Testing of some dark chocolate in New Zealand following a consumer’s allergic reaction has found high levels of undeclared milk protein, which is a known allergen. Ten recalls have been issued so far associated with the imported dark chocolate. Some products were being sold as dairy-free.
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) reports the issue occurred when the dark chocolate was made using processing lines previously used to manufacture milk chocolate.
The dark chocolate is made in bulk overseas and supplied to New Zealand businesses who turn it into a variety of products. Businesses in the country have been relying on information provided to them by the supplier when labeling products.
Melinda Sando, manager food safety at the MPI, said the product is labeled as “may contain milk” by the supplier which indicates low levels.
“The levels detected are considered to be of significant concern for consumers allergic to milk proteins and others who wish to avoid milk proteins. There is one supplier of the imported dark chocolate and the dark chocolate is sourced from a company overseas,” Sando said.
This supplier is Barry Callebaut, in a statement to Food Safety News company officials said they were “extremely concerned” to learn a consumer had a reaction to a product manufactured in New Zealand using dark chocolate from its factory in Singapore.
“The dairy allergen risk for this chocolate is clearly communicated both in the specification and labeled on our packaging. As far as we are aware a precautionary allergen statement was not mentioned by the local food manufacturer on the finished product sold to the consumer,” according to the producer.
It is not unusual within industry to have production of milk and dark chocolates on the same production line, according to the statement.
“Strict manufacturing practices are in place to minimize carry-over on these lines, but some carry-over remains unavoidable. Hence a precautionary allergen declaration on the presence of milk is clearly stated on both the product specification and on the product label,” the chocolate producer said.
“The specification sheets which are provided to our customers – food manufacturers – clearly state ‘May contain milk’ whenever a product shares a production line with dairy containing products. Barry Callebaut does manufacture dairy free and vegan products on dedicated lines for customers that require these products. For the incident in New Zealand, the customers did not request these dairy free and vegan products.”
Sando said there could be more recalls.
“All food businesses have been contacted to assess what follow up action is required which depends on how the product is used and labeled. Recalls are generally occurring when milk free claims have been made or no statement about milk has been made. All businesses are considering labeling changes to include milk in the ingredient list or as an advisory statement,” she said.
Devonport Chocolates was the first company to recall all batches and dates of its dark chocolate products, which are sold nationwide, because of the presence of undeclared milk allergen on Feb. 19.
“We have found out that our labeling of product, ‘contains no added dairy’ is no longer sufficient as due to cross contamination dairy is likely to be present,” said a statement from Devonport.
“We are issuing a product recall notice for these items so we can repackage with a label that says ‘The chocolate used in this product is made by a manufacturer who also processes milk chocolate, therefore milk is likely to be present.’ ”
Vetro Mediterranean Foods recalled all batches and dates of its Callebaut brand Ghana 70 percent, Chocolate 42 percent and dark chocolate on the same day. The product was imported from Singapore and is not exported from New Zealand.
One day later, De Spa Chocolatier recalled all batches and dates of its own brand of dairy free dark chocolate products because of undeclared milk. Chocolate Traders Ltd. also recalled all batches and dates of its brand of dark chocolate products for the same reason.
“We have been advised that the manufacturer of the dark chocolate we use in our dark chocolate products, uses a manufacturing process that means milk chocolate is likely to be present,” Chocolate Traders Ltd. said in a statement.
“This means the labeling on our dark chocolate products is now not sufficient as the allergen milk is missing on the label, therefore we are undergoing a product recall notification with MPI so we can label these products to correctly state milk is present.”
The Chocolate Workshop Ltd. recalled certain batches of its branded Peanut Butter Cups – Dark and Wanaka Chocolate brand chocolate all flavors due to incorrect labeling about the presence of milk.
On Feb. 21, The Silky Oak Chocolate Company Ltd. recalled all batches and dates of its Silky Oak brand dark chocolate products because of incorrect labeling about the presence of milk.
One day later, House of Chocolate recalled specific batches of its own brand dark chocolate products due to incorrect labeling about the presence of the allergen and Bella Chocolates Ltd. recalled all batches and dates of its own brand of dark chocolate products for the same reason.
Bella Chocolates Ltd. said it is working with MPI to re-label dark chocolate products.
“We have been advised that milk has been detected in the dark chocolate we are currently using. This means that our current product labeling is insufficient and requires updating to include the statement that ‘The chocolate used in this product is made by a manufacturer who also processes milk chocolate, therefore milk is likely to be present,’ ” Bella Chocolates said.
Equagold Limited recalled certain batches of its brand of Belgian style Couverture, Dark Ghana 70 percent, Dark Gourmet 56 percent and Dark Gourmet 53 percent chocolate because of incorrect labeling about the presence of milk.
Bohemein Fresh Chocolates recalled all batches and dates of its brand of dairy free and dark chocolate products for the same reason.
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