Friday, October 31, 2008


My sons are sixteen-years-old, and nothing on this planet holds more disdain for the activities associated with being a “little kid” than someone who is 16. This includes trick-or-treating, a social ritual left over from our pre-industrial past that I have learned to despise with an intensity almost as great as that I see in my kids. My reason is simple – it’s not that I object to people dressing up or going house to house seeking treats – it’s that the commercialization of this holiday, virtually the colonization of it, by the processed nut industry has made it a form of Russian roulette that we have had to deal with because one of my boys has serious food allergies. Specifically, he’s allergic to all forms of seeds and nuts, and could go into anaphylactic shock should he come into contact with same. This means not just no raw nuts like the ones you see in the image above, but no peanut butter, no hamburger buns with sesame seeds atop, no soy sauce, no boxes of Wheaties manufactured on conveyor belts on which nut traces may have been found, no plain M&Ms, not just the ones with nuts. My son once had an allergic reaction to some kids opening a jar of peanut butter for a “craft project” at a summer camp, even though they were in an open barn at the time and he was sitting nowhere near them. When he flies, we call the airline 48 hours in advance to let them know that they can’t serve nut products as snacks, and then we pray that nobody has snuck peanut-butter crackers onboard. Constant vigilance is the only recourse and it’s an anxious way to live. He carries his Epipen to friends’ houses and we keep several at his school. In one case, we convinced the school to adopt a no nuts policy, and another had a more modest nut-free area of the cafeteria. In order to keep it from being stigmatized, the school saw to it that this area got first access to post-lunch recess. Parents would call up because so-and-so wanted to sit at his table tomorrow and could they bring almond cookies? They often seemed surprised that the answer is no.

The degree to which the chocolate & nut manufacturers have captured Halloween as their private holiday over the past 15 or so years is truly frightening. Our solution in the years that we had to deal with this was that the kids would go out trick or treating but could eat none of their spoils until they got home. We would invariably have left-overs of what we had been giving out, and would trade one package of Starburst or Skittles for every Reeses, Snickers or M&M we got back. When I worked at IBM I would take the nut candies to work – until one of my coworkers asked me not to because he was allergic to nuts.

Now that my own kid is nearly grown, his allergy has abated somewhat – he’s more apt to just get violently ill than suffer a quick and painful death. And because my wife has diabetes, we now have packets of raw nuts in various places, tho never mixed with our food supplies. We still won’t have any “wet” preparation like peanut butter around. And every couple of months we see an article about somebody dying because they didn’t realize that pasta al pesto contained pine nuts or whatever. In one case awhile back, school bullies rubbed peanut butter in the face of a student.

I saw this article on Wednesday and it made me think I should mention this here. I also thought to post this link to In general, I can’t imagine handing out allergens to a population, kids, some of whom might react to them. And I can imagine some of the younger ones not even knowing that they might have an allergy to some of the stuff that’s handed out with the best of intentions. It’s time to take Halloween back from the corporations.


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