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Published October 19, 2010, 12:00 AM

Ick or treat: Our take on the 10 worst Halloween candies

When Halloween rolls around, you don’t want to be the “bad house” on the block.

When Halloween rolls around, you don’t want to be the “bad house” on the block.

You know the one. The kids all avoid it because the owners dole out stale butterscotch candies and linty, sugar-free mints, which were obviously snatched from the bottom of someone’s purse.

It’s OK if you’ve unwittingly done this. It’s simply a matter of “good people, bad candy.”

Just try to avoid the same mistakes this year.

When stocking up on treats this season, try to avoid the following 10 categories (listed in no particular order of ghastliness):

Tootsie Rolls

The Tootsie Roll was created in 1896 – the same year that Joan Rivers had her first plastic surgery. And just like her, a Tootsie Roll grows more fossilized and harder to stomach as it ages.

They say 64 million Tootsie Rolls are produced every day, and 63.5 million of those are thrown from parade floats, left in the complimentary candy dish at your bank or unloaded on unsuspecting trick-or-treaters come Halloween.

In fact, these not-quite-chocolate candies are the world’s most popular giveaway confection – mainly because they’re cheap and people can’t wait to get rid of them.

Tootsie Rolls taste like vaguely cocoa-flavored candle wax and are chewy enough to yank the molars right out of your gums.

Wow. Nothing says Happy Halloween like an emergency trip to the oral surgeon.


Speaking of which, this is the one day out of the year where you shouldn’t have to obsess about oral hygiene. While you’re at it, why not hand each kid their parents’ credit report, a spelling quiz and a pail of brussels sprouts?

Circus peanuts

As a child, I can remember how my heart would sink when grandma’s candy cupboard contained only circus peanuts.

Even to a 4-year-old, they didn’t make sense. They were radioactive orange yet tasted like fake bananas. They were “candy” but had the squeaky texture of Styrofoam packing peanuts. And even by a kid’s extremely relaxed standards, they didn’t really seem edible. In fact, they appeared indestructible – like they would look and taste exactly the same if archaeologists unearthed them in a landfill 1,000 years in the future.

Fortunately, these horrid sweets aren’t available in individual packages, so their whirling vortex of banana-flavored evil is limited at Halloween.

Still, they can show up unexpectedly at any time, so be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

‘Grandma candy’

This category includes, but is not limited to, the hard candies you’d find in Grandma’s candy dish.

She’d keep them on a living room end table in a crystal candy bowl until they grew dusty and the assorted candy melded together into one single, 3-pound paperweight.

You know the stuff: ribbon candy, butterscotch candy, root beer barrels and Coffee Nips, which gave you the coffee breath minus the energizing caffeine.

It also includes old-fashioned chewy varieties like Black Jack taffy, peanut butter chews, nonpareils, candy corn, candied fruit slices, licorice snaps and those disgusting gummy spearmint leaves.

All of these candies might have been a real treat in the days when frontier children treated themselves to blackstrap molasses-pops and candied possum, but they haven’t aged well.

In short, if it’s something that you have to be at least 65 to like, don’t put it in a trick-or-treater’s pail. Save it for when Aunt Perpetua visits.

Necco Wafers

Necco Wafers were first invented in 1847. Based on how they taste, most of those original candies are still in circulation.

The problem with these New England Candy Co. sweets is that there’s been little effort to update them. Maybe if you were a Dickensian-era street urchin, whose mouth was coated with coal dust after working 14-hour shifts at the boot-blacking factory, the Necco Wafer was a delectable treat.

But to today’s more sophisticated palate, these hard candies taste suspiciously like chalk.

Still, Necco obviously has enough fans to keep the business going. Their trademark wafer shape has made them a widely sought material for people who build gingerbread houses. And they are extremely popular with anyone who has had his tastebuds removed.

Anything banana

We have found a way to clone living things and access information on almost any topic in a few keystrokes.

Yet we can’t invent an artificial banana flavoring that tastes remotely like the real fruit. Instead, banana candy tends to be the Kathie Lee Gifford of the confectionery world: cloyingly sweet and an obvious fake.

And so the shelves of confectionery history are littered with atrocities like banana Runts, chews, lollipops, taffy, gum, jellybeans and even – ick – MoonPies.

Proof that one bad-ana can spoil the whole bunch, girl.

Boxes of raisins

Again, we applaud those conscientious homeowners out there who are worried about our children’s health. At the same time, our children’s problems aren’t caused by what they eat on Oct. 31 so much as what they eat the other 364 days a year.

So lighten up, and don’t make them haul around dried fruit. Besides, even 1 ounce of raisins has plenty of sugar (22 total carbs). A mini Snickers bar, on the other hand, contains only two more carbs – and moms won’t find the uneaten remains hidden under the mattress a year later.

Candy corn

Either you love it or hate it. Candy corn fans love its sugary, caramel flavor.

But the haters loathe its hyper-sweetness and gummy texture.

We will give candy corn this: It makes really good teeth on zombie cupcakes for your child’s Halloween bash.

But for many of us, candy corn just plain bites.

Dum Dums

Foods on a stick are generally a great idea. But Dum Dums are so impossibly tiny that they hardly seem worth the effort it takes to unwrap them.

These Lilliputian lollipops also come in some off-putting flavors like “blu” raspberry, butterscotch, mango and, ugh, pineapple.

What’s their next brilliant flavor combination? Cottage cheese and squash?

It’s a no-brainer. Dum Dums are dumb.

Fun-sized candies

We haven’t figured out what is so darned fun about a package that contains two plain M&Ms. Or a Snickers bar so tiny that it contains a single peanut. These pea-sized portions wouldn’t satisfy a parakeet, (much less the mom who raids her child’s treat pail that night). And do you really think that nano-sized Nestle bar will help with portion control? It just means we have to hide 14 candy wrappers instead of three.

Good and plenty

Dole out these candies on Halloween, and you’re bound to have the most popular house on the block.

  • Snickers: What’s not to love about chocolate, caramel, peanuts and nougat? Even the smaller versions of these – with the exception of the dreaded “fun-sized” – are satisfying.
  • Reese’s: Most kids who don’t have a peanut allergy love Reese’s iconic blend of milk chocolate and peanut butter. Also, for some reason, the mini Reese’s are actually tastier than the full-sized ones – probably because the little guys have a tastier PB-to-chocolate ratio.
  • Ice Cube chocolates: Not all retro candy is bad. Kids still enjoy the snapping, fizzy pleasures of the ’70s candy, Pop Rocks. And then there are Ice Cubes. What is it about these little hunks of smooth, icy chocolate that is so appealing? We just wish they were a little easier to find.
  • Tootsie Pops: Even in a world of gum that changes flavors and gourmet chocolate, the full-sized Tootsie Pop hasn’t lost its luster. For some reason, its Tootsie Roll-like core is so much more palatable when wrapped in a hard, intensely flavored coating.
  • Jolly Ranchers: If your grandma has Jolly Ranchers in her candy dish, we want to meet her. With the exception of the Windex-colored “blue raspberry,” they’re available in intense, delightfully classic flavors like cherry, watermelon and grape.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525