Teal Is the New Orange

This post was originally conceived as a pre-Halloween public service announcement, and then the pandemic came along to throw a big scare into everybody, and the October festivities will be severely curtailed this year. So, do we need warnings about how Halloween treats can affect kids with allergies?

As it turns out, yes, we do, because, as food blogger and entrepreneur Vani Hari points out in discussing the Holiday Death Isle, the treats for sale around Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter are made from the identical ingredients, poured into differently shaped molds and disguised with different colored dyes. Basically, it’s a case of “Same stuff, different day.” So, what is some of that — uh — stuff?

There are the common and widespread sensitivities that most of the general public has some awareness of: wheat, soy, milk, eggs, peanuts, sesame. A frightening variety of food additives and environmental toxins cause adverse reactions in people’s bodies, and plenty of them are also linked to obesity in complicated ways. And the big culprit, sugar, is of course associated with not only obesity but diabetes.

For complicated reasons (and there are many theories around this subject) more people are allergic to more substances than ever before. This problem sends ill-fated Americans to the emergency room on an average of every three minutes. Apparently, one child in 13 suffers from a life-affecting food allergy. Food allergies can kill, and even though Halloween is all about cozying up to terror and reminders of death, actual fatality is no laughing matter.

Activists on the case

FoodAllergy.org originated the Teal Pumpkin Project, a parent-driven initiative to raise awareness about the threat posed by allergens, to children who just want to dress up and collect candy. The astonishingly comprehensive program offers a ton of information and inspiration for alternative Halloween treats and activities. Rather than strain to identify edibles with harm potential, the program suggests giving out other treats instead. Various participants have suggested plastic tarantulas, Halloween pencils, temporary tattoos, stickers, glow-in-the-dark items, pinwheels, rubber balls, and little jars of bubble-blowing soap.

One participant even swears that socks are a big hit. Plenty of Halloween-themed socks are available in the marketplace, and while they might be a bit pricey for distribution at the door, it could turn out that family members love them.

During a recent spook season, journalist Deke Farrow reported,

The Teal Pumpkin Project seems to be really taking off. FARE first promoted it nationwide in 2014, according to a USA Today article. “In 2015, about 1 million people visited the group’s website to get information, and about 10,000 of them — probably a fraction of participants — put their homes on the interactive map.

The Teal Pumpkin Project’s merch page displays a mind-boggling array of items, many of which can simply be copied at home by thrifty parents and their artistically talented kids. Anybody can paint a pumpkin blue! Any online neighborhood group can promote the Teal Pumpkin concept and even create an interactive map to guide families to other participants.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Grocery Stores that Get Food Allergies for Halloween,” RobynObrien.com, undated
Source: “Cousins’ food allergies turn high school student teal for Halloween,” ModBee.com, 10/27/16
Images by Dan Ruscoe and Jen Reeves/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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