The Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers that the dark chocolate you purchased may likely have milk in it – even, in two cases, products labeled “dairy free.”
The FDA study tested 100 dark chocolate products and found that many contained milk. The products came from different parts of the U.S. and different manufacturers. However, agency did not announce the brands.
"This can be a problem, since even one small bite of a product containing milk can cause a dangerous reaction in some individuals," said FDA researcher Binaifer Bedford, M.S.
A manufacturer may not intend to use milk in a dark chocolate product, Bedford said. However, if the dark chocolate product shares equipment with a milk chocolate, small amounts of milk may wind up in the dark chocolate.
The products included those with different precautionary labeling statements, such as:
- "may contain milk"
- "may contain traces of milk"
- statements such as "dairy-free" or "allergen-free"
- no mention of milk at all
- inconsistent statements
Precautionary statements are not required by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). This law requires milk to be clearly labeled if it is an actual ingredient. The other allergens covered under the law are wheat, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, Crustacean shellfish and soybeans.
For more information on the law, see KFA's FAQ here.
The FDA noted that consumers have no way of knowing whether or not milk is present during manufacturing, or how much, or whether it is present on the line during manufacturing.
Results included in the FDA study found that:
- 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. For some individuals, these levels were high enough to cause severe reactions.
The FDA recommended that consumers contact manufacturers directly to find out more about their procedures.