Hallowe’en has always been one of my favourite times of the year. I love to decorate, to carve the pumpkins, to give out candy to all the neighbourhood children, and now, to walk through the neighbourhood with my children. It can also be a scary time for me, not because of the ghosts, ghouls, and goblins, but because Woo has a serious and life threatening allergy to peanuts.
Luckily, both my children are very aware of what to watch for in their candy, and know that they need to go through it with us to remove any dangerous candy before the consumption free-for-all begins. Last night was no exception, and the sort started within seconds of our return home. The fact that many companies are labelling their treats with the “peanut free” symbol has been very helpful to us, both for the sort, and the stash that I keep at home to trade with Woo (and Goose, who generally avoids nuts in solidarity with her brother). I only buy these treats to give out, knowing that the extras will be traded for Woo’s nutty candy. As the mom of an allergic lil, I appreciate the labeling.
Unfortunately, this year, the labelling led to more confusion than anything else. Of the three different brands of candy that I purchased, the acknowledgement that the candy was peanut-free was only contained on the big cardboard box containing all the individual sized treats, meaning that individual products that were mixed in to all of the lils loot bags in my hood, had no indication, either way, regarding the safety of the product.
In one case, Smarties*, the treats came in both hallowe’en-themed and regular-themed packaging. The hallowe’en-themed boxes had the peanut-free symbol, the same sized regular packaging did not. Smarties are produced by a company that also uses nuts in some of their products, and I know that some other sizes of Smarties are NOT nut free. Given that they are a family favourite, we are careful. In his haul, Woo ended up with a full sized box; which the company acknowledged “may contain” peanuts and the snack sized Smarties. Given the inconsistent labelling, I contacted them to see what was safe and what wasn`t. They assured me that all the small-sized were nut free, and cautioned me to always read the labels. Unfortunately, the wording on both the small and larger boxes was equally devoid of any warning or confirmation regarding allergens.
A second brand of chocolate bar, Mars, went to the trouble of printing a warning referencing the fact that some Mars products may contain peanuts, but failing to state whether the bar in my hands was peanut free. I assumed it was safe, but wanted to be certain, so I called them. These bars were, so I asked why the warning was so vague. When pressed, they offered feeble excuses as to why the bar was not labelled nut-free, including a ridiculous claim that the packaging could get ripped if the bars were sold in a bulk bin, which could lead to contamination. It was a frustrating call.
I understand that the risk of contamination from a lot of these products is really low, but I always choose the peanut-free option, due to Woo’s age and the severity of his allergy. I really do appreciate that manufacturers are making the effort to separate the manufacturing processes, and to put labels on the products, but they really don’t have to make it so difficult. The labelling should be the easiest part, especially if they have gone to the trouble of making the products nut free. If it is not clear, then what is the point? In the end, it took me less than 20 minutes on the phone to figure out that the three brands that Woo cared about were all safe for him, and one company to acknowledge that they have plans to improve the labelling in the future (Smarties).
*All of the products mentioned above are the Canadian produced products, and my interactions with the producers only concerned the Canadian products and packaging.