Features | Health Options Health Options: For those with food allergies, Halloween can be scary, risky time By Joannie Dobbs and Alan Titchenal, Special to the Star-Advertiser Oct. 28, 2019 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Halloween is the time of year to have fun being scary. But for those with food allergies, Halloween treats can be scary, risky and even life-threatening. Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. Halloween is the time of year to have fun being scary. But for those with food allergies, Halloween treats can be scary, risky and even life-threatening. This can take the fun out of trick-or-treating. Since 1998 there has been a significant surge in food allergies and hospitalization from food allergy reactions, especially in children less than 5 years of age. New prevalent information indicates about 1 in 13 children has a food allergy. QUESTION: What are the most common allergies reported in the U.S.? ANSWER: Although there are more than 170 foods known to cause allergic reactions, the U.S. requires package labeling only for the eight most common allergens. These include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (walnut, almond, hazelnut, cashew, macadamia, pistachio and Brazil nuts), soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Recently there is a growing concern for potential allergies to sesame, celery and mustard seeds. Q: Why is Halloween more challenging than other times of the year for people with food allergies? A: Although it is uncommon to have more than one of the most common allergens, there are still a few reasons why Halloween is a scary food allergy time. >> It is required to label food packages with allergen information; however, it is only required to label the outer package to aide the consumer in making the initial purchase. Consequently, allergy information is not listed on the packaging of many of the bite-size treats handed out. >> Food ingredients are sometimes substituted, making a food previously considered safe into a food containing an allergen. For example, nougat may or may not contain milk, and modified food starch may or may not be derived from wheat and contain gluten. Q: How can you be confident that a treat is free of potential allergens? A: Many companies keep up-to-date allergy information on their websites. A quick internet check at the company’s site can help to ease worries. Beware of the many blogs with ingredient information because they often do not have the most current information. Q: Are there allergy-free Halloween treats to give out? A: There is no simple answer because most treats contain one or more allergens. Small boxed raisins may be an option, but some, especially golden raisins, do use sulfites in processing. Snack bags of potato chips can be safe, but always read the ingredient list and any allergen statements to avoid unexpected problems. Again, it is important to always read the label. Q: Are there good food allergen websites? A: There are two outstanding websites on food allergies. FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) provides detailed food ingredient information to help identify foods with unexpected allergens (food allergy.org), and the University of Nebraska Food Allergy Research and Resource Program is an extensive resource covering the most common food allergens worldwide (farrp.unl.edu). Alan Titchenal, Ph.D., C.N.S., and Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S., are nutritionists in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii at Manoa. Dobbs also works with University Health Services. Previous Story Magnum Reloaded: ‘Magnum P.I.’ presents intriguing Hawaiian-style Halloween episode Next Story What does it take to get truly hydrated?