Okay, so now that you have shopped for Gluten-Free candies, let’s move on to buying for those with food allergies. Even if the food is marked ‘peanut-free’ or claims the allergen is not in the product, there is still the risk of cross contamination. Many children choose to stay at home and skip trick-or-treating all together because of the terrifying and possibly life-threatening consequences that may occur if they eat their Halloween candy. PrettyInThePeak’s Korinne is all too familiar with this scenario. Her son, who has quite a few more years left as a trick-or-treater, has decided against haunting the streets gathering treats this October. Year after year, despite diligent label reading, he suffers some type of allergic reaction. The more I talk with mothers of children with food allergies, the more I realize how common it is for these children and families to make this decision. They choose to replace the trick-or-treating with apple bobbing, pumpkin carving, and other non-candy activities, hoping to once again have a fear-free and happy Halloween.
A bit about food allergies…
- As with Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity, there is food allergy and food intolerance.
- A food allergy is apparent when an individual consumes a food and the body has an immune response. This means that the immune system sees that food as something it must destroy and get rid of… an allergen. Reactions vary from person to person and depend on the severity of the allergy. Some reactions are mild, such as a rash, while others are more serious with vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and potentially life-threatening anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is an allergic response in which symptoms progress quickly and, without immediate medical treatment involving epinephrine, can be fatal.
- Food intolerance is when an individual has a digestive response to a particular food. Basically, the body is unable to digest the food properly which can lead to diarrhea and vomiting. These reactions, although uncomfortable, are unlikely to be life-threatening. Those with an intolerance may still be able to enjoy small amounts of the trigger food on occasion.
So, what can we do?
- Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) began the Teal Pumpkin Project last year and continues to promote the distribution of non-food treats on Halloween. Items such as pencils, stickers, mini slinkies, or any little trinkety things you find are encouraged in order to help keep Halloween and Trick-or-Treating fun and safe for all children. The FARE website offers a list of possible items to pass out instead of candy, or you can order a goody-bag filled with 50 treats for Halloween night for $25.00 (although, last I checked, this item was sold out. FARE also has available free downloadable Teal Pumpkin Project resources including signs, coloring sheets, and stencils for carving pumpkins.
- While non-food items are definitely the safer option, candy is typically the most preferred treat. If you choose to distribute candy, please do so with care, paying attention to the labeling on the package. You may also want to refer to one of the following lists (and/or the pics below) for guidance:
- The Celiac Disease Foundation provides a list of manufacturers/candies (page 2, page 1 pertains to gluten-free candies) with a color-coded key indicating the product to be free of specific allergens: dairy, fish, shellfish, peanut, tree nut, and soy.
- Although not a food market in the Peak of Good Living, I still think it needs to be recognized: A special hat’s off to Wegmans grocery stores! Wegmans is making it easy for their patrons to shop safely for Halloween candies/foods this year. The store is providing a list of the candy and some other foods on their shelves that are free of the following allergens: gluten/wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, milk, and soy. Way to go, Wegmans!
- It may not be a bad idea to check with your local grocer to see if they also provide such a list. It is possible that there are many stores, like Wegman’s, offering this helpful information to their shoppers.
For more information on Food Allergies:
Kids with Food Allergies – This website also offers many webinars pertaining to food allergies.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases give a brief description of food allergies and anaphylaxis in this quick video: https://youtu.be/AKVjKC3u9hk
Next week, get ready to shorten your Halloween shopping list even more when I highlight some of the dyes that are typically found in these foods. Seriously, frightening…
In the meantime… Stay tuned, stay healthy, and stay Pretty In The Peak!
Marianne Lindgren, MS, RD