I ran the following post a couple of years ago when I first began my blog and I'm running it again because of the many e-mails I've received from parents wanting to provide Halloween and other treats to nut-allergic kids in the classroom.
There's just no easy way to say it: please don't bake for my peanut-allergic child--or any child with a food allergy, for that matter. Please, please don't do it.
You may be the mom who "loves to bake the treats" and I don't doubt that your intentions are good. But the risks are just way too high. Please ask the parents of the allergic kids, either directly, or through the teacher, to contribute a safe item. So many allergic reactions occur because someone ate a cookie or a cupcake they "thought" was safe. I cite the story by Dr. Robert Wood in his book "Food Allergies for Dummies." A fellow allergist baked him cookies, assured him they were "safe" and because of cross-contact of which the baker was unaware, Dr. Wood (himself allergic to peanuts) needed 5 doses of Epinephrine to recover--his reaction was that severe.
Parents of non-allergic kids: Don't feel like you're excluding anyone. We don't want an allergic reaction in our child: Period. We are happy to provide a safe treat. It's easier, safer, just plain better for everyone.
Here's my original post: "The Nuances of Nut-Free Baking":
I just read that the PTO is looking for people to contribute home-baked goods.
This year, for the first time, they asked parents to label the baked goods "Nuts" or "Nut Free." I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I read that piece of info.
Don't get me wrong. I'm thankful to the PTO moms who even thought about food allergies in the first place. And I know that they mean well. But if your child has a nut allergy, you know it's not that easy. It made me wonder who advised them on this issue. Had I known, I would have put my two cents in.
The good intentions of the PTO mothers, unfortunately, will be wasted on any food-allergic family that I know. We won't touch home-baked items from people we don't know (and of course no bakery items) because of the cross-contamination risk.
Here's the problem: just because an item was not baked with nuts doesn't make it nut free. For example: You use a knife to spread peanut butter on your kid's bread. You then slice into a stick of butter and spread that on your other child's bread. You put the butter back in the refrigerator.
Then, you decide to make a recipe for the bake sale that uses a half a stick of butter. You add the butter that touched the peanut butter knife into the recipe. You bake your brownies, cookies or whatever and you don't add nuts. Then you label the item "Nut Free." Voila! It's now contaminated by peanut matter not reflected on the label.
That's one scenario. I can think of many others, such as using a non-safe cake mix or frosting, or candy cake decorations that may have been processed on lines that process nuts. Besides utensils, shared bowls or the baker's own hands can transfer peanut or nut matter into recipes.
See, I know it sounds nit picky. But I can't risk my child having an allergic reaction. So of course we won't eat your home-baked treat. I'm sure it's delicious. It's nothing personal, really!
I considered baking a treat for the carnival and labeling it "Nut-Free. Prepared in a completely peanut-free, tree-nut free kitchen. My kid is allergic so I know what cross-contamination is. Eat it. It's safe. REALLY." (Or something like that.) I can still contribute, but I'm not counting on a food-allergic family to bring my treat home unless they know it's baked by me!
If I read that label, I'd still steer clear. You just never know. Better to skip the cake walk and bake something for my daughter at home. Better still if we could have "non-food" alternate prizes for various games and activities. Maybe next year!