Watch CBSN Live

Mylan's Halloween Scare Message: Candy May Kill Your Kids!

Mylan's pre-Halloween press release came on like a pharmaceutical version of the urban legend of the razor blade in the apple. The headline says: "For Parents of Kids with Food Allergies, the Scariest Thing at Halloween is the Trick-or-Treat Bag."

This isn't an anti-obesity message. It's a pitch for drugs. Specifically the EpiPen auto-injector that counters severe allergic reactions, and is distributed by Mylan (MYL)'s Dey Pharma unit. The press release continues:

... if your child has a food allergy, what's at the bottom of his or her trick-or-treat bag may be more frightening than any ghost or goblin. According to a new national survey of 678 moms of children with food allergies - whether to peanuts, tree nuts, milk or eggs, eight out of ten say Halloween causes a great deal of anxiety because they fear their little ones might eat candy containing peanuts or another allergen. Their anxiety is heightened by the fact that food allergies can cause a potentially life-threatening severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.
That's right, eight out of 10 parents worry their kids might die from eating candy on Halloween, at least in Mylan's poll (which only looked at moms with kids who had allergies). And, if you're not worrying about death-by-Butterfinger, then you're a bad parent:
40 percent of moms said that this time of year makes their children feel alienated because the child can't fully engage or participate in Halloween activities. The fear is so great that nearly half of these moms said they are thinking about having their child skip trick-or-treating altogether.
In spite of these concerns, less than half of moms surveyed are adequately prepared to handle a life-threatening allergic reaction - 43 percent of moms surveyed said they carry or have immediate access to an epinephrine auto-injector, such as EpiPen® (epinephrine) and EpiPen® Jr Auto-Injectors 0.3/0.15 mg.
If you're thinking, "43 percent of moms carry an EpiPen? That seems a little high," consider the source. It's a survey on Anyone can sign up to create a survey. Anyone can sign in to answer survey questions. The result is that super-paranoid moms who are already on the internet worrying about their kids take surveys designed by companies with a vested interest in getting usable results.

If you want further evidence of MomCentral's "credibility," check out this page on Hershey's chocolate. Just a few days after warning the 43 percent of "unprepared moms" not to let their kids out of the house without an EpiPen, MomCentral said:

Hershey has also introduced new snack sized Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Pumpkins, which blend creamy peanut butter with delectable, melt in your mouth chocolate in a fun pumpkin shape.
(Peanut allergies are uncommon but occasionally serious.) Why was MomCentral suddenly cheering for Hershey? The footnote to the item says it all:
Mom Central received several bags of Hershey's candy for this review.
Boo! In both senses of the word!

Image by Flickr user Euart, CC.