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Okay, I have a depressing, serious -- and hopefully completely paranoid -- question.

My 12 year old daughter was asking about trick-or-treating this year. She's heard enough about anthrax to be afraid of it, though she doesn't really understand it. My wife and I were trying to reassure her that we were only trick-or-treating in the immediate neighborhood and that we knew all of our neighbors and there was no real possibility of danger.

Which is when our 7-year old piped up, "Where is candy made?"

That gave us both pause.

We know that candy makers gear up for the Halloween season months and months in advance. They hire extra workers and go into massive production overdrive in order to supply stores for the holiday. In short, they started producing those extra stores of candy long before Sept. 11, when we became all too aware of terrorism in American cities, or even early October when the first Anthrax cases started showing up.

My first thought was that all of the cases so far have been targeted at high profile adults. Surely no one would target children.

That was quickly replaced with the thought that I was being a Pollyanna. Of course they would. What else would strike such terror and paralyzing fear into the American public as thousand of kids with flu-like symptoms in the days and weeks following a holiday where they went out and collected candy from dozens, if not hundreds, of strangers?

My second thought was that an attack like that would be so horrific that it couldn't even be contemplated. The terrorists are smart enough to know that anything like that would result in massive, obliterating retaliation.

That's wrong, too. After sending airliners into major metropolitan office buildings and the Pentagon -- with a death toll the likes of which the world hasn't seen in a thousand years -- this wouldn't be so far outside the pale that it would stop them.

My third thought was that modern food-grade manufacturing facilities (I've been in many) have such strict automated and human quality control protocols that anything outside the norm -- such as a dusting of powder -- would be enough to stop the line.

I'm still clinging to that one.

Of course many candy products have a light dusting of powdered sugar or corn starch to keep them from sticking to wrappers. And what about those wrappers? Is the packaging subjected to the same stringent shape, size, dimensional tolerances that govern food production.

How hard would it be to hire on as a temp worker in a Brachs factory when they're desperate for extra help? How hard would it be to distribute a couple of cupfuls of spores over a packaging or production line?

We know how hard it would be now, but what about four months ago?

Please tell me that I'm being unreasonable. Please tell me that there are ironclad reasons that this scenario isn't possible.

I'd really appreciate it.

Chad
 

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You've got a lot more to worry about with domestic nuts tampering with candy than with terrorists. The normal rules still apply:

children escorted at all times;

every piece of candy to be fully inspected
by you to insure factory packaging;

nothing homemade unless you trust the source implicitly;

anything that looks to have been tampered with gets tossed;

anything that's soft and can have something inserted is either tossed or cut in half to insure no problems;

and absolutely no sampling until after all candy. Keep a small store of candy with you to give to them to tide them over.
 
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