Playgroup perils and the cake aisle challenge

I’ve written in the past about the potential perils of the seemingly innocuous mums and tots group, for the food allergic child. Just when I thought I was into the swing of dealing with taking my 3-year-old son, D, to playgroups, this morning I was abruptly reminded that nut safety isn’t something that can be mastered just through habit. Even when doing the same thing week in week out, you need to expect the unexpected.

We went to our usual Thursday morning playgroup where part way through, there is a break and the children sit at tables to have a biscuit and drink of juice. Each week I check with the lady in charge that the biscuits are McVities Rich Tea and therefore safe for D to eat. However, today when I was putting my £1 coin in the tin, I notice packets of cakes. It was another little boy’s birthday and his mum had brought in some shop-bought iced fairy cakes (from Tesco) for everyone to share. On checking the packet, there were no nuts in the ingredients list but they carried the advisory wording “Recipe: No nuts. Ingredients: Cannot guarantee nut free. Factory: No nuts”. However, given they were just a “may contain”, we didn’t bolt, but I knew that D would have to make do with a Rich Tea come break time.

When break time arrived, around 20 children sat around three tables and the organisers handed each a cake. With the exception of D. And his little sister. Although my daughter has no known allergies as yet, we avoid all nuts with her too, until such time as she can be tested. I also thought this was a good tactic for not making D think he was the complete odd one out. Mummy was depriving his sister of a cake too…

D made no bones of the fact that a Rich Tea was not an adequate substitute for a cake. I explained that the cakes might contain nuts and make him poorly. As he looked from child to child, all eating the cakes, in an attempt to mollify him, I found myself chirping “but don’t worry, after this, we’ll go to the supermarket and buy a cake which doesn’t have nuts!”.

So after playgroup, we trotted down to Tesco in Macclefield town centre where I spent an increasingly fraught 15 minutes or so reading every label, on every type of cake in the cake aisle. D is at the age where he has no problem repeating the same phrase or question 500 times over. “We hab chocolate cake? We hab chocolate cake, mummy?”. And on. And on. After he’d said it, oooh about 50 times, I was certainly regretting promising something I couldn’t deliver.

EVERYTHING said “may contain nuts”.

Cadbury milk chocolate mini rolls: may contain nuts.

Kipling pretty much anything: may contain nuts.

Nestle smarties cupcakes: may contain nuts.

Eventually, I found some Fabulous Bakin’ Boys flapjacks. Unfortunately, toddler son viewed these in the same light as the Rich Tea: a poor second for a chocolate cake.

I gave up, bought a bag of giant Cadbury buttons and hauled us all back to the car.

Anyway, moan over. I guess my point is, in an entire cake aisle, I was surprised that Tesco didn’t stock at least one option suitable for nut allergy sufferers. In our local Sainsbury’s, you can always usually count on finding a Just Love Food Company tray bake (see picture).

I’m actually going to buy some Fabulous Bakin’ Boy cupcakes, which come individually wrapped in sellophane, to keep in my bag, so I can whip them out should there be any further surprise birthday celebrations. In the meantime, I’m off to take a couple of paracetamol and inhale the remainder of the chocolate buttons.

5 comments

  1. Like you (and probably most allergy parents) we have a supply of treats that are nut safe in our nappy bag including the fabulous bakin boys cupcakes, but we find they have a short use by date so just watch they don’t go out of date. Also at nursery my girls have a treat bag filled with lovely things that are safe for when people bring in birthday cakes, (zero zebra chocolates, kinnerton monsters inc bars and kinnerton lollies, It’sd nut free chocolate fudge. etc) so they don’t feel totally excluded.

    1. Hi Kirsten – thanks for your comment! I do always carry some safe snacks, but they’re usually biscuits/rice cakes and similar. I will be upping my game after today! Will check out the Monsters Inc bars – thanks for the tip – I haven’t spotted those before. Louise

  2. You’re so right, Louise… add in an egg allergy and we’re, to be blunt, buggered. There is literally nothing available in the shops. I find it astounding.

    The supermarkets have only half understood the freefrom market – they get that it’s big business but they think catering for gluten free covers it. With 7 per cent of kids suffering from food allergies there’s a huge untapped market of families desperate to find safe treats.

    Like you, we carry ‘safe’ stuff with us everywhere we go but now our son approaches three it’s less easy to fob him off with the usual when all his little friends are chomping on cake. Yes, pretty much everything he eats is homemade. But sometimes it would be nice to have a shop-bought option, especially as birthday and Christmas and party season approaches for us and he’ll be left wondering why he can’t eat what the others kids are having.

  3. Hi ladies
    I have a 5 year old son, Sam he has been a nut & peanut & egg allert suffer since he was 6 months old! It’s been a tough road especially now he is at full time school! We have had lunch time issues about who he can sit next too without isolating him too much going to a nut free school has been helpful, until today when we found out every child is to take in a chocolate bar to eat “at the same time” cos it’s a Christmas tradition!! We were furious with head mistress so she will now invite Sam to sit in her office with other allergy kids (not nut or egg) but dairy during this time it is an outrage!
    I have recently found some treats you may like to buy for ur allergy children or nuts & eggs:-
    Finger a Fudge (from when we were kids)
    Kit kat, penguins, chocolate digestive biscuits I can even get them from Aldi 🙂 chocolate buttons from Aldi 2:-) last week went to Tesco & picked up Finger White Ice Buns no egg to my surprise or nuts! We were invited to a pizza hut party “make your own pizza” & staff were VERY GOOD Sam’s 1st time in a restaurant in 5 years bless him they had a big allergy book for each ingredient we were on tender hooks whole time ready with a epipen but all was great he just couldn’t understand he could eat the pizza :-)) also Kinnerton are great espc at Easter & Xmas for nut & egg safety eggs & advent calendars :-))
    I could write a book on different occasions we have experienced but it does get easier as kids get older as they understand to ASK Q FIRST :-)!
    Good lunch everyone 🙂 Maria x

  4. Hi Maria – thanks very much for all the recommendations! Another reader had a good experience at Pizza Hut too (http://www.nutmums.com/safe-restaurant-pub-cafe-recommendations-nut-allergies/) – will definitely have to check them out! Hope your son’s school can amend their “tradition” slightly for next year – sounds like if they just gave it a bit of thought they could make it safe and include the food allergic children! (Got all these challenges to come from next September!). Louise

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