The issue with Dark Chocolate Manufacturing

Created by Fussy Vegan, Modified on Mon, 03 Jan 2022 at 01:42 PM by Fussy Vegan

We posted the other day about the change of ingredients on the Green & Black dark chocolate products and this post is a follow up post to explain what exactly is going on. We have quoted a section of a food industry group document below:

An allergen risk review anomaly (RRA), in relation to dark chocolate, and inconsistent labelling practices were identified by the confectionery industry. This occurs where dark chocolate is manufactured following production of milk chocolate, ie milk remains in the dark chocolate at variable levels, often above the Allergen Bureau Voluntary Incidental Trace Allergen Labelling (VITAL®) Program Action Level where precautionary allergen labelling (PAL) would be recommended. This is also above the allergic consumer and their carer’s expectation of ‘trace’ or ‘minimal’ (cow’s) milk levels.

The issue of milk in dark chocolate has been identified as an allergen risk review anomaly, in commercial operations, where the allergen is not an intended ingredient nor is it included as part of the recipe as an ingredient, sub-ingredient, additive or processing aid in the product. It falls outside the mandatory labelling requirements in Standard 1.2.3 – Information requirements – warning statements, advisory statements and declarations of the Code and does not necessarily fit with the principles of best practice risk review and PAL.

A common example is where milk from milk chocolate manufacture remains within the processing line in subsequent manufacture of dark chocolate made on the same production line. The presence of milk is unavoidable in a normal manufacturing environment. A complete shut down and clean to remove the allergen is impractical, due to the potential for microbial growth and process issues through the introduction of water into a chocolate system. Alternatively, continuous flushing to remove milk traces is not viable, due to excessive product waste and downtime. Other solutions identified through HACCP, such as duplicating production lines, may not be commercially practical or achievable either.

As such, this unintended allergen substance represents a food safety allergen anomaly.
In these circumstances, milk allergen in the dark chocolate is unavoidably present, potentially at higher and significant levels than is considered appropriate under current risk review approaches. Its presence is predictable and known and cannot be eliminated or minimised sufficiently, despite good manufacturing practice (GMP) and the commercial practicality of implementing HACCP.

Consequently, there may be significant carry forward of milk allergenic proteins in the initial manufacture of a product due to the difficulty and impracticability of removing the protein during GMP cleaning processes. For example, the amount of milk protein in the dark chocolate can initially be quite high and will diminish throughout production, until it potentially falls below the limit of detection.

- “no concern was raised by any jurisdiction” with regard to “listing milk at the end of an ingredient list on a dark chocolate”, in these circumstances
- it would “also accept the alternative proposal to list an advisory statement to alert the allergic consumer to the potential presence of traces of milk in dark chocolate”.

ISFR also advised that:
“it is for food businesses themselves to identify the most appropriate labelling solution for their product in the circumstances. This could be achieved by undertaking a specific risk assessment for each affected product and should align with best industry practice”.
So, to summarise manufacturers have started including milk solids on the ingredient list on dark chocolate products where the manufacturer is not able to use a dedicated production line and dairy WILL be present in varying amounts in the actual dark chocolate product. 

For example, If the ABC chocolate company puts a dairy chocolate product through the production line, and due to the above mentioned reasons why the equipment cannot be properly cleaned, the company then puts a dark chocolate product through the production line afterwards. Whilst the dark chocolate recipe does not include any milk, milk will be present in varying amounts of the dark chocolate. The first few chocolate bars will have the most contamination and there will probably be minimal, if any milk in the final bars that come off the line. But, and this is a big but, because there is no way of knowing which bars were through the line first with the most milk contamination and which ones went through the line last with minimal, if any milk present, this means that the product has to be considered NOT VEGAN.

We hope this clears up the issue of why some dark chocolate products are now listing milk as final ingredient.

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