Food by VICE

Will Food Allergy Hysteria Destroy Halloween?

It's sad to think about allergy-ridden children who are unable to go trick-or-treating for gobs of candy. But as awful as it is to be the kid who can't eat chocolate on Halloween, should the rest of us have to give it up because of him?

by Alison Stevenson
Oct 15 2014, 6:30pm

Photo via Flickr user Luke Jones

There are many, many benefits to childhood. Being blissfully ignorant about most of the world's problems, not having to know what taxes are, liking boy bands without receiving immense scrutiny from your peers, and—most importantly—celebrating Halloween. Sure, adults celebrate Halloween too, and yeah, it can be fun. What's not fun about going to a party and getting drunk, but this particular weekend you're dressed up as a sexy, scantily clad pumpkin? That's great! But for kids, Halloween is so much more magical.

I look back at my adolescent Halloweens with so much joy. I remember watching those made-for-TV Halloween movies that were the perfect blend of corny and scary, and going to school dressed up in costumes my mom bought me at the Halloween store only to find some of my friends wearing the same exact one. Oh, and candy. I remember all that goddamn candy. Teachers threw it at us all day. Then, after school, my friends and I walked countless neighborhoods, filling gigantic pillow cases with even more candy. We wanted as much as possible. I had to prove myself and test my endurance. If I had less candy than my friends, I was a complete and total failure. Ah, the good old days.

What would Halloween be without candy? Well, an organization known as FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) is trying to find out. This group is putting forth an effort to raise awareness about how soul-crushing Halloween is for children with serious allergies by starting the "Teal Pumpkin Project." As they state on their site, "The Teal Pumpkin Project is designed to promote safety, inclusion and respect of individuals managing food allergies—and to keep Halloween a fun, positive experience for all." They are encouraging people to hand out non-food gifts this year, as well as painting your pumpkins teal to signify to trick-or-treaters that you're doing so. Teal, as we all know, is the official color of food allergy awareness. Their site even offers suggestions as to what kind of non-food items you can provide for children, some of which include: playing cards, kazoos, stickers, coins, and bookmarks. Sure, these items definitely beat getting raisins or—god forbid—an apple. But the problem is, these items are not candy.

Something that never crossed my mind as a kid—and even to this day—was how kids with food allergies to milk, nuts, eggs, corn syrup, etc. have to deal with trick-or-treating. How did they cope with the crushing reality that the bulk of their trick-or-treating is a fruitless effort? I suppose the reason I never thought about this is because it never came up. Not once. I obviously don't doubt that these children exist, and yes, it is sad to think about. I'm imagining being that child, and the image is bringing tears to my eyes. It's also giving me a runny nose, and my throat is starting to itch. Perhaps I'm allergic to feelings. I must ask, though: as awful as it is to be the kid allergic to chocolate on Halloween, should the rest of us have to give up chocolate because of him?

Let's be even more real here. I have a strong feeling that the majority of parents claiming their child has a serious food allergy are referring to a mostly made-up allergy: gluten. If you claim that your child has a stomach ache after eating candy, please don't blame it on the gluten. Every child has a stomach ache after eating a pillowcase full of candy. If your child starts behaving strangely—as in hyper, or moody—after eating candy, again, don't blame it on the gluten. Trust me when I tell you, it's the sugar doing that. Yes, candy is awful for the human body. However, children are that special demographic of human where they can gorge on the stuff one night out of the year, and be okay. In fact, they should.

FARE, on the other hand, does not agree with me on this sentiment. They launched their Teal Pumpkin Project online, and to my surprise, are seeing some success. According to CNN, this is the first year the project has been promoted on a national level, and FARE reports that their Facebook post about it has reached over 2.7 million people in less than 72 hours. The organization's first attempt at gaining national attention certainly is impressive. But will people actually participate? It's one thing to click "like" and "share," but to actually buy some stickers and paint a pumpkin teal—that's a whole other story. I mean, who the hell is going to buy teal paint?

Well, over time, teal pumpkin paint can become a Halloween staple. I can imagine plenty of corporations jumping at the chance to offer consumers yet another "must have" for Halloween. It will take several years, but everyone has to start somewhere.

The only real problem here is FARE's attempt to have toys completely replace candy. In America, asking people to break free from a national tradition is like asking a self-described gluten-intolerant individual to admit they do not have a gluten intolerance. It just can't be done. This is a nation that still has millions of die-hards protesting having to say "Happy Holidays," instead of "Merry Christmas." To them, all Americans celebrate Christmas (unless they're a Commie terrorist). Now, while I don't agree with these people on most of the world's issues, I do have to take their side when it comes to Halloween candy.

The best outcome I can propose is keeping our Halloween tradition as is, but making it more inclusive. Offering the option of candy or toys can be the "Happy Holidays" of Halloween. A household should offer both, which may seem like a lot to ask, but come on—this is only once a year. Kids with food allergies and their parents should still take most of the responsibility when it comes to trick-or-treating. However, if both sides work together, the Teal Pumpkin Project can eventually be a huge success and a lot of allergy-ridden kids will get to feel much less excluded from all of the fun.

I hope FARE just keeps in mind that candy will always be king. I, for one, will be gorging on chocolate and hating myself for it until it's officially November. Then I'll move on to stuffing.