Halloween is such a fun time of year. For most families, the decorations, the parties, the costumes and coming home with a bag full of collected candy is an exciting time to anticipate and a very sweet memory to make and enjoy as your family grows each year.
I can still clearly remember bounding out of the house as a child, following my big sisters in my Strawberry Short Cake plastic mask ready to canvas the neighborhood for candy. We made sure to return in time for the annual family Halloween party at our home – faux haunted house walk through included!
This time of year is still such a favorite of mine even though our view of Halloween has changed drastically since our Cub was born and diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy two years ago. Back in the pre-Cub era, our house was always the house that you could count on stopping by at to find some chocolate and my husband’s favorite – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Today, you couldn’t get one of those in our home if you tried.
Last year, our sweet bear Cub was barely two years old and he still didn’t quite understand the whole concept of trick or treating. That made last year a LOT easier. We dressed him up like a cute little giraffe and enjoyed watching (and helping) him go door-to-door lifting his little trick or treat bag with big curious eyes. Last year, he was delighted at the mere fact that something went in and staring down into the bag was enough to please our little Cub. He had treasures. Treasures that disappeared by the time we got home.
This year, the Cub is about to turn three and it is a whole new ball game. This year, he is VERY excited about all the “Fooky” Halloween décor that we are seeing in stores and he keeps going back and forth about which costume he wants to wear. Dinosaur or Doctor (allergist to be more specific). This year, he understands there will be candy…and he wants some.
Ahh…insert the parent panic RIGHT here.
I type the above statement mostly in jest. The reality is that I pre-plan for as much as I possibly can ahead of time so that I can keep our Cub safe. By pre-planning to keep him safe, I can let him be an active participant in life and can refrain from the alternative of turning off our front light and locking him in the house for safety. For our family, I want a middle ground.
So what is our plan this year?
I’ve come up with a plan that I feel will work best for our family. I am not sure it will work for all families, but I am still sharing what works for us in the event that it helps or inspires another family with a plan that will work for them.
First things first, I am letting our son get excited about Halloween. Halloween is pretend play at its finest! The whole neighborhood is in on it and you get a reward at almost every front door. Decorating the house, Getting ready for visitors (who will get a peanut free candy when they come to our door), and dressing up is SOO fun! And maybe this should have been first, but all that CANDY is a really, big deal (especially for a child that usually doesn’t get very much!).
Second, I realize that we cannot control what every family chooses to buy and give away from their front door. And I also realize that even if a family has peanut free candy option…that it is basically null and void for us…if they’ve tossed it in a bowl with other peanut filled or cross-contaminated candies. So realistically, everything that we collect from neighbors is virtually a no-go. Am I being too strict? Maybe so. But I am just not willing to risk our child’s ability to breath over candy.
Third, after a yummy dinner, our little dressed up Cub will collect candy in his sweet little bag as he goes door-to-door in the neighborhood. I am very lucky that our Cub now clearly understands that peanuts are danger and that they can be “hiding” in food. He understands that he cannot touch food unless his mommychecks it first. So based upon this understanding and a quick talk about it before we start, he can collect candy by having items dropped directly into his bag until his hearts delight. He just can’t take them out.
Seems so unfair, right? I mean…part of the fun is getting to munch on some candy during the walk in between houses!
Fourth, the SAFE CANDY bag. Yes, Chew Chew Mama will have a pre-made, safe candy bag in tow, so that our little Cub can munch between houses should he choose. The bag will provide our little Cub with a variety of safe options to choose from, many of which may be the same as candy dropped into his bag, but items that we know are safe and not cross-contaminated for him.
At the end of the evening, our Cub will have a safe collection to marvel at and I will exhale knowing that I kept him safe. The collected candy will be given to friends or donated.
If all goes well, our post Halloween trick-or-treating will include some safe, homemade Halloween cookies and milk and some giggling over “fooky” bedtime stories. Then we will put the costumes away, treasure the safe memories we’ve made and know that like always, we will re-evaluate and re-research for next years revised plan.
So do you want to know what is going to go in that SAFE CANDY bag of ours? I’ve reviewed the following most common candy company’s allergen statements online and called their customer service lines directly to discover the following information on candy. I’ve divided the Halloween goodies into three categories, based on decisions that we have made for our family. Category “HOORAY” is for a non-candy that we will allow our son to have on Halloween. Category “YAY” is for a candy that we will allow our son to have on Halloween. Category “NAY” is candy that was listed as unsafe OR that we deemed unsafe given loose allergen statements.
I want everyone reading this article to understand that it is each parent’s individual responsibility to research and make sure that products are safe for your allergy children before offering them any food or candy items. If you are an allergy parent, then many of you have already learned that food manufacturers CAN and DO CHANGE what and how they process items at any time. Something that is stated as safe today may absolutely be unsafe to give to your kids tomorrow. So as you read through these categories, please understand that I am not endorsing any of these companies or candies. I am simply sharing which ones are worth your time to investigate as you make your own family’s Halloween plans. In the era of the smart phone, it makes absolute sense to do a quick search and/or call on your phone to check if something is still safe before you hand it to your child. And when you are in doubt — THROW IT OUT.
What ever plans you make for your family — remember to have fun and to be safe! Please share your plans, ideas and your pictures and we will be sure to do the same with you.
Chew Chew Mama
And now with out further delay, the Categories of Halloween Candy
Halloween stickers , Halloween pencils, Halloween Rings, Necklaces Bracelets, Glow sticks or small, Halloween-themed toys. Foodless prizes…need I say more. My heart will literally smile if we get any of these items. Find this free printable below by clicking here.
Yummy Earth Organic Lollipops (a Chew Chew Family Favorite)
Allergen Statement: Are any of the major allergens, including peanuts or tree nuts, used in your product? No, plus our plant does not produce anything with tree-nuts or peanuts. Cross Contamination? Our facilities are free of peanuts, tree nuts, gluten, dairy, wheat, soy, sesame, shellfish, and eggs. The equipment is thoroughly washed before making Yummy Earth organic candy, but the equipment is not cleaned between flavors, so please know there is a risk that a trace amount of berry juice from one flavor may touch another flavor during production.
Tootsie Roll Candy Company
This company states on their website that: “All Tootsie products are: Peanut-Free & Nut Product-Free”
Here is a list of Tootsie Roll Candy Company Brands
Andes Baking Chips
Caramel Apple Pops
Charms Blow Pops
Charms Mini Pops
Dots & Crows
Their Allergen Statement as of August 2012:
Smarties® and our entire line of products are free from most of the known allergens. All products are free of milk, egg, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy. Smarties® products are safe to eat for kids with peanut allergies.
We sell our products to different “re-baggers” as well as various retail outlets. A re-bagger buys products from many different companies and puts them in their own packaging. Only these re-baggers can verify whether their manufacturing plants are free of nuts, soy, or other known allergens. If the UPC number on the packaging begins with “0 11206”, you can be assured that the product was packaged in one of our manufacturing facilities, and the allergen information on this page applies to that product.
Smarties Candy Money
Smarties Love Hearts
Smarties in a Pouch
Extreme Sour Smarties
Giant Smartie Pops
Smarties Mega Lollies
Smarties Brand Candy Necklace
PEZ Candy is tree nut, peanut & gluten free
PEZ Candy & Dispensers
Allergen Statement: Products are made in a plant that does not process peanuts.
Dum Dum Company
Allergen Statement: Dum Dums do not contain milk and nut products. The ingredients in these products, as well as the processing aids (such as release lubricants), do not contain any tree nuts, peanuts, peanut by-products, eggs, milk, or dairy products. These products are processed on dedicated lines.
MAYBE…with caution and careful confirmation that it’s labeled safely.
Allergen Statement: Hershey’s provides nutrition facts and ingredients for all products, along with information about special dietary concerns such as gluten, allergens, kosher, and 100 calorie or less products. The nutrition facts panel and ingredient statement is based on the product size listed. Information is updated daily
What does this blurb mean? It means that the Hershey’s Company doesn’t guarantee that any of their lines are peanut free. They like to have the option to change their manufacturing processes as they please, so they do not stick to designated lines…they just ask you to read labels. For our family, this is a definite no. This company makes many delicious products, but too many contain nuts and we’d rather not take the risk. Please take notice that Twizzlers and Jolly Ranchers are made by this company and they are also off our list. While this company does offer “Peanut free” items, such as Twizzlers, in Canada, their US plants do not offer such items for us in the US at this time.
York Peppermint Patties
Twizzlers. Made peanut free in Hershey’s Canada and labeled peanut free. Not the same case for the US, so we choose to pass on Twizzlers.
Category “NAY” (NO THANKS!)
Allergen Statement: Airheads do not contain peanuts, tree nuts, pine nuts, sesame, eggs or dairy; however, since it would not be typical for these items to be found in our products, we perform no specific test for them. Please keep in mind that due to the fact that most of the ingredients are agricultural products and could be processed on equipment that may also handle products containing these items, we cannot make the claim that our products are free of said items.
This allergen statement made me laugh. I basically interpreted this as saying “We don’t think there are peanuts in our products, but we aren’t entirely sure”. No thanks, Airheads…you are off our list.
Just Born Candy Company
Do your candies contain any of the top 8 allergens? (Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Fish, Shellfish, Soy, Wheat)Because product formulations can change at any time, we encourage consumers to refer to our package labels for the most up-to-date ingredient and allergen information. We are required by law to declare major food allergens as defined by the FDA on our label. Additionally, for the safety of our consumers, it is our policy to voluntarily add advisory statements to our packages to alert consumers to any potential cross contamination risk. Therefore, if there is a risk of cross contamination with any of these major food allergens, we would include an allergen alert on our package. This information pertains to all Just Born candies that we make and package at our two manufacturing locations (Bethlehem, PA and Philadelphia, PA) and are in their original packaging. Please be aware that we do sell some of our products in bulk to other manufacturers who may be repackaging them in another facility. We encourage consumers to read the labels carefully for any potential allergen warning on products that might be packaged elsewhere. For further questions, please call our Consumer Relations Team toll free at 1-888-645-3453.
Given that this company has a loosely written allergen statement AND also manufactures a peanut item — all these brands are NO for us.
Mike & Ikes
***** THIS LAST COMPANY BELOW HAD ME ON THE FENCE****
I saved this company for last, because I believe it requires a special mention. While their allergen statement was completely lacking on their website, when I called the toll free number and told the customer service representative that I wanted facts and not fluff…he spent an hour on the phone with me happily, looking up every single brand. So, they are worth a daily call before you give an item…but we are still going to pass for now.
Wonka Candy Company
Vague Allergen Statement on their website that did not make me feel comfortable. So like all the others, I called them directly. “Let me give you some Generalized information” is the first thing I heard. “We do not have a list of products that are peanut free, but we do follow labeling regulations that requirs we list if an allergen is present. We will also list an advisory warning if there is a chance of cross contamination with an allergen on a shared product line.”
The representative then went through each product one by one with me and confirmed that the following products are in fact peanut free at the time that I researched this article.
Nerds Regular are fine (WARNING: Chewy & Chewy Giant Nerds are made on shared equipment with peanuts)