Thursday, February 25, 2010

Allergens in Chocolate: Voice Your Concerns

Your Chocolate Priestess always tries to include information about potential allergens in the chocolate and cocoa products she reviews.  There is a standard list of these allergens that companies as supposed to highlight on their nutritional information but sometimes I find potential allergens in the ingredients unhighlighted and I'll mention those.

Aside from those of you who have allergies to cocoa and chocolate proteins, what other allergy concerns do you cacao lovers worry about?  Perhaps it isn't you but a family member or loved one you have to worry about?  What complains for and advice to chocolatiers do you have?

I want to see a lot of comments about this.  Allergies can make life miserable, they can even be life threatening but unless numerous people speak out, those that work with our Sacred Substance will remain unaware there is a need to think about what they add to their candies, baked goods, and drinks.

Please leave your comments below.  While I know this may open the floodgate of emotions, try to keep your complaints and suggestions civil.  If I get enough comments, I'll send a notice of this post to those chocolatiers who have submitted products to us and maybe, just maybe, they might begin to make alternatives for those of you with allergies.

10 comments:

mavido79 said...

I'm blessed that I don't suffer from any food allergies (that I know of) nor do any of my family members. However, I do wish chocolate producers would put a warning on the packaging if the product has been exposed to anything in the standard list of allergens. And I want that warning to be in something larger than 6pt type. This is a food product wrapper, not a legal contract. Fine print is not necessary.

As an interesting aside... several years ago I developed a bad case of hives all over my body. The doctor and I were trying to eliminate the common triggers and she mentioned that chocolate is a common allergen. Hopefully I'll never become allergic to the sacred substance.

Cacao-Me said...

A little typo in the title. I think it should be "allergens" not "allegens". And thankfully I have no allergies, but I know that my father says that he cannot eat chocolate because he says it gives him gas. Not an allergy though. Others tell me they don't eat chocolate because of the extra calories and fat they believe chocolate has. I actually don't know any one who is allergic to chocolate.

Dr. N said...

Milk is my problem ingredients. I'm okay if it's only milk fat or butter oil, but anything more than that, and the milk proteins get me congested enough that I can't breath. I'm glad that's usually pretty apparent from the labels.

Nuts (and peanuts, and peanut oil) are the even bigger label issue, though, as there is a much higher chance of a life-threatening allergy with people there.

TheChocolatePriestess said...

Thanks, Cacao-Me. Actually people are allergic to cocoa but the question was more for people who have other allergies that prevent them from enjoying chocolate. Like Dr. N points out nuts and peanuts can be a big concern. Also things like soy or even wheat in chocolate products can be a huge problem for people.

davebear_in said...

I have a cinnamon allergy; some varieties of chocolate also incorporate cinnamon, and I rarely see this prominently mentioned. Unfortunately cinnamon is one of those things that sometimes gets lumped under "other natural flavors".

TheChocolatePriestess said...

Thanks for commenting, davebear_in. People have all sorts of allergies and I find it difficult to cover all of the basis myself.

For those with allergies, do you ever just take a little bite then wait to see what your reaction is? Of if you aren't sure do you avoid a product all together?

davebear_in said...

...do you ever just take a little bite then wait to see what your reaction is? Of if you aren't sure do you avoid a product all together?

Some of each, depending on the situation.

Those instant 'international coffees' can hit me hard - just being at the same table with someone drinking the Viennese flavor can give me a contact headache from inhaling the aroma.

For chocolate in solid form, the situation is more complicated. In particular, the descriptors used in the US to describe various European varieties (or in some cases, what amounts to a domestic imitation of the European style) are rather confusing, as the descriptors do not necessarily seem to mean the same thing from brand to brand. Thus I explore cautiously.

For example, I've learned through hard experience that chocolate described in the US as 'Belgian style' often has a subtle cinnamon note... usually not an obvious part of the flavor profile, but just barely enough to affect the flavor and to provoke a mild reaction due to my sensitivity.

What is confusing is that this does not seem to be a feature of all Belgian-style chocolate, just some of it, so it's kind of a minefield. Over the years I've come to associate a mild cinnamon flavor as part of the 'Belgian' descriptor, though admittedly it's hit-or-miss enough that I am unsure how fair that impression really is, or how often it applies. Enough to keep me wary, I suppose.

I'm also not sure how much my concern applies to actual chocolate from Belgium - I've had mild cinnamon-reaction headaches from eating the real stuff, but only once in a while, again leaving me confused about how consistently cinnamon is used as a minor ingredient.

As a result, I tend to avoid Belgian-style chocolate in general, though I do make a few exceptions after carefully sampling to test for reactions. I am fortunate in that my allergy is mild enough that it causes me discomfort, but is not actually dangerous, so I can risk experimenting if I'm feeling bold enough.

One such exception is a brand of frozen chocolate mini-eclairs that I find absolutely irresistible. Even though the label describes them as being topped with real Belgian chocolate, their topping does not seem to have even a hint of cinnamon, at least none that my palate can detect.

Mostly I avoid things if my initial impression is that they are likely to cause a reaction, and if I am unsure, I may experiment or not, depending on my mood and what else I'm up to that day.

TheChocolatePriestess said...

The Milk Chocolate Acolyte's tree nut allergy never seems triggered by the warnings that some chocolate was made on machines that also handled nuts. Some people's allergies are more severe than that.

I'm lucky in that my own food allergy is never matched with chocolate as far as I know. I mean, who would pair kale/cabbage with chocolate?

Sarah said...

For those allergic to dairy and eggs, all Rescue Chocolate products are free of these allergens and are certified Kosher Parve. See rescuechocolate.com to learn more about this company which donates 100% of net profits to animal rescue groups!

TheChocolatePriestess said...

Sarah, if you want us to do a Sacrament about your products you should email me and I'd be happy to tell you how. Sacraments are our featured reviews and when we do a book in the future they are guaranteed to be in them plus that is when the majority of our readers make sure to tune in to read.

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