Thursday, July 15, 2010

Green & Black's Chocolate

Now that I'm all over evolutionary eating (aka paleo), I don't often eat sweets any more. But I do occasionally eat chocolate, because it's so very yummy. And now that I've got my bad premises straightened out (part 3 coming soon, promise!), I am able to enjoy chocolate in a much healthier way than I used to.

Still. Chocolate is a tricky thing for us, because of Ryan's peanut allergy. And so it's hard for me to find good quality chocolate with high cocoa content that I feel safe about keeping in the house.

I first found Green & Black's Chocolate at my grocery store, and was impressed with their allergen labeling--very specific, right down to the specific tree nuts that are handled in the manufacturing facility. As a food-label-reader, I always love it when companies take that extra step to label potential allergens like that. As a peanut-allergy-mom, I was thrilled to note a significant absence from G&B labels: peanuts. This is highly unusual for chocolate products, as anyone who walks in my shoes will know.

Because I am not ever satisfied to go by labels only, especially with products like chocolate (which seem to have many peanut allergy pitfalls as a general rule) are concerned, I decided to investigate the company itself. By the way, I highly recommend first-handed due diligence to anyone with any kind of food allergy, since labels and manufacturing practices change--as you'll see.

I was excited to find this answer, on their FAQ page (emphasis mine):

Your packaging states that your products are made in a factory which handles nut, cereal and dairy ingredients. What does this mean?

Although some of our products are made without nut, cereal or milk ingredients, they are produced in a factory that handles them. We take all precautions to minimize the risks of cross contamination with these ingredients.
We take into account scheduling of products and we clean the lines by flushing chocolate through until there is no notable trace of the previous lines’ chocolate in the new batch. We are confident that the cleaning procedures are robust and eliminate traces of nut, cereal or dairy ingredients, but the only certain guarantee of absence is by manufacturing in a nut, cereal and dairy free site. Therefore we use the above statement to ensure consumers are fully informed about our products.
Specifically, our chocolate is made in a factory that does not handle peanuts. However, the factory handles five types of nut - Brazil nuts, Almonds, Hazelnuts, Cashew and Pistachio nuts.
For more information please check the link to product ingredient facts.

Great! Getting closer to the answer to my question (which is, "Can I buy G&B chocolate ohpleaseohpleaseohpleaselettheanswerbeyes ?").

Then I clicked on their homepage, and saw that they were introducing their Peanut bar. Le sigh.

See what I mean about information not always being up-to-date?

Undaunted, I pestered them on Facebook, Twitter, and through their website's Contact page. :o) Look, I'm desperate for chocolate, mmmk? And what I'd seen so far indicated two very important things: that this company is very allergen-aware (a big plus) and that it was just possible that their specific labeling meant that the peanut stuff was produced somewhere else.

I received a very nice email (several, actually) from Gail at G&B, who explains this about the peanut bar situation (reprinted with her permission, and in its entirety at her request):

Hi Jenn

firstly, apologies for not getting in touch sooner. I wasn't in the office for a couple of days for family reasons, and I know you're very eager to find out what the situation is with our peanut bars and the possibility of cross-contamination.  I have talked to our Head of Technical, Carl, and here is the information.

Although some of our products are made without nut, cereal or milk ingredients, the chocolate is produced in a factory that handles certain types of nuts - Brazil nuts, Almonds, Hazelnuts, Cashews and Pistachio. We take all precautions to minimize the risks of cross contamination with these ingredients. We take into account scheduling of products and we clean the lines by flushing chocolate through until there is no notable trace of the previous lines’ chocolate in the new batch.

We are confident that the cleaning procedures are robust and eliminate traces of nut, cereal or dairy ingredients, but the only certain guarantee of absence is by manufacturing in a nut, cereal and dairy free site. Therefore we use the above statement to ensure consumers are fully informed about our products.

You specifically wanted to know about our Peanut bar and how it affects the previous information you had.  Our Peanut bar and some of our Almond bars are finished at another location from the rest of the range. If an Almond bar has any risk of peanut cross-contamination , it will be clearly mentioned on the label of the Almond bar. Please check the labels carefully on each bar that you find.

I hope that this answers your questions, but please don't hesitate to follow up with any more queries and we'll do our best to get the information for you. Just so you know we are based in London, in the UK but we'll always get back to you as quickly as we can.

Regards
Gail

Community Manager

This is great information! I now feel very confident in their labeling and am willing to purchase (and have actually done so!) their chocolate that is safe for us as-labeled. I'm thrilled that we can eat some of their chocolate.

But even if their answer had been "Sorry, don't eat our chocolate as the new peanut bar is made in our facilities, and we haven't updated our labels just yet."--which was entirely possible--I would still have been nothing but impressed with this company. Their awareness, care in labeling practices, excellent communication (despite what Gail wrote above, there was no unusual delay in her getting back to my question!)--all of that would make me recommend them to anyone else who wants some really delicious chocolate.

As always, please do your own due diligence for any product that might contain an allergen. I'm passing this information along, and I feel confident, but my confidence is not necessarily a good reason to try it yourself--you might have different severity to deal with, different allergen "comfort zone," or other factors I'm not aware of. When it comes to judgment: Use Your Own--Accept No Substitutes! :o)

Thank you, Gail, and Green & Black's Chocolate! Hooray for companies who care about their customers--actual and potential!

Now please excuse me while I go share a square of Hazelnut & Currant chocolate with the kids. On second thought, maybe I should selfishly eat it myself . . . .

2 comments:

Hanah said...

I'm glad they were so nice to you. And BTW, I tried their new peanut bar, and it is not great. Too salty.

Jenn Casey said...

Hmmm...interesting. It's a good thing we'll stick with the other flavors I guess!

And yes, they were super great to me. I love making sure good companies get recognized for their awesomeness. :o)