Trick-or-treating is a fun activity, but it might be a serious health hazard. Before heading out with the kids or sending them off on their own, remind them how important it is to know of the treats they are receiving.

Our friends from Stop Foodborne Illness, a national, nonprofit, public health organization dedicated to preventing illness and death from food-borne pathogens, wants people to know of the dangers that can arise from food during the Halloween season.

Educating yourself and your children is the easiest way to reduce the risk this holiday season. Whether you are going trick-or-treating or hosting a Halloween party, make sure you leave the scares to the dressed-up ghouls and goblins.

Check out Stop’s quick tips for practicing easy food safety while trick-or-treating:

  1. Avoid homemade goodies from people you don’t know. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends avoiding eating homemade treats made by strangers since there is no way to ensure the person preparing them followed proper food safety procedures. Although everyone loves a good brownie or caramel apple, the best way to stay safe is to stay away.
  2. Fight the snacking urge. Make sure everyone’s had a light meal or snack before hitting the neighborhood streets. It is always tempting to enjoy a piece—or two— of the sweet haul while walking to the next house, but Stop urges trick-or-treaters to wait until they return home and can check that all treats are properly wrapped before eating. 
  3. Wash your hands. Proper handwashing is always important in preventing the spread of dangerous pathogens but is even more important during this holiday. Between trick-or-treating and school Halloween parties, a lot of packaged candy passes from different hands, increasing the chances of contracting a foodborne illness. Make sure kids are washing their hands before digging into their Halloween candy. 
  4. Beware of spooky cider! Unpasteurized juice or cider can contain harmful bacteria such as Salmonella . To stay safe, always serve pasteurized products at your parties. Any dish or drink with fresh fruit—or veggies—must be thoroughly washed before being served.

  5. Prevent the spread of bacteria by keeping all perishable foods chilled until serving time. Bacteria creep up when foods sit out too long. Don’t leave goodies—like finger sandwiches, cheese platters, fruit, salads, cold pasta dishes, Jell-O treats, store bought deli trays and cream pies or cakes with whipped-cream and cream-cheese frostings—out of the fridge for more than two hours (1 hour in temperatures above 90°F).

  6. Plan safe entertainment. Bobbing for apples is a classic Halloween game but having multiple people touching the same apples over and over again can present significant food safety risks. Reduce the number of bacteria that might be present by thoroughly rinsing apples under cool running water and using a produce brush to remove surface dirt. Or, give the traditional game a modern update: Cut out “apples” from red construction paper and write activities for kid—or funny dares for an older crowd—on each one. Place a paper clip on each apple and put them in a large basket. Tie a magnet to a string and let guests take turns “bobbing” with their magnet.