Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy SAFE Halloween

You may notice that this blog is LATE. Like, very LATE. There's really no good excuse for that, but here goes.

See, my almost 2-year-old daughter had an allergic reaction today. We're not 100% sure to what, but we're working under the assumption that it was the sesame seeds on her bread at lunch.

All it said on the menu at daycare was "wheat bread." It's never once said "sesame seed bread" but when I got there to pick her up after her teacher called to say she'd broken out in hives and was acting clingy (her eyes were all puffy and swollen and were just little slits), I noticed that there were seeds on the bread.

She's very, very allergic to tree nuts (life-threatening anaphylactic reaction), and mildly allergic to eggs. Sesame seeds actually did show in her bloodwork report at a very low level on the RAST scale, but her allergist said she'd never seen a true sesame seed allergy in all her years in private practice, so we shouldn't worry about it.

Well, apparently even if it's rare, you can in fact have a sesame seed allergy. And she has one. Relatively mild (thank God!) since we didn't need to break out her EpiPen and it resolved itself with Benadryl, but still.

If you've read my novel, Codename: Dancer, you know that my heroine Dani has a dangerous peanut allergy. I actually wrote this long before I ever knew that my daughter was allergic to tree nuts, so this is now a very personal subject for me.

So yeah, that was my excitement for the day, and why this post is late. Which brings me to my next point.

HALLOWEEN. Did you know that many of the most popular commercially-made Halloween candies are actually manufactured on the same equipment (and in the same facility) that processes nuts, even if the particular candy in question does not contain nuts?

It's true. For example, I'm sitting here staring at a bag of snack-size Hershey's Milk Chocolate bars. The ingredients are milk chocolate consisting of sugar, milk, chocolate, cocoa butter, lactose, milk fat, soy lechithin, emulsifier, and vanillin. No nuts, right?

Well, even if it doesn't contain nuts, it's still not safe for my daughter or any other tree nut-allergic child to eat because it was processed on the same equipment that processes ALMONDS. It says this on the label on the bag itself, but not on any of the individual wrappers, so it would be very easy for a kid to eat it and not know, and and spend the end of a happy holiday in the hospital.

Same with plain M&M's. I'm not talking about the peanut ones or the peanut butter ones. Just the plain ol' regular ones. In Canada, M&M/Mars processes plain M&M's in a safe facility, but not so in the US. Plain M&M's are processed on the same equipment that processes peanuts and tree nuts.

This is a recipe for cross-contamination.

In recent years, with the rise in food allergies making the news, many people have decided to add a nut-free option to their Halloween candy bowl. But even if you're trying to do the right thing, your supposedly safe candy might actually NOT be safe after all. According to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), the only commercially-available chocolate candy to be 100% safe for tree-nut allergic and peanut-allergic children is Dove.

Halloween should be a time of fun and excitement for kids. They shouldn't have to worry about not being able to breathe after eating candy that was processed on equipment that processes nuts. So I urge you to please consider some totally nut-free SAFE options in your bowl, such as Skittles, Smarties, or even pretzels. (But please check the bag to make sure the pretzels were not processed on nut-contaminated equipment. Snyders is a safe brand, and they have tiny individual snack bags perfect for Halloween. Some of the other brands are not safe.)

Happy Halloween!


Refhater said...

So sorry that happened to your little one. Hope she is doing better!

I too have multiple food allergies (chocolate, nuts, bananas, bell peppers, dairy, and many more) as well as celiac disease which is an intollerance to gluten products, so I can feel your pain in finding safe treats. I think I was the only kid on the block that was happy to get the apple and pennies in my bag. Cause that ment I could actually have them without reacting.

Hope you guys have a happy and allergy free halloween.

Refhater said...
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Brandy said...

Awww, I'm sorry your daughter had a reaction. We give out Dum-Dums. (Lollipops) They are great for kids with allergies and the little ones we get.