Monday, October 6, 2014

Halloween, Holidays and Nut Allergies: What's In Your Food?

That's Nancy Drew on the left. :)
It's official: we've embarked on the holiday season. How do I know? Well, besides the fact that every store is screaming Halloween, with some Thanksgiving and Christmas creeping in on those side aisles, Love Actually was on TV this weekend and the Hallmark network is starting their Christmas movie season on October 31st! Yep, you read that right.

I love the holidays but there is one thing that drives me a little bit nuts and that's, well, peanuts and tree nuts showing up in unexpected places. We can have lots of fun at this hectic time but we've got to be careful. No getting around it.

This topic is something I've covered in my e-book and also touched on in several blog posts, but I don't think it's something I've covered recently here, in detail, so please bear with me.

Basically, any food is up for grabs at this time of year.  Well, this rule holds all year, but the fall and winter holiday season is the time that people break out the tree nuts, in particular. Peanuts also show up in all sorts of Halloween and other holiday candy. You've got to be vigilant with all the tasty treats out there and that includes candy, baked goods, savory dishes -- you name it.

 This is the best thing you can do: if you don't know what's in a food or can't identify an ingredient -- SKIP IT! I know it's not always fun, but it's the safest thing. And take heart, because there are so many good things out there right now. I'll include a couple of Halloween blog posts I've written at the end of this one for ideas. I hope everyone who is in the Chicago  area is already partaking of Nutphree's awesome cupcakes (now available at Mariano's grocery stores). They will custom make stuff for you at their storefront bakery or buy ready-made at Mariano's. You can always decorate them. 

Remember, too, that all treats don't have to be sweets. This is a good slogan for the food-allergic and unfortunately, one I can't take credit for -- it was on the most recent Oriental Trading Company catalog. If you haven't perused that catalog in awhile, you can simply go online to their site for terrific non-food Halloween treats, party games and a lot more.

Another thing I want to point out to not only the nut allergy newbies, but to everyone: not everything that contains peanuts or tree nuts is going to be obvious. So even if you've been doing this for a few years, be careful.

I remember last year's Halloween treats bag. My younger daughter got a bunch of those old-fashioned candies called "Bit O' Honey." I never knew that they contained finely ground ALMONDS and only discovered that when I read the minuscule print on the side of the candy wrapper. I'm so glad they listed it but I've known about that candy for pretty much my entire life and never knew it had almonds. Learn from me: never assume a candy is nut-free unless you've checked it out personally. 

Here are some other seasonal foods that make an appearance especially during the holidays, and that contain peanuts or tree nuts:

Marzipan  - this is an almond paste used to make candy but also to decorate cakes -- it holds its shape and you can make elaborate cake decor with it. There's nothing in the name to suggest nuts, but they are there.

Linzer Torte - this is a European fruit pastry (or cookie) with generally, almonds, in the crust. Avoid any torte for that matter -- "tortes" usually have tree nut flour as a large component of their ingredients.

Flourless chocolate cake -- again these cakes may contain almond flour in place of wheat flour. 

Imported candy - some imported candy can be safe for nut allergies -- Haribo brand gummy bears are one example. However, a lot of the cute, different and fun stuff you find at say, World Market, or other stores along those lines is going to have at least tree nuts in the ingredients, especially the chocolates.

Ferrero Rocher chocolates - these European chocolates have hazelnuts inside. Avoid them if you are allergic to tree nuts.

Nougat - nougat means nuts! Avoid any candy containing nougat.

Truffles - some delicious nut-free truffles exist, such as those from Dean's Sweets and Vermont Nut Free. (I recommend both companies for nut-free chocolate.) However, your garden variety truffle either contains tree nuts or came into contact with them. Avoid them.

Bags of assorted Halloween candy - check the labels. Your favorite brands sometimes package differently at Halloween to include a candy assortment that includes stuff you can't have. So what is "safe" may be alongside candy like Reese's, creating cross-contact risk. Stick to the bags of candy that are all "nut-free" such  as the assortments provided by  Tootsie Roll company. All of their candies are tree nut-free, peanut-free and gluten-free. Please also see candies like the all-natural, nut-free and top-8 allergy-free "Surf Sweets" candy. You can learn more about them by clicking the image with the Spooky Spiders to the right of this post.

This list is by no means complete -- you will have to look at everything you consume before serving it to a nut-allergic child or adult. However, I hope I've hammered home my point that many foods you or others might not think about may contain nut allergens and you can't ever assume that they don't without checking it out first.

Now for a few Halloween posts from years past. Click the links to go directly to those articles.

Nut-Free Haunted House Cakes and Nut-Free Candy Ideas - make an edible haunted house with a nut-free pumpkin cake recipe. Easy and delicious.

Halloween with Food Allergies: Thoughts from a Mom Who's Been There

If you're new to navigating life with nut allergies or just need a refresher, check out my handy guide: The New Nut-Free Mom. On Amazon, Nook or for your computer/iPad.

Remember to consider all of your allergy needs before serving any food to an allergic person -- you are the best judge of your exact situation. For accurate, up-to-date information on foods and food labels, call the company directly.


Eileen Rhoadarmer said...

The holidays often make me a bit wary with my tree nut allergy--I particularly hate the bulk nuts in the produce aisle (which are there already this year! *grumble*) And holiday cookies from neighbors? *sigh* This is definitely a good time to be vigilant!

But since when does nougat contain nuts? 3 Musketeers has long been my favorite candy bar (and I just checked again and saw nothing but the "may contain peanut" warning.) Unless 3 Musketeers and Milky Way aren't true nougat, which is entirely possible (off limits to my egg-allergic child, regardless.)

Jenny said...

Hi Eileen, Nougat is derived from the French word for "nut" and since my child is peanut and tree nut allergic we have been avoiding the Three Musketeers (with its peanut allergy warning) and Milky Way for many years. Last time I looked, Milky Way had a tree nut allergy warning, but maybe they took it away. Sometimes Canadian candy bars have different allergy warnings than the U.S. does, too. Usually when you see "nougat" it means the candy contains nuts which is why I like to warn people about it. Here's a definition of nougat that I found for anyone interested.

Full Definition of NOUGAT: a confection of nuts or fruit pieces in a sugar paste

French, from Occitan, from Old Occitan nogat, from noga nut, from Vulgar Latin *nuca, from Latin nuc-, nux — more at nut
First Known Use: 1827

Gratefulfoodie said...

I can't believe that Halloween is right around the corner. This year, I'm ordering early so I can dish out non-food treats and great and wonderful Halloween candy. I hope you are doing well.