Chocolate might just be the key to the heart. But if you have food allergies, proceed with caution – Chocolate can contain a number of common allergens. Although people can be allergic to the proteins in chocolate itself (often times to cocoa), patients typically react to one of the many other common ingredients in chocolate products. These are dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and corn among others.
Under the U.S. Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, food manufacturers must label for the top 8 allergens (milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish). Sometimes, however, allergens are present in a food but not named on the ingredient list. Undeclared milk is the most frequently cited reason for FDA product recalls and chocolate is one of the most common products that causes consumer reactions.
What about dark chocolate? That’s safe, right?
Dark chocolate can contain milk even when it isn’t listed as an ingredient. In fact, in 2017 the Food & Drug Administration conducted a study, testing nearly 100 different chocolate bars. Only 6 listed dairy as an ingredient. Of the remaining bars, 61% contained milk. Why is this? Dark chocolate is often produced on the same equipment as milk chocolate which cross-contaminates it making it unsafe for those with dairy allergies.
The FDA also found that milk was present in 3 out of every 4 dark chocolate products with advisory statements, such as “may contain” or “made on equipment with.” These advisory statements are voluntary, so be sure to call the manufacturer if you don’t see one present.
What if I’m not allergic to milk? How do other food allergies fair?
Although dairy is one of the most common causes of allergic reactions when consumers eat chocolate, it’s not the only allergen to be concerned about. Candy, treats and dessert products are often processed on shared lines with other ingredients and cross-contamination is a problem.
If you’re allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, soy, corn, eggs and wheat you should also be careful – as should patients with celiac disease.
White Chocolate? Please tell me I can have that…!
White chocolate is made from cocoa butter, milk, sugar and vanilla. Manufacturers also often add soy. Just as with milk or dark chocolate, it can contain other common allergens such as wheat, corn, peanut or tree nuts that could cause a reaction. If you are allergic to one of those allergens, you may wish to steer clear of white chocolate as well.
What IS Safe? A lot actually!
If your mouth is watering just looking at square of chocolate, don’t despair! Here are some allergy-friendly options to satisfy that sweet tooth:
Disclaimer: Manufacturers change their practices often and without warning. Always check the ingredient label and call the manufacturer should you have further questions.
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These refreshing chocolate and mint treats are peanut, tree nut, and gluten-free and produced in a peanut, tree nut, gluten and egg-free facility.
SOME of Dove’s product line (Silky Smooth) are made free of peanuts and tree nuts in a peanut/tree nut-free facility (see link). However, be sure to read labels carefully because Dove makes other products that contain nuts or could be cross-contaminated with them.
Enjoy Life’s products are always free from peanuts, tree nut, dairy, eggs, soy, wheat/gluten, fish, shellfish, sesame, sulfites, mustard, lupin, and crustaceans. And you can sometimes find it in your local grocery store!
For those with peanut, tree nut, and/or dairy allergies, these sunbutter filled chocolate cups are just as good as their peanut butter counterparts but SAFE! All of their products are free of the top 12 allergens (dairy, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, sesame, corn, mustard, and coconut).
Contact Hershey’s to get the latest allergen information. They have a fair number of gluten-free products. Milk-chocolate Hershey’s kisses were processed in a peanut and tree nut-free facility on peanut and tree nut-free lines as of summer 2019. Plus, Hershey’s utilizes good labeling practices, offering thorough ingredient and advisory labels.
No Whey Chocolate products are always free from peanuts, tree nut, dairy, gluten, egg, soy, and artificial colors and flavors. (Plus, they’re vegan and kosher!)
PASCHA products are free from peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, wheat/gluten, soy, sesame, fish, shellfish. Check out their website where they clearly label their (lack of – *except soy*) cross-contamination list.
This family owned company makes treats that are peanut, tree nut, dairy, and gluten-free in a free-from facility. Many of their products are also soy-free – be sure to check their FAQ section to identify which ones. (They are also kosher pareve and some products are vegan!)
It’s in the name: nut-free chocolate that’s delicious and easy to order. They are very allergy-aware and will label if a product is processed alongside anything in the top 8 allergens. You can find these in stores or order online.