Liz Crenshaw's Guide to Consumer Issues, Recalls and More

Ask Liz: Halloween Edition

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    NEWSLETTERS

    In Ask Liz, Liz Crenshaw takes your questions about the consumer issues at Halloween, including how to keep a pumpkin fresh longer and which snack size candies have the fewest calories. (Published Friday, Oct 25, 2013)

    Questions are pouring in about Halloween, on everything from safety to pumpkins to the calories in candy. Here are the answers to some questions recently featured on Ask Liz with Liz Crenshaw:

    Is it true that black licorice can make you sick?

    The Food and Drug Administration says that as it turns out, some people can overdose on black licorice. If you’re 40 and older and you eat two ounces of black licorice a day for two weeks, you could end up in the hospital with an irregular heartbeat. That’s because black licorice has a sweetening compound that can cause potassium levels in the body to fall. Usually, potassium levels do return to normal when black licorice consumption stops. The FDA advises everyone, no matter your age, not to eat large amounts of black licorice in one sitting.

    How should you keep squirrels from eating jack-o-lanterns?

    Bill Adler, author of the book Outwitting Squirrels, says squirrels love pumpkin. One option is the two-pumpkin strategy: Carve one for your front step and put the other pumpkin out in the yard. That way the lazy squirrels will eat the easy one, and leave yours alone. You can also try to put something noisy, like aluminum foil, near your doorstep pumpkin to annoy them.

    You can even try peppering your pumpkin. Rub red pepper into the flesh inside the carved pumpkin and the squirrels should leave it alone.

    How can you make carved pumpkins last longer?

    Cherry Hill Farm in Clinton, Maryland told us that pumpkins rot because they become dehydrated, so you can do several things to restore the moisture. Try soaking carved pumpkins in water overnight. You can also coat all of the cut surfaces of the pumpkin with petroleum jelly after carving. The jelly seals in moisture to slow down the dehydration process. Other tricks, like keeping the pumpkin out of direct sunlight and putting it in a refrigerator overnight, can help pumpkins last longer as well.

    What are the best ways to make sure you are getting a good deal at Halloween pop-up stores?

    Consumer Reports says there are several things you can do to get good deals and protect yourself as a shopper. First, don’t forget to comparison shop. You may be able to save by comparing prices online or checking out a discount store as well. Ask about returns; some stores may have limited return policies because they aren’t open all year long. Next, pay by credit card. You’ll have more consumer protections this way if you end up needing to dispute a charge. Check out the clearance sale after Halloween; most stores offer some serious markdowns come November.

    If you have to indulge in a snack-size treat, which have the most calories and which have the fewest?

    We scoured dozens of candy types for this answer. Some of the worst offenders: Whoppers malted milk balls clocked in at 100 calories for a fun-sized treat. Also up there in calories: Snickers packs 80 calories into this fun-size bar. One of the least caloric fun-sized candies, at only 40 calories, was SweeTarts gummies. But if you're craving chocolate, Milk Duds snack size will only set you back about 50 calories.

    What are the best ways to keep children safe on Halloween night?

    We checked with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which had a number of tips for keeping kids safe. First, have your children wear costumes made of flame retardant materials. Look for the words “flame resistant” on the clothing label, and choose flame resistant fabrics like polyester or nylon. Also, have your kids wear bright, reflective costumes or use reflective tape so they’ll be more visible at night. And paint your kids with festive makeup rather than having them wear masks that can obstruct their vision.

    Coming up on Monday at 5 p.m., we'll have more on Halloween safety with Liz Crenshaw's costume burning warning.