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Teal Pumpkins Help Make Halloween Food Allergy-Friendly

DRACUT (CBS) -- One in thirteen kids has a potentially life-threatening food allergy, which can make Halloween downright frightening.

But this year, there's a way to tell which homes are safe for all kids: Teal pumpkins.

Instead of carving, pumpkins, Joan Powers and her kids – 5-year-old Jack and 4-year-old Tessa of Dracut, are painting their pumpkins. Teal is the color of food allergy awareness, something the Powers family knows a lot about.

Jack is allergic to synthetic food dye -- anything that has a color with a number after it. Tessa is allergic to shellfish.

There's not much to worry about with a shellfish allergy at Halloween, but food dyes are a potential minefield. Joan Powers says food dyes make Jack lose control.

"It's kind of like when you think about roid rage, like people on steroids. They get angry and stuff like that," Powers said. "That's how he is when he has a food dye.

And there are a lot of ingredients that can be dangerous for certain kids, like peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs and wheat. Therefore, no candy is safe for all kids, says Dr. John Lee, a food allergy specialist at Boston Children's Hospital.

"They may not be able to eat a lot of food that they collected and they may feel reluctant or uneasy about even going trick or treating," he said. "And as a result, they may feel left out."

So that no child fells left out, Food Allergy Research and Education has launched the teal pumpkin project. Participating houses will display teal pumpkins or downloadable signs indicating that they're handing out non-food treats, like tattoos and bubbles.

"There are so many things that parents have to say no to and kids can't do," Joan Powers said. "It's nice to be part of something that makes their lives a little more normalized.

Jack says it's a good idea.

"So kids that have food allergies know it's safe to come to people's houses," he said.

"Kids can realize they can receive a safe non-food treat, and also shows they understand and support food allergies which is a great message for the community," adds Dr. Lee.

Joan Powers hopes the movement can take hold.

"I'm hoping that people who come to our house will ask and we can tell them," she said. "So next year, it will be bigger."

Other ideas for non-food treats include sticks, bookmarks, finger puppets or glow sticks.  It's not too late to paint your pumpkin teal, but you can click here to download a printable sign.


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