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Drug policy experts have repeatedly told news outlets that there have been no reports of fentanyl contaminating Halloween candy, and the risk of this happening is low.
In August 2022, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency issued a warning about drug cartels disguising fentanyl in brightly colored pills and chalklike blocks to target young people. This report did not mention Halloween candy and an agency spokesperson has said it has no reason to believe this is a credible threat.
As children ready themselves for a night of trick-or-treating, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., cautioned families to be wary of fentanyl-laced pills that look like Halloween candy.
"Deadly drugs and cartels cross our southern border each and every day, leaving not even our kids safe as fake pills laced with fentanyl are beginning to look like candy," Scott said in a video shared Oct. 31 on X, formerly Twitter. "By working together and being on high alert this Halloween, we help put an end to the drug traffickers that are driving addiction and poisoning our neighbors and our children."
Although Scott’s claim sounds scary, drug policy experts say there’s no evidence brightly colored pills, powder or blocks containing fentanyl — dubbed "rainbow fentanyl" — are sneaking into kids’ Halloween candy sacks.
When we reached out to Scott's team for evidence, Clare Lattanze, a spokesperson for his office, wrote back: "Senator Scott will continue to urge caution for families on Halloween and every other day so that kids stay safe."
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be lethal even in extremely small doses. It’s about 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
Because of fentanyl’s deadliness, misleading claims about the drug have proliferated online. PolitiFact has debunked several common myths about fentanyl, including that touching an item containing fentanyl can cause an overdose.
In August 2022, the Drug Enforcement Agency issued a warning that drug cartels were making fentanyl look like candy to target young people. Rainbow fentanyl has been found in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes, the agency said.
The agency’s warning did not mention Halloween. DEA Administrator Anne Milgram told NBC News and Fox News in September 2022 that the agency has not seen any connection between rainbow fentanyl and Halloween.
Nevertheless, in the months following the release of that DEA report, Republican politicians raised alarm over Halloween candy possibly being tainted with fentanyl. Those misleading claims persist, in the tradition of other concerns about Halloween candy contaminated with poison, needles or razors that are largely unfounded.
Families are encouraged to check their children’s Halloween candy for potential tampering or dangerous substances. But experts have repeatedly told news outlets, including NPR, The Washington Post, Vox and USA Today, that it’s highly unlikely fentanyl will be found among the treats.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends inspecting candy and throwing away anything with signs of tampering, such as discoloration, tiny pinholes and tears in wrappers.
PolitiFact rates claims based on what’s known when the statement is made.
Based on available information, we rate the claim that rainbow fentanyl is a threat to children on Halloween False.
UPDATE, Oct. 31, 2023: This story has been updated to include a statement from Scott's office.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Fentanyl Facts,"
Drug Enforcement Agency, "DEA Warns of Brightly-Colored Fentanyl Used to Target Young Americans," Aug. 30, 2022
Food and Drug Administration, "Halloween Safety Tips: Costumes, Candy, and Colored Contact Lenses," Oct. 19, 2023
PolitiFact, "Common myths about fentanyl debunked: No, you can’t accidentally overdose by touching fentanyl," Sept. 4, 2023
NBC News, "Young people are being targeted with brightly colored ‘rainbow fentanyl,’ government drug agency warns," Sept. 26, 2022
Fox News, "DEA official warns of 'rainbow fentanyl' dangers 'all over social media' | Fox News Video," Sept. 28, 2022
YouTube, "Senate Republicans PSA Warning Parents About the Dangers of Rainbow Fentanyl Ahead of Halloween," Oct. 11, 2022
NPR, "Is 'rainbow fentanyl' a threat to your kids this Halloween? Experts say no," Oct. 11, 2022
NPR, "Unfounded fears about rainbow fentanyl become the latest Halloween boogeyman," Oct. 31, 2022
The Washington Post, "The media and the Halloween ‘rainbow fentanyl’ scare," Oct. 26, 2022
The Washington Post, "The history of the drug-laced candy myth — and the real Halloween killer," Oct. 31, 2023
Vox, "Rainbow fentanyl candy is just the latest Halloween panic," Oct. 27, 2022
Vox, "The myth of poisoned Halloween candy," Oct. 31, 2018
USA Today, "Rainbow fentanyl passed out on Halloween? Why experts say that's 'absolutely ludicrous.'," Oct. 26, 2022
Email with Clare Lattanze, spokesperson for Sen. Rick Scott, Oct. 31, 2023
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