By JULIE WIENER
For The Associated Press
If you're planning to give edible gifts this season, make sure they are indeed considered edible by their recipients.
Food allergies, health concerns and ethics can doom even the most sumptuously assembled mail-order baskets of cheese, chocolate, nuts and fruit to the regifting pile or the trash if the contents cause a problem in the eye of receiver.
The good news is that plenty of basket-makers know this, and it's now easy to find line-ups that cater to virtually any palate.
Whether your intended recipient has heart trouble, diabetes, food allergies, or just prefers organic foods, the Internet has made finding a tailored gift basket a breeze, says Debra Paulk, editor of Gift Basket Review Online magazine.
One of the fastest growing segments of the $4 billion gift basket industry is what Paulk calls "cause" baskets, which raise money for specific charities or cater to socially conscious consumers.
Here's a sampling of gift basket companies that offer specialized options:
- Allison's Gourmet (http://www.allisonsgourmet.com)
Allison Rivers Samson specializes in vegan sweets (no animal products, including dairy and eggs) such as cookies, brownies, fudge, chocolates, caramels and coffee. Everything also is organic. She also offers cookie- and brownie-of-the-month clubs. From $27.95 to $115.80.
- Bisket Baskets And More (http://www.bisketbasket.com)
Melody Curry says she and her sister, Gail Bohall, grew up treating their pets like family members. So it's not surprising that in 1999 the two started marketing gourmet gift baskets for dogs and cats. Treats for dogs include biscuits, a "pooch party cake" and freeze-dried doggie ice cream. From $39.95 to $179.95.
- Carriage House Gifts (http://www.gluten-free-gifts.com)
Twenty years of catering to her husband's gluten-free diet has armed Kay Crow with plenty of experience for assembling specialty baskets for those with wheat and gluten allergies. Among the eight baskets she offers (as well as a build-your-own option) are Pasta Lover's Basket, Kids' Zone (featuring gluten-free mac and cheese) and The Sweeter Side (with muffins, cookies and candy). From $15.95 to $39.95.
- Diamond Organics (http://www.diamondorganics.com)
Diamond Organics offers a wide array of fruits, vegetables, chocolate, baked goods, cheese, flowers, wine, coffees and teas, as well as meat samplers featuring grass-fed beef, buffalo and lamb. From $42 to $239.
- Divvie's (http://www.divvies.com)
Frustrated that her severely allergic son, Benjamin, always had to bring his own nut-free, dairy-free and egg-free goodies to birthday parties, Lori Sandler, of South Salem, New York, developed a line of food allergy-friendly baked goods and treats. Gift baskets featuring cookies, brownies and a variety of flavored popcorns range from $28 to $72.
- EcoExpress (http://www.ecoexpress.com)
With its motto "uncommon gifts for the common good," this 12-year-old company's merchandise includes a wide variety of gourmet organic and natural gift baskets that are earth-friendly. Many gifts raise money for specific social causes and all sport biodegradable and reused packaging. From $26.99 to $200.
- Global Exchange Online Store (http://www.globalexchangestore.org)
Global Exchange's fair trade baskets were produced by farmers who were paid a fair price and worked in a healthy environment, says Tex Dworkin, the store's manager. Most products are organic, and recycled shipping materials are used. Offerings include coffee, chocolate, tea and condiments. From $35 to $95.
- KosherGiftBaskets.com (http://www.koshergiftbaskets.com)
Whether it's Hanukkah or a bar mitzvah, this company has a gift basket for the occasion. Basket choices include smoked salmon, bagels and baked goods, as well as numerous healthy and organic packages. From $16.95 to $259.95.
- Well Baskets (http://www.wellbaskets.com)
In addition to low-fat, sugar-free, gluten-free and other healthy food gifts, the site sells packages designed for folks with Alzheimer's, cancer, insomnia, even depression, anxiety and fertility issues. The fertility basket includes plenty of folate-rich foods such as broccoli soup, lentil soup and spinach pasta, as well as chamomile tea for relaxing.
Founder Tamara Doherty assembles her baskets based on research and consultations with dietitians. From $19.99 to $125.
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