Monday, October 25, 2010

Trick-or-Treating Safely with Food Allergies

by Kelley Lindberg

That ghouly, ghostly holiday every kid loves is just around the corner. So it's time for my annual posting of Halloween tips...

For us parents of food allergic kids, Halloween can be stressful. Should we let them go trick-or-treating? Should we have a party instead? Should we stay home, lock the doors, and turn out the lights? What about that giant bag of unsafe candy?!!

In our family, we’ve discovered that the candy is really the least important part of the holiday. The adventure is the best part. Candy seems like the goal (“I’m going to fill this WHOLE bucket!”), but it’s really just the excuse for dressing up, running around the neighborhood in the dark squealing with flashlights, and getting together with friends.

Focus on the adventure, and create your Halloween traditions around the parts of the holiday your kids love best. If they like to trick-or-treat, don’t be afraid of that. There are plenty of things you can do with unsafe candy afterwards, and if the kids know about the rules ahead of time, it will be surprisingly easy to keep them safe while doing it.

Here are some tips for safe trick-or-treating:

Tip #1: No one eats anything until everyone gets home and the parent reads the label on every piece of candy. That way, no one is eating unidentified foods and having a reaction while you’re out in the dark a block away from home. Make sure the kids agree, understand, and agree again. No one sneaks anything (not even Dad).

Tip #2: If you child is super-sensitive to an ingredient, you might have them wear gloves with their costume, so that any allergenic candy that touches their hand on the way into the bag doesn’t cause a skin reaction. Toss the glove in the wash or in the trash when you get home.

Tip #3: Unlabeled candy is assumed to be unsafe. Period. The only exceptions are brand-name candies that you are already familiar with and know are safe. (For example, I know Starbursts and Skittles are okay for my son, so I’ll let him keep those.) If there is a type of candy that he’s particularly interested in, I might promise to look for it at the store the next day, and read the ingredients there. But it goes into a separate container until we’ve seen it at the store and verified its safety.

Tip #4: Before you head out on your adventure, talk about what you’re going to do with any candy when the night is over. Here are some ideas:

1) Go trick-or-treating with a friend, and at the end of the night, dump both kids’ candy together, then make two piles – a “safe” pile for the allergic kid, and the other pile for the non-allergic kid. If they both know about this plan beforehand, they are usually more than willing to do this.

2) Buy a bag of safe candy ahead of time, and at the end of the night, let your child “trade” you for all the unsafe candy he brought home.

3) “Buy” the unsafe candy from your child – but establish a price ahead of time, such as a nickel a piece, a dollar a pound, or the whole kit and caboodle for a new DVD, a small toy, a trip to the movies, a night out with Dad, a visit to the dollar store, or other such treat.

4) Look for a dentist or other business in your area that buys candy from kids on the day after Halloween. There’s at least one dentist in Layton that does. The kids get money, and the dentist donates the candy to a children’s hospital, I think.

5) Let the child “donate” the unsafe candy to Mom or Dad, so they can take it to work and share it with their coworkers.

6) Let the child donate the unsafe candy to a local women’s shelter, food bank, homeless shelter, or family of a soldier – the soldiers always seem to appreciate candy that they can share with friends or give to children in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Don’t let Halloween spook you. There are plenty of ways to celebrate safely – have a party at your house, go trick-or-treating with a plan for replacing the unsafe candy, visit a haunted house or Lagoon’s Frightmares, plan some “safe” houses ahead of time for your little ones to visit where you’ve prearranged for safe candy to be available for them, or rent The Nightmare Before Christmas and snuggle up together in the dark.

And don’t forget UFAN’s annual FOOD-FREE Halloween party this Friday, Oct. 29, 2010, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Carmen B. Pingree School (780 S. Guardsman Way, SLC). See the Utah Food Allergy Network’s website,, for directions.

Whatever your family Halloween tradition becomes, I hope it’s spooktacular!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Allergy-Free Halloween Candy Round-Up

by Kelley Lindberg

Last week I talked about some online resources for buying allergy-friendly candy or non-candy novelties for handing out to all those cute little Halloween trick-or-treaters. This week, I’ll list some of the candy I found here in local Utah stores (most of which are national brands, so they’ll probably be found just about anywhere).

The first thing I want to remind you of is this: READ EVERY LABEL, EVERY TIME. Many manufacturers use multiple factories, and the processes and foods they use in each factory can be different, so the same candy made in two different factories might have different allergen warnings. And manufacturers can change their recipes from year to year, too. So the candy you bought last year might be unsafe this year. Double-check everything.

For example, last year I was able to find some Wonka candy mixes that were milk- and egg-free. This year, the “mix” bags all contained an egg and soy warning. (Some of the single-variety Wonka candy was safe, however, such as the Pixie Stix or Fun Dip.) Last year, a Wonka representative told me they perform thorough cleaning and use strict preparation guidelines when they’re using an allergen. But they still put the warning label on the candy that is made in factories where allergens are present. Wonka is good about labeling their individual candies, so you can look at each piece in your little goblin’s bag and know whether you’re getting a contaminated piece or not. I’m disappointed that there are more contamination warnings on Wonka candy this year than last, however.

Now the good news: I found lots of candy that’s free from the Top 8 Allergens (soy, peanut, tree nut, wheat, egg, milk, seafood, shellfish), and several that are free from at least 6. I shopped at Walmart, Sam’s Club, Smith’s, and Shopko. Most stores will carry pretty much the same assortments as those stores, so you should be able to find them somewhere near you. Sam’s Club had the biggest selection and greatest variety. All of the candy I saw contains artificial food colorings, and almost all contains corn syrup, however, so if those are your issues, I recommend lollipops and gummy bears from YummyEarth. They’re free from the big 8, and use natural colorings and flavorings. Or buy non-food novelties from someplace like Oriental Trading Company.

So here is what I found. Remember, don’t take my word for it – check the labels yourself before you buy (I may have missed something while I was standing in the aisle scribbling notes), or you may pick up a bag made in a different factory than the one I looked at. But hopefully this list will help point you in the right direction and keep you from getting discouraged when you look at those giant aisles of unsafe candy. And it might help you when you go through your kid’s trick-or-treat bag, too. Happy treating!

  • Play-Doh mini cups, package of 66, $9.98 at Sam’s Club (contains wheat)
Corn-free as well as free from Top 8 (These candies don’t list corn syrup in their ingredients, so they may be safe for corn-allergic kids):
  • Smarties (Walmart, 60 per bag, 2 bags for $4)
  • Wonka Pixie Stix (Walmart, 120 per bag, 2 bags for $4)
  • Wonka Fun Dip (Walmart, 40 per bag, $4.75)
  • Bob’s Sweet Stripes Soft Mint Candies (red & white peppermints) (Sam’s Club (290 per bag, $5.98)
Free from Top 8:
  • Dum-Dums (Sam’s Club, 360 per bag, $6.98)
  • Dum-Dum Chewy Pops (Walmart, 180 per bag, $4.75)
  • Member’s Mark Zoo Animal Fruit Snacks (contains coconut oil) (Sam’s Club, 72 per bag, $8.98)
  • Betty Crocker Fruit Roll-Ups (Sam’s Club, 48 per box, $7.48)
  • Betty Crocker Halloween Fruit Snacks (Sam’s Club, 46 per box, $6.98
  • Otter Pops (Sam’s Club, 200 for $7.80)
  • Kellogg’s Fruity Snacks (contains coconut oil) (Sam’s Club, 50 per box, $6.98)
  • Skittles and Starbursts Assortment (Sam’s Club, 172 per bag, $9.88, or Shopko has a bag of 90 for $9.99
  • Life Savers Gummies (Smiths, 30 per bag, $2.49)
  • Dots (Smiths, 17 mini-boxes per bag, $2.49)
  • Hot Tamales & Mike & Ike assortment (Smiths, 63 per bag, $6.99, or Shopko has a bag of 35 for $4.89
  • Swedish Fish & Sour Patch Kids assortment (Smiths, 115 per bag, $9.99)
  • Smiths also had bags of Skittles and bags of Starbursts, but I forgot to write down the price
  • Jet-Puff Boo Mallows (bags of Halloween-shaped marshmallows) (Walmart, 14 bags for $2.00)
  • Ring Pops (Walmart, 22 for $4.75)
  • Marvel Candy Sticks (Walmart, 2 bags of 60 for $4)
Contains Soy Lecithin or Soy warning (but free from other 7 top allergens):
  • Wrigley’s Gum (Sam’s Club, 40 packs for $7.14)
  • Jolly Rancher Lollipops (Sam’s Club, 100 per bag, $9.22)
  • Laffy Taffy (Sam’s Club: 165 per container, $5.72; Smiths: 2 bags of 40 for $4; Walmart: 80 for $4.75)
  • Laffy Taffy Ropes (Sam’s Club, 48 ropes, $8.78)
  • Double Bubble bubble gum (Walmart, 160 for $4.75)
  • Act II Popcorn Balls (Walmart, 20 for $5)
Contains Soy and Wheat (but free from other 6 top allergens):
  • Twizzlers (Sam’s Club, 180 for $6.98)
  • Airheads (Sam’s Club: 90 for $8.34, Walmart: 2 bags of 30 for $4)
  • Utz Pretzel Treats (Sam’s Club, 70 bags of Halloween-shaped pretzels, contains wheat and barley, made on equipment that processes soy and sesame seeds, $6.98)
  • Twizzler & Jolly Rancher Assortment (Sam’s Club, 225 for $9.98)
Contains Wheat and Egg (but free from other 6 top allergens):
  • Wonka Mixups (Sam’s Club, 300 for $9.88)
  • Wonka Sweetarts Variety Mix (Walmart, I forgot to write down price)
  • Wonka Monster Treat Mix (Walmart, I forgot to write down price)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Allergy-Free Candy Corn Hunt 2010

by Kelley Lindberg

It’s time again for the annual candy corn hunt. But first…

Sometimes the best ideas come from kids. I have a dear friend who lives in the Washington D.C. area. Her family keeps Kosher (which brings its own set of food issues to the table each day), and during the Jewish holiday Sukkot (which just finished), her community holds an annual “sukkah hop” where the kids visit a set of predetermined families. At each house, they sit down in a “sukkah” (a structure covered in branches) to have a snack, hear a story or learn about the holiday, then move on to the next one.

This wonderful tradition prompted my friend’s youngest daughter to think of kids with food allergies and trick-or-treating at Halloween. She asked her mom to ask me if I’d write about her suggestion – telling food-allergic families that they could pre-arrange “safe houses” where allergic kids could go trick-or-treating and be certain to get “safe” candy or treats. I think it’s a great idea, and easily accomplished. Thank you, Miriam! It’s people like you that help kids with food allergies feel “normal” and welcomed in this world. We really appreciate you!

Now, for the candy corn news…

Every year, one of the most common questions I hear is: “Where can I find nut-free candy corn?” I have found two sources for nut-free candy corn this year, but they both contain egg, soy, and corn syrup.
  • Kroger brand – sold in Smith’s here in Utah, and possibly in other Kroger stores elsewhere. They sell nut-free candy corn, mellowcreme pumpkins, and Autumn Mix. Yummy!
  • Sunrise Confections, labeled with either the Blueberry Hill or Sunrise brand. You can order the Sunrise candy corn from Peanut Free Planet.
  • Dots candy -- Okay, they're not really candy corn, but they're colored like candy corn, and they're milk-free, egg-free, and nut-free, soy-free, and I think gluten-free, so hey, they're worth a shot! I found them at Shopko yesterday!
I’ve been shopping locally for candy to see what types of allergen-free candy we can find in stores. Next week, I’ll post a list of what I found and where I found it. Most of it contains corn syrup and food colorings, of course. So if those are your issues, you’ll probably want to order candy online, and you’ll want to do it this week so it arrives in time for Halloween. There are also some good online resources for Halloween chocolates and gluten-free candy, so this week I’ll focus on online candy sources.
  • Yummy Earth. Yummy Earth candies (lollipops, drops and gummy bears) are corn-free, as well as being free from the big 8, and they use natural colorings and flavorings. They’re sometimes available in health food stores, Toys R Us and Babies R Us, but I don’t know if they’re here in Utah. However, you can buy them online at and on Amazon.
  • Allergies and Me:  This is a great online grocer who sells gluten-free and allergy-friendly products, including candy, including gluten-free licorice twists in several flavors (for those of you who miss Twizzlers!).
  • Amanda’s Own Confections: They offer chocolate in some fun Halloween shapes, as well as jelly beans and other candies, all dairy-free, nut-free, egg-free, and gluten-free!
  • Divvies: Nut-free, dairy-free, and egg-free chocolate ghosts, jelly beans, gummy stars, and chocolate chips! Oh my!
  •  This online grocer sells allergy-friendly foods from several vendors, including Enjoy Life! Foods’ Boom Choco Boom chocolate bars in a variety pack of six bars. (Enjoy Life! Foods are free from the top 8 allergens.) They also sell some candy manufactured in Canada’s nut-free and peanut-free factories, so it’s worth checking out.
  • Vermont Nut Free: Their chocolates are peanut-free and nut-free, but they do have milk and egg warnings on them. Their huge selection of nut-free chocolates includes caramel and chocolate pumpkins, chocolate-covered marshmallows on a stick, and foil-wrapped chocolate shapes (like bats, witches, and ghosts).
  • Chocolate Emporium:  Read the ingredients carefully on this website, but they do offer a lot of allergen-friendly goodies. Call before you order to ensure you get what you need.
  • Peanut Free Planet: This site sells candy from lots of different manufacturers, including Vermont Nut Free and Amanda’s Own. You’ll find chocolate, jelly beans, and all sorts of allergen-friendly groceries. And most importantly, THEY HAVE NUT-FREE CANDY CORN!
  • Oriental Trading Co.: Remember, trick-or-treats bags don’t have to be filled with candy. Oriental Trading Company offers a bazillion (I counted them) novelty toys, many that you can buy in quantities of 50, 144, or more.

Happy shopping!

Monday, October 4, 2010

FAAN Walk for Food Allergy - Guest Blogger!

by Kelley Lindberg

Hi! This week, I asked Lynn, a member of the Utah Food Allergy Network (UFAN), to write about her family's experience at the second annual FAAN Walk for Food Allergy. Thank you, Lynn, for sharing your day with us!

On Saturday, we attended the 2010 FAAN Walk for Food Allergy at Wheeler Farm.

The weather was lovely, and the crowd seemed strong and spirited.  We were walking in support of our son, who is allergic to wheat, milk, tree nuts, egg, oat, and sesame.  At nearly 3 years old, he may not have understood the full significance of the walk:

Why We Walk
  • We walk to find a cure for food allergies.
  • We walk to increase awareness of food allergy and the effect it has on a community.
  • We walk to provide understanding, hope, and an opportunity for a child with food allergy to simply be a child.
  • We walk to save a life!

Nonetheless, he had a blast (and was delighted to delay naptime for such a special occasion).  Before the race, kids were kept entertained by fun activities like a bouncy house, face painting, and race cars to climb in and out of.  Representatives of organizations and companies such as UFAN, Enjoy Life, and EpiPen were on hand to answer questions and hand out goodies.  All walkers had the opportunity to enter their tickets into a number of raffle drawings. 

The walk itself was an easy stroll (gentle enough for this pregnant mama) around Wheeler Farm's dirt paths.  I would like to have had chatted with more families of kids with food allergies -- we really just stuck with our own family, as it seemed others may have done as well -- but overall, we had a fun day in support of a great cause.  Our little guy seemed to understand that he was surrounded by others who also could not eat certain foods, like wheat or egg ("...or cow's milk," he added in his adorable toddler voice, when we explained it to him).  This was our first FAAN walk, but something tells me that it won't be our last.

Lynn normally blogs at Chronicle of an Infant Bibliophile, where she writes about her son's love of books and their recent entry into the world of pre-K homeschooling.