How to Choose Safe Halloween Treats to Hand out
Once upon a time, candy and various homemade treats were thrown into the kiddies' Halloween bags with cheers and smiles; and parents were responsible for sorting through it before the kids ate it. As the treat-giver, all you really needed to worry about when choosing safe Halloween treats to hand out was whether or not you had enough treats for all the kids. This has all changed today, though.
There has been a shift and today's treat-givers are expected to assume part of the responsibility of checking that the treats being handed out are safe for the kids. This leaves many asking, what is safe to give?
The first thing you can cross off the list is anything homemade unless you’re having a Halloween party at your home.
In this day and age, no parent is going to let their child eat a popcorn ball from a stranger. Homemade cookies, brownies, muffins, cupcakes, candy apples, and other treats are also safe to cross off your list.
Homemade treats have too high a risk of containing allergens, and the list of potential allergens is a long one. Unless you know the dietary considerations of every trick-or-treater in your area and can accommodate them all, you might as well just save yourself the trouble and nix the homemade treats.
And store-bought treats come with their own list of considerations. Most people today are aware of the common allergy to nuts, especially peanuts. While it’s easy to know that Snickers has nuts, children can still have a reaction to a candy bar that doesn't traditionally contain nuts. If the processing plant where the candy is made happens to also process nuts for other bars, then there is a risk that it can come in contact with a peanut. It only takes a tiny bit of nut kernel to set off a severe allergic reaction in some people.
This means checking any candy bars to see if they come with a warning that it might contain peanuts or other allergens — even if those items are not on the ingredients list. In general, it is safer to choose a non-chocolate candy because these are more likely to be produced in a nut-free facility. Think of Twizzlers, Hot Tamales, Mike and Ike, Smarties, Sweet Tarts, or Lifesaver Gummies. If you still want chocolate, be sure to check for allergy information after the list of ingredients on the package.
Specifically, look for a warning that the candy is made in a facility that also processes peanuts, almonds, or tree nuts. Sometimes the warning will even say that the candy may contain traces of peanuts, etc. or that the equipment is also used for manufacturing peanuts or tree nuts.
There are some treats developed where the manufacturing process is known to be safer: Junior Mints, Tootsie Rolls, Hershey Kisses, Chips Ahoy Cookies, York Peppermint Patties, and Oreo Cookies.
Another consideration is the size of the treat, as there are plenty out there that can present a choking hazard. Some are small but just large enough to get stuck in a child’s throat, like bite-size candies or gumballs. Others, like taffy or caramel, are hard to dissolve. Instead of candy consider individual packages of pretzels, sunflower seeds, goldfish crackers, fruit roll-ups, or raisins.
Is it any wonder that, with so many considerations, I and others like me decided to forego candy altogether. Instead, I began looking at products made by Crayola and checking the dollar stores for packages of things that could be divided. For instance, I’ve never seen a kid who didn’t like post-it notes or some sort of unusual pencil, sheets of those temporary tattoos, little cookie cutters, beading, or plastic figurines like army men or farm animals. Other ideas might be glow-in-the-dark eyeballs or Halloween stickers.
A lot of people get hung up on the fear that children will dislike anything that is put into their bag or pillowcase that isn't candy. But the truth is, kids just want to have fun — and some of them will appreciate the toys.
Whatever you choose, remember that the important thing is to participate and let children continue the fun of trick-or-treating in a safe manner so you and parents can breathe easy.
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