedly from different households after one local parent posted on Facebook that they found needles inside some of their children’s Snickers candy bars. Police are still not sure if the source of the problem—i.e. the candy becoming tainted—happened when it was manufactured, sold on store shelves, or once it got into various homes. Local authorities in Philadelphia are urging parents to make sure that they check their children’s candy in light of this discovery.
Although in general, there are very few instances of people poisoning and/or tainting Halloween candy in order to hurt children, that does not mean that serious injuries (and even death) are not possible from this kind of incident. Although typically, the insertion of a needle or a razor is an attempt to injure and not kill, poisoning candy—such as with cyanide, which has happened—most definitely is intended to kill someone. In fact, at one point, it was such an issue in New Jersey that a law was passed requiring jail-time for anyone found placing razor blades in apples.
Anyone who sells an unreasonably dangerous food product is potentially liable for any harm caused by consuming that product. Pennsylvania and New Jersey apply what is known as the Reasonable Expectation Test, whereby if a person has a reasonable expectation of finding the injury-causing substance, the seller has not breached the implied warranty and provided unreasonably dangerous food. One example of an object that a consumer might have a reasonable expectation of finding is a bone in chicken. However, finding a razor in an apple or a needle in a candy bar both arguably involve finding foreign objects that not only indicate someone had the intention of causing harm, but also potentially that a seller somewhere along the line was negligent.
Pennsylvania has also allowed for damages related to emotional distress to be awarded in some of these cases, where the foreign object caused more than just physical harm but also a certain amount of emotional harm related to finding and/or ingesting that foreign object.
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