Easter is over and now you’ve got all this chocolate sitting around: chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies, chocolate lambs, chocolate lollipop crosses. Is it time to chow down?
That depends on your family’s food allergies. Most chocolate, even dark chocolate, is made in facilities that also process a host of other allergens like milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, eggs, wheat, and sesame.
OK, you knew that. So you segregate all the goodies that didn’t come with a label to give away to your neighbor who luckily has no food allergies to contend with. Then you start reading labels: does that bunny contain any of your allergens of concern? Do any of those chocolate eggs bear a precautionary allergen warning like “May contain traces of milk” or “Made in a facility that also processes almonds”? Those go in the giveaway pile.
Now you’re feeling pretty confident about what’s left over. Should you?
No, you’re not done yet because “may contain” type allergen warnings are entirely voluntary in the US. Some manufacturers are diligent about including them, some don’t include them at all, and some will include them for one allergen processed in the facility and not for another. There are many reasons why this is, but if you believe major manufacturers always include them for fear of being sued, think again.
The next step is to call the manufacturers and confirm how your allergens of concern are processed in the facility. Are they processed in the same line? Are they processed elsewhere in the facility? Does the manufacturer test for the presence of allergen trace before each run? Do they batch test finished product?
If you feel confident the answers you are given are complete and meet your requirements, enjoy that bunny ear! But if not, you’ll want to move those treats to the giveaway pile.
Based on our (almost) 10-year history working with hundreds of food manufacturers, here are a number of resources to help you fully understand US labeling regulations and the information provided by manufacturers:
- Food Allergy 101: What That Customer Service Response REALLY Tells You
- When a Manufacturer Says ‘Trust Us’ Regarding Allergens
- Advisory: Repackaging of Trusted Products from Trusted Manufacturers
- Take Our 10 Second Allergen Warning Statement Test
- They’re NOT Allergens? What it Means to be Highly Refined
- Understand the Limitations of the Label
We also provide two resources to help you find products that meet your family’s allergen and intolerance restrictions:
- Allergence, an interactive product screening service that provides in-depth allergen processing information for over 2,500 products from 150 responsible manufacturers;
- The family of Safe Snack Guides used by thousands of schools and tens of thousands of families nationwide to help keep allergens out of the classroom and the home.