Trick or Treating Tips: Accommodating Children with Food Allergies
by Dr. Theron McCormick
For a holiday that is supposed to be all about fun, costumes and treats, Halloween can be big concern for parents with food-allergic children. Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen a significant increase of children with food allergies. Couple that with ever increasing exposure to candy that contain common allergens like nuts, milk and wheat, and parents are faced with an interesting dilemma.
In the U.S., one in 13 children have a food allergy – that’s roughly two in every classroom. For these children, even a tiny amount of their allergen has the potential to cause a severe reaction. Every year, I have parents ask me how they can protect their child, knowing that an allergic reaction can be deadly.
So with Halloween approaching, please consider some of these tips—especially if you are planning a party or hosting children that may have food allergies at your home or office:
- Pass out alternatives to snacks and candy, such as temporary tattoos, stickers, crayons, etc.
- Read labels and look for candy that does not contain any allergy warnings (NO milk, wheat, egg, peanut)
- Different sizes of the exact same treat may contain different ingredient labels based on separate processing plants. Watch out for different allergy warnings!
- Be aware of hidden food allergens. Some lollipops or gummy candies can contain nut allergens.
Worried about how to read a food label? Here are some helpful tips for you to use when stocking your trick or treat basket:
- The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) requires labeling of the following eight major allergens: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans), peanuts, wheat and soybeans.
- Allergens are required to be stated in plain language i.e., milk rather than casein. However, several “non-dairy” treats may still contain a milk protein (sodium caseinate) so it’s important to check every label even if it is marked “non-dairy.”
- All allergens will be listed in the “Ingredients” list OR the “Contains” warning.
- If your candy includes a “May Contain” list of allergens, know that these labels are not required by the FDA and do not share the level of allergen present in the manufacturing facility. I would recommend avoiding these as well.
Click here for more information about making Halloween safer for children with food allergies.
About Dr. McCormick
Theron McCormick, MD is a pediatric allergist/immunologist at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health. He treats children with seasonal and food allergies and is Board Certified in pediatrics and pediatric allergy and immunology. He has clinics in both Baton Rouge and Gonzales.