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 ringing your doorbell this year may have a food allergy—and in many cases are allergic to the treats you are handing out. 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 three million people2 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 find Halloween candy that’s suitable for each 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
- (Children in the U.S., 18 years or younger) http://www.foodallergy.org/facts-and-stats
- 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.
At Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, we understand that caring for infants, children, and teenagers is a special privilege. That’s why we partner with our young patients and their families to offer expert medical and surgical care. Our specialists treat children with conditions ranging from minor illnesses to complex, more serious issues at locations throughout the New York metropolitan area.