With an eye on the food allergy community as a unique group of consumers since 2008, we're on a quest to find and share ways to continue enjoying the good things in life.

28 October 2017

Food Allergies and Halloween: It's OK If There is No Teal Pumpkin

My children are too old to trick-or-treat now. They are teenagers. When they were young enough to trick-or-treat, there was no such thing as the Teal Pumpkin. I quickly discovered that swapping out the candy for something sweet at home wasn't enough for my younger son. Just touching the packages of candy while trick-or-treating caused him to get hives. Not full body hives, just several on his face. After that year, gloves became a routine part of his Halloween costume. Just because he couldn't eat the candy collected and couldn't touch the packages with his bare hands without a reaction of some kind, didn't mean we would miss out on that fun! These were all tiny manageable challenges. 

I can't tell you how much time was spent on costumes!! There were several years when he was quite a Buzz Lightyear fanatic. One year, I even found inflatable Buzz Lightyear wings to add to his already awesome Buzz Lightyear costume. It was all about the costume. His allergies were peanut and tree nut allergies, so I would buy candy from Tootsie and also Vermont Nut Free Chocolate and have it ready at home. We would make plans with friends and go to the neighbor's Halloween party, and the kids had a blast. Food allergies played NO role whatsoever. They were not part of the equation because we really did not focus on the candy collected. We did, however, enjoy being with our friends and neighbors, and they LOVED playing flashlight tag in costume in the dark. Isn't fun what it is all about?!

The Teal Pumpkin is a great addition to Halloween for those who really want to enjoy a treat collected while trick-or-treating. Many people are still figuring out just what the Teal Pumpkin means. We food allergy folks need to be patient and give people time to hear about and find out what it is. I even saw a letter to the editor written by a food allergy mom with all kinds of inaccurate information. Her heart was in the right place; she was trying to educate her community. But she has some incorrect info--she wrote that FARE has a "safe list (nut free)" and also "Items that are considered “safe” candies are listed below, but just note that at times items change so parents of allergic children should always check labeling before children eat any items....The following items are among those listed as safe: Divvies (anything made by Divvies), Haribo Gummy Candy, Skittles, Peeps, Swedish Fish, Altoids, Mike and Ike, Hershey plain chocolate bars and Kisses (personal size only), Laffy Taffy, Runts, Tootsie Rolls, Junior Mints, Lifesaver Gummies, Smarties, Sour Patch Kids, Whoppers, Sweet Tarts, Bottle Caps, Pop Rocks, Hot Tamales, Red Vines, Jolly Rancher, Twizzlers, Kraft Marshmallows, Trader Joe’s milk and semi-sweet chocolate chips."

If you visit FARE’s page about the Teal Pumpkin Project, you won’t find a safe candy list and certainly not a nut free list. The Teal Pumpkin Project is intended to help make children with ALL food allergies feel included. While the well-meaning food allergy mom shared inaccurate info, we have to give her credit for going the extra mile and trying to educate her community! Kudos to her for trying! That is more than many of us do; I know I haven't written any letters to the editor. Maybe I should start! Kids with Food Allergies does have an Allergy-Friendly Halloween Candy Guide, listing candies which are top-8 allergen free. Perhaps the well-meaning mom was thinking of that list?

So….what to do if there are no Teal Pumpkins near you?
·    Feel angry or frustrated at your neighbors? I hope not! It’s really unreasonable to expect people to know about something for a disability that isn’t on their radar and doesn’t affect them personally. The Teal Pumpkin Project is still new! Be patient and give it time. Maybe next year you can write a letter to the editor to your local paper explaining what the Teal Pumpkin means.
·   Avoid trick-or-treating? Heck no! Kids LOVE getting in costume, and then seeing neighbors’ reactions at their costumes when they open their front doors. Have something safe for Halloween ready for your kids at home afterwards, and just briefly explain to your child that safe goodies (maybe a surprise!) are at waiting home and that mom or dad will take the unsafe goodies to work for other folks to enjoy. Or maybe you’ll donate the candies! Don’t miss trick-or-treating. Let your kids be kids. They really don’t need to be able to eat what they collect or get a safe treat from neighbors. You can easily handle that part at home yourself.
·    Be the first house with a Teal Pumpkin in your neighborhood! Publicize it in your local paper. Be the change you want to see!

Wishing all food allergy friends a happy and safe Halloween!

No comments: