For families dealing with food allergies, Halloween is more than just a tricky time of year. The trick-or-treat haul brings home the potential for an allergic reaction to something as simple as a piece of candy corn. Dairy, egg, peanuts, soy, wheat, tree nuts… the list goes on for all of the allergens hiding in those variety bags we hope to catch on sale.
As the parent of a child recently diagnosed with four of the top eight allergens, I was really surprised by what I found when I began reading the ingredient lists on everything I brought home.
Here’s just a sample of what you might find in your child’s bucket this Halloween:
- Milky Way (dairy, soy, egg)
- Snickers (dairy, soy, egg, peanut)
- Twix (dairy, wheat, soy)
- Sour Patch Kids (processed in the same facility as dairy, soy, wheat, peanut, tree nut)
Regulations are making it easier to know what’s in your food and manufacturers are doing a good job of highlighting the top eight or cross-contamination possibilities in your food. But the lines and facilities used are not always the same even within the same product. A particular item purchased in one grocery store may not have the same cross-contamination possibilities as that exact item in another shipment or a different store location.
Now, before you roll your eyes as I make yet another special request of parents who are already up to their necks in to-do lists, please consider this: According to FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) “the prevalence of food allergy in children increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011” and “1 in every 13 children has a food allergy.” The numbers continue to grow and much is still unknown about why more and more children each day are diagnosed with food allergies than ever before.
My point is, no one wants to hold their little ones back from one of the most iconic experiences of childhood. Nor do we want them to accept all of those goodies only to have them taken away at home as they eagerly sort through their treasures. (The trauma!)
By placing a teal pumpkin outside your door, you are letting those with food allergies know that you are offering non-food treats and showing your support and inclusion of children with food allergies in this timeless tradition. These treats can be purchased inexpensively and set aside to be offered to kids looking for your teal pumpkin insignia, allowing them to take part in the fun!
Ideas for non-food treats that can be bought in bulk on Amazon for less than $10:
- Glow sticks
- Finger puppets
- Temporary tattoos
You could even get creative with your kids by painting your own teal pumpkin and open a dialogue about allergies and inclusiveness. With the numbers growing as they are, chances are your child will know many friends and classmates facing the challenge of eating outside the safe zone.
If you are participating, take a moment to add your home to the FARE Teal Pumpkin participation map here to help parents plan ahead for a successful night out.
Now if only we could start a map of houses where we could reload on spiked apple cider and craft brews to fend off the cold…
Jamie Donovan lives in Ukrainian Village, works in the Loop, and is mom to Molly and Charlie. In her not-so-spare time, she enjoys reading and wondering if her house renovation in North Center will ever be finished.