When Margaret Flynn and a friend bought a few bags of specially advertised Halloween chocolate bars at a drugstore in Marlow Heights, Md., Sunday, they sampled a few and found . . .


Jackie Schelling opened some of the small, individually wrapped chocolate bars she bought at a drugstore in McLean, Va., yesterday and discovered what she described as:

"Moths, small worms and other icky things."

Is it likely that you, the reader, the average Joe living in the Washington area, are going to find worms, moths and other icky things in this year's Halloween candy?


At least that's what officials say at the two large drugstore chains where the wormy and/or mothy and icky candy was purchased.

There is also the emphatic view of Hershey Foods of Hershey, Pa., manufacturer of the chocolate bars in question.

Incidents of infested candy are isolated and rare, say the retailers and the candy maker.

"It happens very rarely," said Richard Kavat, a vice president of Dart Drug, at whose store in the Marlow Heights Shopping Center Margaret Flynn bought bars of miniature Hershey chocolate bars.

"We're on top of it and our stores are very, very clean," said Kavat Whenever a store find bugs in its candy, "we tear down the whole candy section. We will throw away hundreds of dollars of candy, most of which is good," he said.

Officials of Dart and People's Drug Stores -- the chain that sold the miniature Hershey bars to Schelling in McLean -- said they spot-check all their candy when it arrives at individual stores and make similar checks of candy in stock every week.

The assistant manager of the McLean People's Drug said he checked all the bags of candy on sale there for worms or other signs of infestation after Shelling's complaint but found no problems.

A Hershey spokesman said the huge candy corporation has received no unusual number of complaints in the last few weeks and blamed the infestation problem on improper storage in the retail chains' warehouses or individual stores.

"We always have complaints (of infestation) because we're dealing with millions of bars," the spokesman said, adding: "We guarantee that our products arrive at our warehouses (for distribution to retailers in the Washington area) without infestation. If infestation occurs, it's probably because of how it was stored elsewhere."

Kavat of Dart Drug demurs at this view. Informed that Flynn reported being told by three employes of the drugstore where she bought the candy that it went bad because of refrigeration problems in the chain's warehouse, he said no such problem exists.

Infestation, he said, "occasionally happens. Hershey is the biggest offender. They often send you bad candy. They don't give us dating and it's possible they could send us candy that's a year old."

The Hershey spokesman said the candy is dated, but that Hershey employes are the only ones who can read the dating code. The candy supplied to retailers, he said, may be several months to a year old but is wormless.

Emil Corwin, information officer at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said yesterday the agency has received no complaints about the miniature chocolate bars widely advertised in Halloween sales.

He said bugs and worms often get into candy after it has been improperly stored "at the wholesale or retail level or if it is too old."

Flynn returned her candy to the store and got her refund. Schelling said she threw hers away "and tried not to think about it."