As Halloween approaches, the excitement of costumes, decorations, and spooky fun fills the air. However, amidst all the festivities, it’s crucial to remember that food safety and allergen awareness should remain a top priority. Halloween treats can be both delightful and potentially dangerous for those with food allergies or sensitivities.
The Scary Truth About Food Allergies
Food allergies are a real and potentially life-threatening concern for many individuals. According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), out of the approximately 33 million people in the United States who have food allergies, 5.6 million of them are under 18, making children especially susceptible. Common allergens include peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. Exposure to even trace amounts of these allergens can lead to severe reactions, making it essential to be mindful of what we offer during Halloween festivities.
Tips for a Food-Safe Halloween
- Read Candy Labels Carefully: When purchasing Halloween candy or treats, always read the ingredient labels diligently. Look out for any allergens that may be present, even in small amounts. Manufacturers are required to clearly list common allergens in the ingredients. Many popular candies contain some of the most common allergens, such as peanuts or tree nuts, milk, egg, soy, or wheat.* Mini or fun-sized versions of candy often don’t have the space to list all ingredients on their labels, so it’s important to do your own research to see what your child can and cannot have from their Halloween hauls.
- Choose Allergy-Friendly Treat Options: Many companies now offer allergy-friendly alternatives for classic Halloween candies. These options are often free from common allergens and can provide a safe alternative for children with allergies. There are apps and websites, such as Spokin, that are dedicated to providing information on food allergens, including Halloween candy guides that can help you determine what is safe to provide to children who may have specific allergies. Some candy manufacturers provide information about their allergen policies on their websites. Familiarize yourself with these policies to make informed choices when selecting treats.
- Trick-or-Treat with an Allergy Plan: If your child has food allergies, it’s essential to have a clear plan in place before heading out to trick-or-treat. Teach your child not to eat any treats until they have been thoroughly examined at home, allowing you to remove any potential allergens. If your child has been prescribed an emergency epinephrine injection, make sure to bring it along as an important safety measure.
- Consider Non-Food Treats: Non-food treats like stickers, small toys, or temporary tattoos can be a great alternative to traditional candies. They are not only safe for children with food allergies but also promote creativity and fun.
- Communicate with Neighbors: If you’re aware of a child in your neighborhood with food allergies, consider offering allergen-free treats or informing their parents about the types of candies you’ll be giving out. This small gesture can make a big difference in ensuring a safe Halloween for all.
- Teach Kids About Allergies: Encourage children to be understanding and compassionate toward their peers with food allergies. Teaching them about the potential dangers of allergens and the importance of inclusivity fosters a more empathetic and considerate community.
Always Practice Allergy Awareness
You should always be prepared for an allergic reaction or emergency when giving your child with a food allergy something new to try, even if you’ve taken precautions to prevent a reaction. Teach your child about food allergies, even if they don’t have them so they are aware of sharing food and candy with friends or classmates who may have allergies. Talk to your child’s pediatrician about monitoring food allergies and ways you can help prevent reactions and enjoy a fun and safe Halloween with your family.