Happy Halloween…and the 1,2,3’s of Food Allergy Safety!

teal-pumpkin

Halloween fun of trick or treating can become a real life horror story very quickly for a child with peanut, nut or other food allergy.  Food allergies are life-threatening.  It only takes a very small amount of an allergen to start a dangerous allergic reaction. For example, shaking hands with a person who has just eaten shrimp, or someone who has nut oil residue on their hands can be a trigger. Yes, kissing someone who has just devoured a Snickers Bar, can  kill a person with a peanut allergy.   Even smelling brewing hazelnut coffee can cause a deadly reaction.

I saw on television that there is food allergy awareness and safety campaign involving teal pumpkins. Bully!!!   I hope many people will participate and have provided some useful tips to help you keep all of those little treat or treaters and party guests food allergy safe.

1.    For a food to be in fact “safe”, it cannot contain, been manufactured, prepared with or come in contact with other foods that contain the allergen. That, would include a person distributing Halloween treats having their hands touching candy containing the allergen, then providing an allergen-free treat without first thoroughly washing their hands. This includes just touching the candy wrappers.

2.   A treat is not “safe” if it is packaged with “unsafe” treats.  Safe treats cannot be in the same package or combined in the same bowl with unsafe treats.  For example, if you purchased a bag of miniature candy bars and separated them into bowls of those with nuts and those without nuts, you have failed in your mission to provide a safe treat. They were potentially contaminated when packaged and are unsafe for the allergic person.

3.   Read labels!  Excellent label reading skills have prevented many a trip to an emergency room or worse.  When, purchasing a Halloween treat, if the label says , “Made in a factory with nuts,” even if the food item itself does not appear to contain nuts, it cannot be safely consumed by anyone with a nut allergy, and that includes peanuts. Never be offended if a guest, family member, friend, child or parent asks to see a label or recipe. They know what they are looking for and are only interested in enjoying their time with you and avoiding a health emergency.

4.   Know what is in the treats you are distributing and any foods you are serving. This rule applies to both home and professional cooks. Many baking ingredients, such as chocolate chips, are made in factories that also process nuts.  Even some frozen pizzas come with a warning that they may have been contaminated with nuts.  Also, check out what types of hygiene products you provide for your guests or customers. There are nut oils in many lotions, shampoos, hair sprays and soaps.

5.   Ask!  Waiters, waitresses, chefs, hosts and hostesses need to ask if their guests have any allergies to food. Pay attention and take it seriously. Remember that not only are they allergic to the food itself, but anything that food has touched…your hands, pots, pans, utensils and counter tops.  Dishes and silverware used for someone with food allergies should be washed separately from those that for example have peanut butter residue on them.

6.   Your best friend…is your Epi-pen!  Anyone that has a severe food or bee sting allergy needs to keep their Epi-pen with them at all times!  It does absolutely no good, to leave it at home.

7.   When in doubt….do not eat it!  There is not food product on this earth that is so delicious that it is worth risking your life for it.  If you do not KNOW that a food item is safe, DO NOT eat it.

Thank you for helping to protect the food allergic.  I hope that everyone has a very safe and Happy Halloween.

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