The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has warned people not to buy or eat several types of counterfeit chocolate bars.

The alert comes after reports of fake branded chocolate being found on sale and follows an incident of people falling sick after eating chocolate sold at a market in Mansfield. Products were wrapped in gold packaging or sold in orange boxes marked Caligold.

Forensic testing of chocolate recovered by police detected the hallucinogenic drug Psilocin and THC – a substance found in cannabis. A 63-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of administering a noxious substance and is assisting police with inquiries after being released on bail.

Fake branded chocolate bars may be unsafe to eat, as they may have been made or repackaged by unregistered businesses or by people not following hygiene, labeling, and traceability laws. 

Raising awareness of issue
The warning, issued ahead of the festive season, names fake Wonka or Prime chocolate bars. People are advised not to eat these items and to dispose of them.

Letters have been sent to local authorities, who are responsible for investigating and enforcing food law asking them to be vigilant and remove any fake products from sale where there is a known or suspected public health risk.

“With Christmas coming up, don’t waste your money on fake branded chocolate for your children, friends or family — you won’t be getting what you think you are paying for and you don’t know what is in them. There could be a food safety risk, especially for those with food intolerances or allergies,” said Tina Potter, head of incidents at the FSA.   

“We know there is a problem with potentially unsafe fake chocolate bars such as Wonka and Prime bars and we’re working with Trading Standards to protect consumers. Please do not buy or eat these bars and if you think you’ve bought a fake chocolate bar, or if you see something that does not seem right when you are shopping, report it to your local authority.”

In August, a sweet shop owner was prosecuted by Powys County Council for selling chocolate bars with the name Wonka that did not have the allergen information in the correct format. Alan Price, trading as Mollies Sweet Shops, pleaded guilty to 10 charges. He was fined £7,200 ($9,100) and ordered to pay £3,000 ($3,800) costs plus a £190 ($240) victim surcharge.

Allergen and repacking concerns
Last year, fake Wonka Bars were removed from sale because they contained allergens which weren’t listed on the label, posing a health risk to anyone who suffers from a related food allergy.

Ferrero, which owns the Wonka Brand, or its affiliate Ferrara Candy Company, has not authorized another firm to use the Wonka trademarks in the UK or to make products under its brands. Legit Ferrero branded products display Wonka characters.

Prime makes drinks and has not manufactured or supplied any Prime-branded foods. Any such products are fake and may be unsafe.

FSA has also received reports of dodgy branded chocolate bars being sold on online platforms including eBay, Amazon, and Etsy.

Example issues include failure to provide an accurate ingredients list with undeclared ingredients and allergens on the label and the absence of, or a false business name and address, on the packaging.

There is also concern about the rewrapping of legitimate brands of shop bought or homemade chocolate in non-authentic branded wrappers that could have been done in unhygienic conditions or by unregistered food businesses.

Nick Long, from Orkney Islands Council, said it’s possible people will have already bought the products or will be considering buying them for the holiday season and as stocking fillers.

“This time of year we unfortunately see some products come to market where corners have been cut. Together with colleagues from Trading Standards we’d urge people to stick to reputable brands where traceability and hygiene practices are well managed.” 

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