Before stocking up on Halloween candy this year, consider this: according to Food Allergy Research and Education Inc., 1 in every 13 trick-or-treaters who ring your doorbell may have a food allergy. The top eight food allergens that cause about 90% of reactions are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish; reactions to allergens vary from mild symptoms of itchy mouth or throat to very severe consequences like anaphylaxis.
Aside from having a food allergy, there are countless other medically indicated reasons why children need to adhere to special diets. In our country, more than 3 million people (2) have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that damages the lining of the intestine when gluten from wheat, barley or rye is consumed. Irritable bowel syndrome and epilepsy are two other conditions that may require special diets to mitigate symptoms.
While some really helpful resources exist, like the Celiac Disease Foundation’s 2015 Gluten-Free Halloween Candy List, it can still be daunting to try to find Halloween candy that’s suitable for every trick-or-treater’s special diet needs. A quick read of a Snickers® Bar food label reveals it contains, milk, soy, peanuts, eggs, and may contain tree nuts. Tootsie Pops, although gluten and peanut free, contain soy and milk, according to the label. Luckily, in 2014, FARE organized a campaign to raise awareness about trick-or-treaters with food allergies, which is also helpful to kids on special diets.
The Teal Pumpkin Project™ encourages households to include kids with food allergies in trick-or-treating by offering non-food treats (playing cards, stickers, bubbles, glow sticks) in place of candy. The mark of a food-allergy safe home offering non-food treats? A teal painted pumpkin on the doorstep (teal is the official color representing food allergy awareness).
If you don’t feel up to painting your pumpkin teal, check out FARE’s website for free downloadable signs, pumpkin carving stencils, and coloring pages. In its first year (2014), The Teal Pumpkin Project™ reached trick-or-treaters in all 50 states and seven countries! FARE is challenging 100,000 households to participate this year by taking the Teal Pumpkin Project™ Pledge.
For more information about the NYU Langone Medical Center’s Celiac Disease and Gluten Related Disorders Program, email: [email protected]
1. (Children in the U.S., 18 years or younger) http://www.foodallergy.org/facts-and-stats
2. Rubio-Tapia A, Ludvigsson JF, Brantner TL, Murray JA, Everhart JE. The prevalence of celiac disease in the United States. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2012 Oct;107(10):1538–44.
Jackie Ballou, MS, RD, CDN, Pediatric Nutrition Coordinator and Director of the S.Q.U.A.S.H. Program (Smart choices, Quality ingredients, Unique, Appetizing, Simple & Healthy) at NYU Langone Medical Center.
The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.