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Chocolate and Alpha-Gal

Valentine’s Day is around the corner and you probably can't help but notice the chocolate section at the grocery store. Have you ever wondered if the chocolates are vegan-friendly? What about Alpha-gal friendly? Let’s break down what chocolates are made of and how to find ones that are suitable for you. 

Chocolate

Animal-Derived Ingredients in Chocolate

While chocolate can vary significantly between brands and places of production, common ingredients include cocoa beans, cocoa butter, sugar, and either milk or dairy alternatives. The presence of milk in most chocolate poses a primary concern for vegans and those with alpha-gal. It’s crucial to carefully inspect the ingredient list, keeping an eye out for animal-derived components such as milk, milk powder, milk fat, lactose, milk whey, casein, cream, egg, gelatin, and lard. Some candies may use confectioner's glaze which can include shellac - a resin secreted by the female lac bug.


Additionally, some vegans opt to avoid honey due to personal beliefs or preferences, as it may be utilized by certain manufacturers for added flavor.


Did you know that carrageenan is a food additive extracted from red seaweed? Companies often use carrageenan as a thickening agent and it's generally harmless for most people. Carrageenan contains alpha-gal, which might cause some AGS patients to experience an allergic reaction. Despite this, as it’s not sourced from animals, chocolates labeled as vegan-friendly may still incorporate carrageenan.


Types of Chocolate

Chocolate comes in a variety of flavors, ranging from dark to white, with different mixtures in between. Some are sweeter and creamier, while others are more on the bitter side. 

  • Dark chocolate: Usually contains about 50% to over 80% cocoa solids. It generally doesn’t contain milk, but some brands may add milk to their products. 

  • Milk chocolate: Usually contains about 35%-55% cocoa solids, but can have as low as 10%. Vegan milk chocolate tends to use plant-based milk, including nut milk, oat milk, coconut milk, soy milk, and almond milk.

  • White chocolate: Doesn’t contain any cocoa solids. It’s made with cocoa butter, sugar, and milk. Dairy-free or vegan white chocolate uses plant-based milk. 


The Controversy in Vegan Chocolates

Although some chocolates may advertise as vegan or dairy-free, there may be trace amounts of milk from cross-contamination if they are produced with the same machinery used to make milk chocolate. Look for statements like “may contain milk,” “may contain traces of milk,” or “produced in a facility with milk” on the package label. 


A study was done by the FDA to test for milk allergens in dairy-free dark chocolate and found that 4 of the 52 sampled products “had potentially hazardous levels of milk allergen.” The FDA recommends those who are allergic to milk to contact the manufacturers to confirm the presence of milk or shared machinery. Learn more about the FDA study.


Vegan Does Not Mean Allergen-free!

Be sure to always read the ingredients/allergy statements on all packages. See examples below:


Milk statements on vegan chocolates

Conclusion

There are many options for vegan chocolate, as well as dairy-free chocolate. For Alpha-gal patients who are allergic to dairy, we recommend that you check the ingredient list, read the milk statements on the label, and confirm with the manufacturer to ensure they don't use shared machinery with other milk-containing products. Since the FDA doesn't have a strict regulation around the terms "vegan" or "dairy-free," don't forget to double-check all of your chocolates. Living a vegan or plant-based lifestyle doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your sweet tooth, but do take the extra step to make sure they are safe for you to eat.



 

Disclaimer: The product and/or information provided on VeganMed is of a general nature and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We do not lab test the products to confirm that they are free from animal ingredients, and it is possible that the formulation and ingredients could have changed. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or product. The information provided in this post is accurate and up to date as of the date it was written. However, please note that circumstances and facts may change over time, and new information may become available that could alter the accuracy or relevance of the content. We encourage readers to verify and cross-reference any information provided here with trusted sources or consult relevant professionals for the most current and accurate updates.

 

Looking for certified and verified animal-free products?



Thank you for your awareness and concern for animal-derived ingredients!


As a reminder, please comment on our FDA Citizen Petition, requesting clear labeling of animal-derived ingredients in medications. Together, we can make a difference.


If you have any further questions about ingredients in your medicines and supplements, feel free to reach out to the VeganMed team!

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