I sent the email shown below to Green and Black’s after being told by a colleague that they are no longer vegan. I told her I had heard that recently but was told that it was a statement written on the package to cover their backs. She said it was no longer a statement, but that it is listed in the ingredients. I checked the bars I purchased recently, when I got home and found that it lists organic milk powder in the ingredients! That’s not the same as listing it as ‘it may contain traces of…’
So I sent them this email: –
I am writing to you because I am vegan. Up until recently I purchased some of your products with confidence! However, it has been brought to my attention that your products now contain milk when they didn’t before!
Can you please clarify whether this is to ‘cover your backs in case a trace of milk is in your products or if it because you have inserted it as a new ingredient?
Also can you send me a list of any vegan products that I can purchase from now on?
Their reply: –
Thank you for your recent email to Green & Black’s. I was sorry to read of your concern having noted the changes to the dairy allergen labelling of our dark chocolate products. I will do my best to explain these changes in a clear and comprehensive manner.
As you are aware, Green & Black’s announced changes to the dairy allergy statements on the wrappers of our dark chocolate bars in May. There has been no change to the recipe of these bars; the change is simply in the way in which the risks of dairy cross contamination are being communicated on bar wrappers. I will outline the background behind this decision below:
There are no milk ingredients in the recipe of our Dark chocolate bars and this continues to be the case. However, the bars are produced on the same production line as Milk chocolate bars within our range. The bars have previously, therefore, carried the following statement to reflect this: ‘Manufactured in a factory that handles dairy ingredients.’
A recent audit revealed that traces of milk residues can still be found on manufacturing equipment despite intensive cleaning. Therefore, in order to ensure that consumers are at minimum risk, our allergen statements will be changed and we will clearly state on pack that milk residues may be present in dark chocolate bars across the range. This will be indicated by the inclusion of ‘Organic Whole Milk Powder’ within the ingredients list itself and a ‘Contains Milk Ingredient’ statement on pack. The Vegan labelling was also consequently removed from pack. The new packaging has already been printed and is filtering through to supermarkets over the next few months, as you have noted. To re-iterate, this labelling change will affect all dark chocolate products within our range.
Therefore, there is actually no change to the risk to allergy-sufferers as the recipes and ingredients that go into the making of the bars have not changed. What we are now clearly stating on pack is that we cannot guarantee the absence of milk. It is almost certainly going to be present – albeit at a low level. This packaging change ensures that consumers, especially milk allergy sufferers, are aware of the possibility and this represents a positive step in consumer communication.
We are eager to inform consumers of this change to prevent any possible concern that may arise. Therefore, this information is displayed clearly on our website at www.greenandblacks.com and we have been working with organisations such as Allergy UK, the Anaphylaxis Campaign and the Vegan Society to ensure that this may be clearly communicated to allergy sufferers and vegans alike.
We recognise that separate dedicated lines for our dark and milk chocolate bars would be the only way to eliminate the risks of dairy cross contamination in the dark chocolate. At present, the restrictions for organic segregation and the design of plant we need for our type of chocolate restricts the availability of equipment. We are very certain however that we must work towards alternative equipment and we are planning to provide a dedicated production line by the end of 2009. Our hope is that we can make product available early in 2010.
I hope that this information, along with the attached FAQ’s and image of the new labelling, is of some help to you to further clarify our position. However, if you have any further queries or comments at all, please do not hesitate to contact me again- indeed, we would welcome any feedback you may have. I have also duly noted your contact details and please be assured that I will contact you again should there be any changes to our dairy allergen labelling in future.
Customer Care Administrator
Green & Black’s