Okay, I lied about the fun part. And the profit part. Unless you count safety as profit (and I guess we all do). But reading labels is still something I have to do.
So I just spent a couple of hours reading the labels on bags of Halloween candy at Sam’s Club and at Smith’s (a Kroger store). I have bad news and good news.
First, the bad news. The big bag of Wonka Mix-ups candy at Sam’s Club, which has always been my stand-by for candy that’s free from the top eight allergens, is sporting a new warning about factory cross-contamination of egg and wheat for the Nerds, SweetTarts, and BottleCaps in the bag. Only the Laffy Taffy is still warning-free. As I wandered around the store, I checked the labels on other Wonka candy – most of them didn’t have the warning. Hmmm. Curious, and worrying.
Then I went to Smith’s and they had a smaller bag of Wonka Mix-ups, with a different combination of candy inside – instead of the Bottlecaps, this bag had Runts. I checked the label. No allergen warning on any of the candies. Did this mean there were different factories involved? Or did they leave off the warning inadvertently on some of their bags?
When I got home, I called the factory. I talked to a nice man who was quite pleasant and went looking for the information. When he returned to the phone, he read me a very long and informative letter about the labeling laws, the difference between a “cross-contamination warning” and a “contains” warning, and the importance of reading ingredients labels each and every time. (It was actually really good information that someone new to allergies would need, so I was glad to hear someone at their factory took it seriously.)
Then, still reading, he explained that some of their factories – and they have multiple factories – do process products with Top 8 allergens, so they do have to put cross-contamination warnings on their products. However, he also said they do perform thorough cleaning and they use strict preparation guidelines when they’re using an allergen. But they still put the warning label on the food.
So he explained that the bag without the warning was made in an allergen-free factory. The bag with the warning was made in a factory that also processed wheat and egg. This also explains why the box of Nerds in the vending aisle at Sam’s didn’t have the egg and wheat warning. Those Nerds were made in the safe factory. Okay, now I get it.
I told him my biggest concern now was when my son brings home his trick-or-treat candy. Always before, the little boxes of Nerds and Runts were safe. Now we can’t be sure. Will each individual little box or package have the allergy warning on it? He assured me that yes, each tiny package will include an allergen warning if it was made in the allergen factory, and it WON’T have the allergy warning if it was made in the safe factory. (Okay, I know you know that my son is only allergic to nuts and peanuts. But I like to hand out candy that’s free from all allergens, so that any allergic kid in our neighborhood gets at least one treat he/she can eat. So I told the guy my son was allergic to eggs and wheat, just to make the discussion easier.)
So… Once again I’m reminded of the importance of reading ingredients labels each and EVERY time I buy a product, no matter how many times I’ve bought that product before.
Now the good news: I found lots of candy that’s free from the big 8, both at Sam’s Club and at Smiths. They all contain food colorings, and most contain corn syrup, however, so if those are your issues, this list won’t help. In that case, a couple of wonderful UFAN members recommend lollipops from YummyEarth. They’re free from the big 8, and use natural colorings and flavorings. They’re available in health food stores, but they’re cheaper on Amazon.com here: YummyEarth Organic Lollipops.
Here’s what I found at Sam’s Club:
Betty Crocker Fruit by the Foot (They have Monster Flavors: Boo Berry and Frankenberry, like the cereals!)
Mars Mix bag (Skittles and Starbursts)
Member’s Mark Zoo Animal Fruit Snacks (box of 72 pouches for $8.98)
Betty Crocker Fruit Roll-Ups
Kellogg’s SpongeBob Fruit Snacks
Spangler Dum-Dums (360 for $6.98)
Laffy Taffy Ropes (canister of 48 individually wrapped)
Laffy Taffy (165 for $6.22)
Wonka Stretchy & Tangy Laffy Taffy
Twizzlers (180 for $6.98)
Del Monte Fruit Chillers (like Otter Pops, but made with fruit)
Jolly Rancher Lollipops (100 for $9.22)
In the vending aisle, there are packages of candy with 24 – 30 individual packets inside. If you have smaller crowds at your house, check out that aisle for vending machine-sized products like Swedish Fish, Twizzlers, Hot Tamales, Mike & Ike, Wonka Fun Dip, Wonka Shockers, Wonka Nerds, Wonka Giant Pixy Styx, Wonka Giant Chewy SweetTarts, Wonka Laffy Taffy Ropes, Baby Bottle Pops, and Push Pops.
Here’s the Halloween candy I found bags at Smith’s:
Mix of Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids
Mix of Mike & Ike and Hot Tamales
The safe mixed bag of Wonka Mix-ups
I made my son really happy by discovering the mixed bag of Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids. So that’s what we’re handing out to the kids in our neighborhood this year.
I hope my shopping expedition will make your shopping a little easier this year. Have fun!