HumZingers Fruit Stix

HEAVENS, I’M on an allergy friendly roll. What a novelty: two discoveries in as many days. This time it’s a dried fruit snack called HumZingers, which again I came across in Waitrose.

I would have ignored the things if a friend hadn’t mentioned them to me: for one, the name and cheapo Fraggle on the box seem to shout ‘sugar’, ‘additives’, ‘crap’. For another, they’re not stocked in the Free From aisle. But Sidney’s friend Benjamin swears by them (insofar as a 17-month-old can swear by anything) and it turns out they’re sugar free and made simply with dried fruit and fruit extracts. The problem is, the box claims ‘gluten free’ but there’s no mention of nuts etcetera. So I emailed the manufacturers, Humdinger, to find out. The answer:

I can confirm that HumZingers do not contain either nuts or sesame, and that they are packed on a site that does not handle these products. We do handle nuts and sesame but these are produced at separate site. The modified starch is rice flour so does not contain wheat.

As we do with the sulphites that are contained in the product, we would declare any of the 14 food allergens that are dictated by EU legislation  if they were contained in the product or if there was a possibility of cross contamination with any of the list.

Result! How long have I been looking for a healthy, kid-friendly snack that doesn’t contain nuts and the like? I’ve already pointed out how toddler brands like Ella’s Kitchen and Plum snap from being allergy-friendly when the food’s for under-ones to suddenly containing the warning “may contain traces” as soon as their products are suitable for older tots. These are big brands so I still don’t get why they can’t improve their allergy-friendly provision.

Still, slowly (very, very slowly) we’re adding a few more things to the list of stuff that Sidney can eat. Of course the bulk of his meals is homemade, and snacks are usually rice cakes, fresh fruit or yoghurt, but give me a break: sometimes it’s nice to know there’s a pre-packed something out there as well.

From £1.99 for pack of 10, from selected Waitrose, Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbuy’s, Holland and Barrett and online at Tesco here and Natural Matter here

A quick thought

A QUICK thought on the Free From Food Awards that occurred to me as I was scribbling up the winners’ list.

Not only is there an absence of properly nut free stuff amongst them but there are very few foods that are safe for those with multiple allergies. Heaps of gluten free (and dairy free) out there, which is obviously laudable, but I’m worried that gluten free is becoming the fall back for anyone who wants to claim a ‘free from’ or ‘allergy friendly’ tag.

The supermarkets are among the worst culprits – they’re showering us with their ‘free from’ ranges but precious few of the products are safe for nut or egg allergy sufferers. Unless all the main allergens are covered it’s a bit of a box-ticking exercise, no?

That’s why Bessant and Drury’s win for their (*deep breath*) egg free, soya free, nut free, gluten free, dairy free, vegan ice cream caught my eye. (I think they’re probably wheat free, too, but need to check on that.) They’ve created a product that is not just aimed at the food allergy market but that can still declare itself to be allergy safe for many. I’d like to think this is the future for free from foods: not a specialist niche but an attempt to create properly luxury products that exclude the main allergens, but where taste is all.

I think the Free From Food Awards are a wonderful, important thing, but next year I would like to see a few more nut frees, sesame frees, soya frees and egg frees alongside the no gluten and no dairy winners. That’s not just a challenge to the awards, it’s a rallying cry to the industry. Please?

* UPDATE 25/4/12 Would you believe it, I’ve since found out that Bessant and Drury’s ice-cream isn’t ‘nut free’ after all. It’s made in a factory where nuts are present. Unfortunately their website states ‘nut free’ here, which I’m sure is just an oversight and a result of the fact that labelling laws are so confusing. Still, only serves to prove my point, I guess! They remain egg, soya, gluten and dairy free…

Top 10 allergy friendly Easter treats for grown-ups

Easter’s not just for children, you know. Here’s our guide to the best freefrom goodies for adults this April…

1. ‘Choices’ dark chocolate egg & fine mints (dairy free, gluten free, wheat free, egg free, vegan)

A dark egg with fine mint chocolates made from 60 per cent cocoa solids. As with their kids’ eggs, makers Celtic won’t promise “nut free” because they can’t rule out airborne contamination throughout the supply chain – but no nuts are used in the factory, staff are banned from eating nuts in the canteen or from bringing nuts on-site and there are even spot checks to ensure the rules aren’t breached. £3.99, Holland & Barrett stores nationwide. Call 0870 606 6606 for details or find your nearest store here.

2. ‘Choices’ chocolate egg & discs (dairy free, gluten free, wheat free, egg free, vegan)

An allergy friendly alternative to the traditional milk choc egg in perky spring packaging, also from freefrom brand Celtic (see above for nut information). £5.49 online from Carrick’s of Penrith

3. Booja Booja Champagne Truffle Easter Egg (dairy free, gluten free, wheat free, egg free, soya free, vegan)

A luxury egg with beautifully hand-painted wrapping and decadent champagne truffles. Every egg bought supports artists and their local communities in Kashmir. Comes in other flavours including sozzled sultana, midnight espresso, stem ginger and hazelnut crunch (clearly not one for the nut allergic). £10 from Goodness Direct and Diverse Hampers

4. Sainsbury’s Freefrom dark chocolate egg & discs (gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, egg free)


A simple but cute egg wrapped up Italian-style in daffodil yellow paper with a moss green ribbon. No nuts in the ingredients. £3.99, selected Sainsbury’s stores

5. Kinnerton plain chocolate egg & bar (dairy free, nut free, wheat free, egg free, gluten free)

The rich, dark Kinnerton classic, backed by its nut-free promise and without dairy, gluten or egg. £5 from Asda and selected Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco stores

6. Waitrose LOVE Life Free From hot cross buns (gluten free, wheat free)

Hot cross buns for Easter.

Buns without the wheat or gluten for hot toasted buttery breakfasts this Easter. Unfortunately, not ones for the egg allergic, I’m afraid. £2.49, Waitrose stores and online

7. Buttons the Easter Bunny (gluten free)

Grown-ups deserve a bit of silly, too – so this luxury choc bunny’s a real treat. Especially because it’s gluten free. No eggs or nuts in the ingredients, but they can’t guarantee no traces. £6.50, Hotel du Chocolat

8. Siesta Carob Easter Egg (dairy free, gluten free, vegetarian)

A simple hollow chocolate egg, made in a nut-free environment (though, again, they ‘cannot guarantee’ no nut traces). £5.36 from Goodness Direct

9. Billy Goat Stuff small solid eggs (dairy free, soya free, nut free, egg free, wheat free, gluten free)

Pretty rose gold foil-wrapped solid eggs made with goat’s milk from Essex-based specialist Billy Goat Stuff. Check out their website for other freefrom half eggs, bunnies, ducks and more. From £1.20-£7.49 , Billy Goat Stuff

10.  ‘Moo Free’ Egg (dairy free, gluten free, casein free, egg free, vegan, wheat free)

A dairy-free ‘milk’ choc egg that’s good for kids and grown-ups. There’s no soya in the ingredients list but there is a ‘may contain traces’ of nuts and soya warning. From £3.79 online at www.ecogreenstore.co.uk and at selected stores nationwide. See here for stockists or contact Moo Free on 0845 094 6498

Top 10 allergy friendly Easter treats for kids

Easter eggs

IT’S that time of year when the shops are packed with perky foil-wrapped bunnies, big-eyed chocolate chicks and row upon row of elaborately wrapped, truffle-stuffed and ribbon-sporting eggs.

But if your child suffers from a food allergy, you’ll know what a minefield Easter can be. You have one of four options:

– go the non-chocolate route and buy them something else instead (good luck with that)

– go the anti-consumerist route and ignore the whole charade (ditto)

– bake the goodies yourself (assuming you have the time)

– go slowly demented desperately trawling the web for something your little ones can eat

So, in a bid to take the stress out of Easter shopping for the allergic one in your life, we bring you this year’s top 10 best Easter goodies for kids (in no particular order). We’d love to know your suggestions, so do drop us a comment if you find any more…

1. Hello Kitty Milk Chocolate Egg & Shopper Bag (nut free & no egg, wheat or gluten in the ingredients)

The perfect girlie treat: a pink Hello Kitty tote and nut-safe egg from kings of the allergy choc, Kinnerton. There are no eggs, gluten or wheat in the ingredients although Kinnerton doesn’t list them as ‘egg, gluten and wheat free’ because they are not tested for cross-contamination. From £4 online at Tesco and Asda. For more details and stockists see Kinnerton’s website.

2. Marvel Heroes 3D Puzzle Tin & Egg (nut free & no egg, wheat or gluten in the ingredients)

A magnetic puzzle game and nut-safe milk chocolate egg for tiny superhero fans everywhere. From £4 online at Tesco. For more details and stockists see Kinnerton’s website.

3. ‘Moo Free’ Egg (dairy free, gluten free, casein free, egg free, vegan, wheat free)

Ideal for the little one with a milk allergy, this dairy free ‘milk’ choc egg tastes pretty darn good, actually (all in the name of research). There’s no soya in the ingredients list but there is a ‘may contain traces’ of nuts and soya warning. From £3.79 online at www.ecogreenstore.co.uk and at selected stores nationwide. See here for stockists or contact Moo Free on 0845 094 6498

4. Bunny Lolly (nut free, and no egg, wheat or gluten in the ingredients)

So many freefrom chocolate goodies are po-faced about packaging – but Kinnerton knows how to make allergy-friendly products fun for kids. If we hadn’t already told you, you’d be none the wiser that these choccie bunnies weren’t ordinary Easter fare. From 54p at selected Co-op stores – click here for details or see Kinnerton’s website.

5. Jelly Mini-Eggs (gluten free, milk free, soya free)

Understated packaging but colourful jolly jelly eggs in apricot, pear, raspberry, orange and pineapple flavours. Does contain wheat glucose syrup, though, so not suitable for most wheat allergy sufferers (unless your doc advises otherwise). Nut traces warning. £3.50 from Waitrose

6. Holland & Barrett White Choc Egg with Buttons (dairy free, gluten free, wheat free, egg free, vegan)

The health food chain has a few allergy-friendly treats this spring but this sports the most kiddie-friendly packaging. This white choc egg and buttons has been shortlisted for the Free From Food Awards 2012. They aren’t labelled as nut free because of the possibility of “airborne contamination throughout the supply chain” but manufacturer Celtic Chocolates don’t use nuts in their factory, or nuts in any of their products, plus staff are prohibited from eating nuts in the canteen or bringing any on-site. £3.49 from Holland & Barrett stores nationwide – click here for details

7. D & D Hollow Chocolate Easter Egg (dairy free, gluten free, wheat free, vegetarian)

Not the most eye-catching box but at least we have a few hopping bunnies and spring butterflies on this dairy-free confection. D & D’s egg has no, um, egg in it either but does contain soya lecithin. There is a ‘nut traces’ warning as nut products are made on-site. £5.36 from Goodness Direct. For more details see D & D’s website.

8. Chocolate Trading Co Milk Chocolate Duck (soya free, egg free, wheat free, gluten free)

This dinky duck choc is made without soya lecithin and hydrogenated fats. No wheat or gluten in the ingredients, although nuts and gluten are used on-site so it “may contain traces”. Also find bunny shapes, dark chocolate varieties and a lovely bright yellow chocolate chick on the website. From £3.95 for a small bunny to £10.95 to a large hen, from the Chocolate Trading Co

9. Billy Goat Stuff Solid Easter Bunny (nut free, soya free, dairy free, egg free, wheat free, gluten free)

Gold foil and pink ribboned Easter bunny in a bag. This small Essex-based supplier uses goat’s milk to create its cute confectionery and was highly commended in the 2010 Free From Food Awards. £2.99 from Billy Goat Stuff online shop

10. Mini Easter Eggs (milk free, soya free, nut free, egg free, gluten free)

Made by Finnish brand Dammenberg, this pack of mini dark choc eggs is a multiple allergy kid’s dream: no eggs, gluten, soya, dairy or nuts. Organic, too. £6 online from Gourmelli UK. For more details contact Gourmelli on 01234 240000.

And… we can’t go without a special mention to Kinnerton for their Peppa Pig, Spongebob and Fireman Sam ranges – and to Tesco for stocking the lot. Hooray.

The Ladder Children’s Centre, Haringey

Gold star to the lovely people at this children’s centre: Sidney had a very busy morning at messy play with his pal George and after I mentioned his allergy to bananas the staff were quick to ditch them from the day’s fruit snack.

We got our very own satsuma, while Sid’s allergies were noted and his photo taken to pin up on the wall for future visits. Special thanks to Cigdem for her help. Plus we sang the Hokey Cokey, which is always good.

The Ladder Children’s Centre, Pemberton Road, London, N4 1BA, 020 8372 5008, http://www.haringey.gov.uk/index/children_and_families/eyc/childrenscentres/theladdercc.htm