Food & Alcohol

Published on May 26th, 2015

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What’s Hiding in that Yummy Dark Chocolate?

Lovers of chocolate know that dark chocolate, while not quite health food, does contain some key ingredients that can be good for your health. But a new FDA study found some surprise ingredients that could be problematic.

“You can’t always tell if dark chocolate contains milk by reading the ingredients list,” the FDA said in a recent news release. And the hidden milk can be a problem for consumers with lactose intolerance and dairy allergies.

The agency tested 100 dark chocolate bars made by different manufacturers and found that 51 out of 88 bars that didn’t list milk as an ingredient actually did contain milk. Overall, the FDA study found milk in 61 percent of all bars tested.

Allergens contained in food products that are not named on the label are a leading cause of FDA food recall requests and undeclared milk is the most frequent allergen cited, the FDA said.

Because milk can get into dark chocolate products inadvertently when they are produced with equipment that is also used to make milk chocolate, the FDA is also warning consumers about labels with advisory messages such as “may contain milk” to “manufactured in a facility that uses milk.” That’s because the FDA found that milk was indeed present in 3 out of 4 dark chocolate bars that had these advisories on their labels. In fact, some of the products had milk levels as high as those found in products that listed milk as an ingredient.

The FDA study also found that dark chocolate labels could be confusing to consumers because some labels say “dairy-free,” “vegan,” or “lactose free,” while also declaring on the label that they may contain milk. The agency’s study found that 15 percent of dark chocolates labeled as “dairy-free “or “lactose free” actually contained milk, and 25 percent labeled “vegan” also had milk.

The National Confectioners Association told the FDA it will continue efforts to communicate the potential presence of milk allergens in dark chocolate through labeling.

But where does this leave dark chocolate lovers with dairy issues? The news isn’t good.

“Consumers who are sensitive or allergic to milk should know that dark chocolate products are a high-risk food …,” the FDA said. “View even products with dairy-free claims or without any mention of milk with caution …”

Find more of our coverage on hidden ingredients here.

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