Medically reviewed by:

Rebecca Rosenberger, MMSc, PA-C

Written by:
Luke Lemons

Stand for Food Allergy Inclusivity on Halloween with the Teal Pumpkin Project  


For children, Halloween is an exciting time with house decorations, costumes, and candy overflowing from plastic jack-o-lantern buckets. Yet, for the one in 13 children with food allergies and their parents, Halloween trick-or-treating can bring out a serious and real fear.1

Just one bite of a candy containing or made alongside allergens may be all it takes to send a child with food allergies to the ER with anaphylaxis. For this reason, it’s understandable that parents of children with food allergies are extra vigilant when the pumpkins start appearing on neighbors’ front porches.

The Inclusivity Issue

Of course, one of the best ways to manage food allergies is to reduce exposure to allergens, which means no trick-or-treating and no Halloween candy for some kids. Yet, while this may protect a child with allergies to peanutstree nutsmilksoy, and more, it may also create an inclusivity issue for children. Hearing friends at school talk about their candy hauls, or seeing their friends go door-to-door on the 31st may cause some children with food allergies to feel left out and isolated.  

So how do you keep kids with food allergies safe on Halloween but also help keep them included?

The Teal Pumpkin Project

Luckily, the Food Allergy Research & Education organization (FARE) brings you the Teal Pumpkin Project as a solution.

The Teal Pumpkin Project is an initiative to make trick-or-treating more inclusive for children living with food allergies and other food intolerances by encouraging neighborhoods and families to offer food allergy safe goodies on Halloween. Families can indicate if their houses are food-allergen-friendly by displaying teal pumpkins on their porch or in their windows. The pumpkin can be a real, painted pumpkin or just a printed-out graphic pasted on the door.

In fact, Allergy Insider has partnered with the Teal Pumpkin Project to bring awareness to food allergies and aid its mission to make Halloween fun and safe for all children.

To participate next year, register your individual house or neighborhood event as a safe place for kids with food allergies on FARE's Teal Pumpkin Project map so that parents who are using the map can feel more comfortable and less stressed letting their children go door-to-door collecting allergy friendly treats.

Also talk to friends and neighbors about being food allergy aware on Halloween so that every child can have a fun and inclusive holiday.

Nonfood, Allergy-Friendly Halloween Treat Options

While there are candies that claim to be allergen free, the FDA requires that only “major food allergens” be called out and labeled on food packets by either appearing in parentheses following an allergen derived ingredient (e.g., whey (milk), flour (wheat), etc.) or immediately after the ingredients in a “contains” statement.2

The FDA defines the major food allergens as milk, eggs, fish, sesame, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybean.2  However, this means if you have a food allergy outside of these major food allergens,[1] it may not be as obviously labeled on food packets. (Learn more about reading food labels.)

Perhaps the only way to be certain you are giving kids with food allergies allergy friendly treats on Halloween is to bypass “allergy free candy” altogether in favor of nonfood goodies.

Here are a few alternatives to candy courtesy of the Teal Pumpkin Project:

  • Glow sticks, bracelets, necklaces
  • Pencils, pens, crayons, markers
  • Bubbles
  • Whistles, kazoos, noisemakers
  • Bouncy balls
  • Finger puppets, novelty toys
  • Coins
  • Spider rings
  • Vampire fangs
  • Playing cards
  • Stickers
  • Stencils

Visit the Teal Pumpkin Project for more info and explore Allergy Insider for additional allergy insights.

Tools for Understanding Allergies

 

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  1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Food Allergies, https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/foodallergies/index.htm (accessed September 10, 2021).
  2. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/food-allergies (accessed September 10, 2021).

[1] In April 2021, the FDA recognized sesame as the ninth major food allergen; however, it won’t be labeled as an allergen on food products until January 2023.2