The time has come once again for all things spooky, which means dusting off your Halloween decor and stocking up on candy for trick-or-treaters (and yourself, of course). If you’re a parent, however, these activities take on a whole new meaning—especially the candy part when it comes to those families with food allergies. And this population is growing more and more by the year, with an estimated 32 million Americans suffering from food allergies, 5.6 million of them children under 18 per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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Unfortunately, many popular Halloween candies contain nuts, milk, egg, soy or wheat, which are some of the most common allergens in children and adults, notes Carla Ward, MD, allergist with the Institute for Asthma and Allergy. This can make this celebratory holiday of spook quite anxiety-provoking for allergic children and their parents.
While reading the ingredient list before consuming any candy is an essential step to ensure there are not any accidental exposures, Gary Kirkilas, MD, pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, points out that even if a candy does not list a potential allergen, there is still a possibility of cross contamination, because candy is often produced in facilities alongside some of those common allergens.
For families looking for allergen-friendly treats (meaning, all free from the top nine allergens: eggs, soy, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, wheat, fish, and shellfish), Dr. Kirkilas recommends opting for hard candy (so long as the child is at least four years of age) and fruit chews, which primarily contain just sugar (sometimes listed as corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup) and are usually free of the common allergens.
As you shop for Halloween candy this year, consider these doc-approved allergen-friendly candy brands that you can easily order online. (Editor’s note: If you or your child have an allergy that’s not on the top nine list of allergens, or you’re not sure, consult your doctor before buying.)
Jolly Rancher Assorted Fruit Flavored Hard Candy — $14.00
When it comes to hard candy, you can’t get more classic than Jolly Rancher. This brand of candies, which has been around since the early 1950s, do contain soy lecithin, but contain very little soy protein, making them safe for most children with soy allergies to consume it, notes Dr. Kirkilas. They’re also individually wrapped, so you can toss them into a giant bowl and set them out for trick-or-treaters to grab at their leisure.
Airheads Candy Variety — $27.00
This deliciously chewy treat is considered allergy-friendly with a few exceptions. While some Airhead products contain soy oil, which can safely be consumed by most children with soy allergies, Dr. Kirkilas points out that some other products contain wheat. “Every child’s allergy and response to allergens are unique, so please consult with your child’s allergist to be certain what foods can be safely enjoyed,” he adds
Sour Patch Kids — $18.00
Both the regular Sour Patch Kids and the critically-acclaimed watermelon variety can offer a fruity, sour and sweet treat that allergy-prone children and their families can enjoy. “This candy is free of the top nine allergens and gluten,” notes Dr. Ward. This giant box contains 240 individually-wrapped Big Sour Patch Kids, so trick-or-treaters can safely take their share.
Dum Dum Lollipops — $27.00
Chances are, your kiddos recognize this brand of lollipops from their doctor’s office visits. If not, they’ll be quick to become fans and parents will be glad to know that they are allergen-free. “This candy is free of peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, dairy, egg, fish, shellfish, sesame and gluten,” says Dr. Ward. They’ve been around since the early 1920s and still feature some of the classic flavors such as grape, cherry, cotton candy and “mystery” (aka, a surprise flavor).
Enjoy Life Foods: Minis Variety Pack (6-Pack) — $43.00
Enjoy Life Foods’ Halloween Chocolate Candy Bar Minis are made in a dedicated nut-free, gluten-free facility and are free of the top nine allergens—milk, eggs, fish, Crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans, according to Dr. Ward. “The kids will have a choice of either smooth or crisp chocolate made from rice milk,” she adds.
Free 2b Chocolate Sun Cups (Pack of 12) — $37.00
Integrative and functional medicine physician and author of The Immunotype Breakthrough, Heather Moday, MD, recommends this delicious chocolate-y treat for allergen-prone families around Halloween. “Not only are they as tasty as the classic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but they are free of all nine major allergies as well as coconut-free,” she says.
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