Tackling Valentine's Day with Food Allergies

Managing a Food Allergy? Check out Alerje's tips to help you enjoy this "Day of Love" safely.

Ah, yes, that time of the year again! Love is in the air, and you can hear Cupid’s wings fluttering in the distance. Valentine's Day brings loved ones close together, and for many, the holiday calls for parties, celebrations, and romantic gifts. Popularized in the mid-1840s, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate have become a Valentine’s Day staple However, such a sweet gesture can open the door to many of the Top 9 food allergens, including peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, and dairy. Navigating holidays such as Valentine’s Day may seem like a landmine when you have food allergies, but do not fret! Here are Alerje’s tips to help make celebrating Valentine’s Day safely a breeze.

Look For the “Obvious” Food Allergens

First thing’s first: just like going into any situation with food allergies, always read the label every time.  Even some of your trusted go-to's ingredients are subject to change. Be aware of your food allergies and keep your eyes peeled for phrases such as “Contains ___” on food labels. U.S. law requires these statements for foods containing the top 8 allergens, and sesame, by January 1st, 2023. Read more about FALCPA food labeling requirements from FAACT. These may seem obvious, but other sweets-centered holidays such as Halloween and Easter have seen up to an 85% increase in severe food allergy reactions, according to a 2020 Canadian study. Sweet treats and gifts can be enjoyable but nothing is sweeter than doing so safely- when in doubt, throw it out!

  • Pro Tip: Sift through ingredients with ease: Scan your favorite candy's barcode with the Alerje Lifestyle Mobile App, available for iOS and Android mobile devices.

Avoid Sneaky Allergens

voluntary almond allergen labeling on candy
Although voluntary, phrases such as these on candy labels can help inform of you of potential allergen cross-contact during processing.

Also, When prepping to purchase Valentine’s Day Treats, be aware of many sneaky allergens hiding in plain sight. For example, nougat may contain egg whites or peanuts, while chocolate may contain milk, tree nuts, or peanuts. Work together with your allergist to know common names for your specific food allergens (such as casein in cow’s milk, used to make milk chocolate). Additionally, look out for Voluntarily Labeling Statements when prepping for Valentine’s celebrations or buying treats. According to the FDA, “some manufacturers voluntarily include a separate advisory statement, such as “may contain”  or "produced in a facility," on their labels when there is a chance that a food allergen could be present.”

Allergens in "Mini" and Shareable-Sized Candy

Candy sizes are another factor to consider when avoiding sneaky allergens. As mentioned in our post on Tackling Halloween with Food Allergies, different candy sizes (such as “mini” and shareable sizes) and repackaged candies (i.e., candy mixes and variety packs) can at times contain different ingredients than their full-size counterparts. In any case, never assume a food is safe until you’ve read or scanned the label, even if it has never resulted in a reaction before.

Also, remember Food Allergy Etiquette 101: It is never rude to deny a food you suspect may have come into contact with other allergens.

Know Your Food Allergy Resources

Always know your resources at hand! Although sifting through what Valentine’s Day treats are safe for food allergies can seem tiresome, some popular treats on the market may be coincidentally allergy-friendly. Candy such as Valentine’s Dum Dums and Dots may be nut-free, as mentioned in this nifty nut-free Valentine’s Candy guide from NutFree.Org. In this case, you may want to reference the manufacturer’s website for ingredient lists, and remember to double-check that label. There are also dedicated allergy-friendly treats and treats made in dedicated allergen-free facilities.

Note: With severe food allergies, you should always carry epinephrine auto-injectors with you at all times, the first-line treatment in case of anaphylaxis. Work together with your allergist to develop an Allergy Action Plan.

A Food-Free Valentine’s Day

man holding flower and valentine's gift to surprise woman

Remember, food is not the only language during Valentine’s Day and related holidays. There are many “food-less” Valentine's gifts to enjoy despite having a food allergy. These can include:

  • Plush Toys (i.e., giant cuddly bears, plush hearts)
  • Valentine’s Cards and Virtual E-Cards
  • Balloons and Flowers (Note: Be aware of pollen allergies!)
  • Customized Items (i.e., mugs, crochet projects, t-shirts, etc.)
  • For the Kiddos: Stickers, toys, and heart-shaped trinkets.

Shop around on sites like Etsy and Amazon, you never know what food-free Valentine’s Treats you may find!

Make Every Moment Count!

Celebrating Valentine’s Day Safely- It’s possible! Remember: always read or scan candy labeling for common food allergies and be aware of sneaky, “hidden” allergens. Explore both dedicated allergy-friendly and food-free Valentine’s treats. Lastly, have your resources handy, such as the Alerje Lifestyle app, and always have your epinephrine auto-injector handy.

However you celebrate this day of LOVE, remember to enjoy the time with your loved ones this February 14th. From the Alerje family to yours, we wish you a safe, happy Valentine’s Day. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and stay tuned to our blog for more Food Allergy Tips.

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