Monday, October 12, 2009

Reading Halloween Candy Labels for Fun and Profit

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)
Otter Pops
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
Dots
Smarties
Starbursts
Skittles
Twizzlers
Mix of Mike & Ike and Hot Tamales
Jujy Fruits
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!

9 comments:

Infant Bibliophile said...

My son is only 2 (allergic to wheat, milk, eggs, nuts, and sesame), but like you, I like handing out candy that other kids are not likely to be allergic to also. I bought a lot of smarties (which the 2 year old has taken a liking too, oops!) and dum dums. Maybe I misunderstood your list, but I thought Twizzlers had wheat in them.

liz.preemiemom said...

Do you mind if I list this on my blog, for my family's reference? Our food blog is simply there to inform extended family of treats and foods that our daughter CAN have in the case that she is with them, without me. She is allergic/intolerant to milk, egg, oat, and beef.

Thanks!

Kelley J. P. Lindberg said...

Yes, of course you can share this info on your blog -- that's why my blog exists, to help us all cope with food allergies. I'm glad to know it's helping! Feel free to add a link to my blog if you think that would help, too. Happy Halloween!

Angel said...

THANK YOU so very much for this post!!! We were at my parent's for Thanksgiving and my dad took the kids out for slurpees and candy (these are NOT my parents LOL). My son got a giant Laffy Taffy. He's had it before, loves it.

Well, he said it was making his tummy hurt. And after running around outside all day he said his throat itched--since he is egg, dairy and nut allergic, those words stopped me in my tracks. Gave him some benadryl but he was fine. Chalked it up to "spoiling by Grandpa"

After the second time a few bites made him feel funny, my dad threw it away (I WISH I had known I would have read the label). That evening was T-day, he ate a ton, we came home late, and later that night he threw up alllllll over.

So we right away suspected an allergen--dairy will cause a delayed reaction, nuts cause immediate, eggs--he accidentally got a cookie once and was fine but tests say he's ana.

We are good about reading labels--so is my daughter who went along--but they maybe didn't. Thanks for the info AND the reminder. YOU ROCK.

Kelley J. P. Lindberg said...

Wow, Angel, thank you so much for taking the time to write! I'm glad I could help in any way. And with Christmas coming up, good luck with the next round o' candy and treats!

Lois said...

My son is chemically sensitive to all those colors/preservatives/chemicals in the candy (also GFCF and eggs)...just something to think about as you are passing out all those candies. I always try to pass out a non-candy item. Those are the only things my kids get to keep from their 'trick-or-treating' and they trade the rest for a toy I bought in advance. Now they totally look forward to it because the toy lasts so much longer--and doesn't make them sick! Good luck!

Kelley J. P. Lindberg said...

Lois, you're so right. Non-candy treats are the best treats for everyone. Check out www.orientaltrading.com for a huge selection of novelty toys perfect for Halloween trick-or-treating. I have ordered lots of things from them for Halloween, birthday parties, etc. Thanks for the reminder about colorings.

dougquinn said...

Thankyou so much for posting that, It's so important to let our kids know about this kind of stuff. I have performed the ritual of halloween with my kids so many times now, but it's important to let them know the dangers of halloween. We live in Michigan, so around this time of year we get a lot of snow, and I even make my kids wear their Yaktrax when they go out. I guess I'm just a stickler like that, but also it's important to let you kids know precautions they can take to keep themselves healthy and safe.

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