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Dark chocolate's white lie

Dark chocolate. (WJLA photo)

ARLINGTON, Va. (WJLA) – Oh, you dark and delicious temptation. How we adore you. Twenty-one percent of us will buy jewelry, 38 percent will order flowers, and a whopping 53 percent will give chocolate.

Dark chocolate has been lauded for its bold taste, antioxidant properties, and as a safe sweet for vegans and people allergic to milk. But the FDA has unearthed dark chocolate’s white lie.

Typically understood to be milk-free, the FDA tested 100 bars of dark chocolate and found the labeling on the packages did not reveal all ingredients within, especially milk, one of the big eight allergens.

The FDA found:

• 59 percent of those bars that had no milk labeling at all did contain milk.
• 11 percent of those bars labeled dairy free also had milk.
• 54 percent of those bars labeled as having traces of milk had high enough levels to cause severe reactions.

Emily Hellmuth, co-owner of Tell Chronicles, a professional photography studio in Arlington, avoids milk products for ethical reasons.

“I have been vegan for seven years. I don't like the factory farm industry, so it's pretty important to me,” she said.

A local allergist was surprised to hear that the labeling her patients count on is not always accurate.

“A milk allergy can be as severe as a peanut allergy,” said Dr. Sally Joo Bailey at Virginia Hospital Center. “We have patients who can anaphylaxe if they are severely allergic to milk.”

She’s going to recommend that highly sensitive patients avoid dark chocolate, along with milk chocolate. So will Hellmuth.

“So, what I once thought was sort of a safety zone, I guess no more. Cross another one off the list,” she said.

Expecting her first child in July, Hellmuth said she’ll ignore cravings for dark chocolate, and won’t even buy it for her husband for Valentine’s Day.

With a wry smile she quipped, “I don't want him to gain any baby weight.”

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