Q: Pam – My child is going trick-or-treating for the first time this year and she has a milk allergy. I know I will have to remove some of the candy from her bag, but is there any dairy-free candy that she can eat?
A: Alisa Fleming – When it comes to miniature chocolates and candy bars, most have not yet reached the realm of dairy-free. Unless one of your neighbors was kind enough to stock one of the dairy-free candy items from my recommended list, or is giving out full-size dark chocolate bars that are made without milk ingredients,* I would consider all of the chocolate items in your child’s Halloween loot off limits.
Surprisingly, candy corn and their pumpkin cousins are typically dairy-free, but vegans and those with egg allergies should use caution as egg whites are usually a main ingredient for that signature texture.
Beyond chocolates, some surprising candies do contain milk ingredients.** Put up the red flag when you spot those popular tootsie rolls, caramels, and “cream” hard candies. Regular hard candies like butterscotch discs are sometimes dairy-free, made with mostly corn syrup and artificial ingredients, but rogue brands include a touch of real butter, so use caution.
Fortunately, this still leaves your child with many sweets to enjoy. Here are some great Halloween lists of dairy-free candy options:
Also, the following includes additional tips, warnings, and ideas to help your child safely enjoy some dairy-free candy and other Halloween treats:
1) Many food allergy moms stock “safe” candies and chocolates at home (see my recommended list for some potential chocolates for your little one) and they swap out the “bad” candies for an assortment of safe ones when their child returns home.
2) Those miniature versions of full-sized candy packages and candy bars may actually possess different ingredients or be made in a different facility than their larger cousins. So don’t assume they are safe even if you are used to sharing the regular-sized candies with your little one. Check the ingredients!**
3) Another food allergy mom trick is to deliver “safe” candies to a few friendly neighbors, so that they can give those treats to your child.
4) Half of the Halloween fun is playing dress up! Once they’ve donned their best costumes your child can help greet trick-or-treaters while enjoying their own allergy-friendly treats at home.
5) Make some homemade dairy-free candy; your child may even enjoy the process of helping out. Some great recipe options are:
*Still check to make sure the chocolate is appropriate for the severity of the allergy at hand. Chocolate is typically at high risk for cross-contamination with milk ingredients in processing.
**To help you read those candy labels, see our Dairy Ingredient List.