Navigating Halloween with food allergies

The Teal Pumpkin Project can help keep trick or treating fun, healthy and safe for everyone.

A teal colored Halloween treat pail with a pumpkin on it.
Photo: Stephanie Ostrenga Sprague/MSU Extension.

Fall is the season that Food Allergy Research and Education, FARE, promotes their Teal Pumpkin Project. The Teal Pumpkin Project is one way to make Halloween more inclusive by offering nonfood treats so children with food allergies or intolerances can safely participate in trick or treating. FARE encourages people to offer nonfood treats to children with food allergies, and put them in a teal container (the color FARE uses for food allergy awareness).

Why is it important?

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, a food allergy occurs when the body’s natural defenses overreact to exposure to a particular substance, treating it as an invader and sending out chemicals to defend against it. How the body reacts is different for everyone, some people have a slight rash while others could have a severe and life-threatening response, such as anaphylaxis.

FARE works on behalf of the 85 million Americans living with life-threatening food allergies and intolerances, including one in 13 children or estimated two per U.S. classroom. A teal pumpkin on your porch or a printed sign will draw awareness for food allergies and that your house will offer nonfood treats for children with food allergies or intolerances so they can safely celebrate Halloween.  

How do I participate?

  • Offer alternatives to candy or other nonfood treats on Halloween like stickers, bouncy balls, glow-in-the dark items (i.e. glow sticks, necklaces or bracelets), bubbles, pencils, temporary tattoos, spider rings, vampire fangs, bookmarks and stencils.
  • Decide to offer either food and nonfood treats, or nonfood treats only. If you offer both food and nonfood treats, be careful of cross-contact. Cross-contact occurs when a food allergen is accidentally introduced onto another surface or food item. To avoid accidentally introducing food allergens onto your nonfood treats, place your food treats into one bowl and nonfood treats into a separate teal bowl or container. The teal color communicates that the items in that container are safe for children with food allergies.
  • Let your community know that you are participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project by registering your address on the Teal Pumpkin Project Map. Parents use this map as a tool to plan their child’s trick-or-treating activities based on houses that will be offering nonfood treats.

When is the Teal Pumpkin Project, and how will families know I'm participating?

Each year, on Halloween, you can demonstrate that your house participates in the Teal Pumpkin Project by:

  • Placing a teal-colored pumpkin or plastic bucket on your porch.
  • Displaying a free printable sign from FARE to indicate that you have nonfood treats available.
  • Printing a flyer to help increase awareness of this project and encourage others to join.

For more information about food safety, visit MSU Extension's Safe Food & Water website.

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