Dark chocolate is seen as the go-to Valentine’s Day candy for people who have milk allergies, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning this week that consumers should think twice about this particular purchase.
It’s not that there are any unnatural contaminants in dark chocolate on the market, it’s the fact a high number dark chocolate products actually do contain milk. Many of these products don’t have milk on the label, making it impossible for people with milk allergies to avoid them.
FDA researcher Binaifer Bedford, M.S. sampled 100 dark chocolate products on the current market for traced of “undeclared milk,” meaning milk was not included as an ingredient on the label. Some of these products were labeled as vegan, dairy-free and allergen-free, while others included side warnings like “may contain milk or may contain traces of milk.”
“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, Bedford said in an FDA press release.
The study findings noted:
- 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 percent) 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.
Milk allergies are most common in children under the age of 3, with approximately 2.5 percent of children experiencing this condition. Most eventually grow out of it, but a small portion will go on to suffer from milk allergy their entire lives. Milk allergy, according to the FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) organization, milk allergy is not the same as lactose intolerance.
“A food allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to a specific food protein. When the food protein is ingested, in can trigger an allergic reaction…,” states FARE. “Unlike food allergies, food intolerances do not involve the immune system. People who are lactose intolerant are missing the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products.”
While lactose intolerance can cause significant discomfort, it is not life-threatening like a milk allergy.
As for the test results related to dark chocolate, FDA officials say the only thing that can be done in the immediate future is spread the word about the findings. As long as consumers are aware a high percentage of dark chocolate products do contain milk, these products can be avoided over the romantic holiday.