This is your Valentine's Day nightmare. You indulge yourself in a pricey bar of sumptuous dark chocolate. Dairy-free is on the label. But the palpitations you feel aren't from Cupid's arrow but from anaphylactic shock.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently ran a study on 100 dark chocolate products. Many of them contained milk, some in levels high enough to be a serious problem to many who are allergic to milk proteins.
Labeling on the chocolates was inconsistent. Some did say that they "main contain traces of milk." Others, however, said definitively that they were "dairy-free" or even "allergen-free." Many had no warning labeling of any kind.
What can you as a consumer do when a manufacturer lies to or misleads you? The FDA has a few recommendations, which are far less than perfect yet may make a difference in the long run.
What the FDA Study Found“First of all, milk-allergic consumers should be aware that a high proportion of the dark chocolates we tested contained milk, even when the label failed to list milk as an ingredient,” [Binaifer Bedford, M.S., an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) fellow at FDA] says. Of greatest concern are chocolate samples that have no statement regarding milk on the label or have inconsistencies in the label. Several of the chocolates labeled “dairy free” were also found to contain milk.
- While dark chocolates labeled “dairy free or allergen-free” were the least likely to contain milk, two out of 17 of these products were found to contain milk.
- All seven bars that declared the presence of milk on the label contained milk; however, 55 (59%) of 93 bars without any clear indication of the presence of milk also were found to contain milk.
- Six out of the eleven chocolate products labeled “traces of milk” contained milk at detectable levels high enough to potentially cause severe reactions in some individuals.
[C]onsumers can find out what products have been recalled recently at FDA’s website and at the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) website.Consumers can also inform FDA about undeclared allergens by contacting the agency’s consumer complaint coordinator for your state or by reporting food-allergic reactions online.
Research, read, complain. Three little words not quite as romantic as I Love You, but they may change your life just as dramatically.
UPDATE: May 29, 2015
Good news for Jeff Bezos. Old media apparently is still powerful, driving news on the Internet. This three-month-old announcement has suddenly spawned articles on numerous sites. The only possible reason I can find is that Roberto A. Ferdman of the Washington Post's Wonkblog just put out an article about it. Always glad to see important findings reach a larger public, but this is a tiny bit scary. A consumer-friendly handout from the FDA takes three months to go the ten miles from the FDA compound to the Washington Post building? Really? Are there other things in that pipeline that Ferdman should be getting to? I'm an old-line print advocate and newspaper reader but this is an example of the superiority of a Google News feed.