getting fresh: Transparency and traceabilityNo, this isn’t the modern, cyber-shortened version of a Jane Austen novel. Nevertheless, there’s enough realism, social commentary and irony, and a touch of burlesque, to evoke a nod, even if it’s only for the headline.
Unlike Austen’s many novels, which focus on women’s dependence on marriage to secure social standing and security in the 19th Century, this week’s topic focuses on labeling and consumer dependence on wording to assure confidence and safety.
Luckily, I really don’t have any allergies related to food, the one exception being my eagerness to consume it. Unfortunately, for about 12 million Americans who do have food allergies, eating involves a much more careful selection process to prevent potentially life-threatening responses from their immune systems.
What’s even worse is that according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FANN), that number is growing. FANN says that between 1997 and 2002, peanut allergies in children doubled.
I’m sure most of you can relate, knowing either a family member or a colleague who’s allergic to one of the eight most common food allergens (milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish).
As a result, it’s critical for manufacturers, particularly in the all-natural, functional and organic food sectors -- segments that most often cater to consumers with allergies -- to detail their ingredients simply and plainly.
A recent article in the Chicago Tribune (November 23, 2008) described how a labeling change -- and the subsequent lack of inspection and follow-through -- can truly confuse those needing direction the most.
In the article, reporter Sam Roe details how a chocolate bar produced in Switzerland for Whole Foods wound up being eventually recalled because of badly chosen semantics. In an effort to put a positive spin on the possibility of the chocolate bar containing allergens, Whole Foods opted to use the terms “Good manufacturing practices,” were “used to segregate” potential allergens.
The phrasing proved ambiguous for many, suggesting that there were no allergens present. Nevertheless, it only takes a trace amount to provoke a reaction in those who are allergic. Such traces often come from cross-contamination, particularly whenever products containing allergens are manufactured on the same lines turning out products that don’t. To ensure no cross-contamination, that line would have to be thoroughly cleaned out after each run -- a time-consuming and costly process.
As Roe’s investigation details, the chocolates bars, which were manufactured by Chocolat Bernrain and imported by Spruce Foods for Whole Foods, were found to contain various allergens such as milk and nuts.
Now I’ve been to plants where “good manufacturing practices” indeed segregate allergens. Having seen the procedures in place, I can just say that the logistics involved entail strict monitoring to ensure successful elimination of any cross-contamination. In reviewing Roe’s article, it’s unclear whether Chocolat Bernrain was aware about the new wording regarding allergens or, if so, whether it was charged to segregate production as a result.
Such laxity resulted in Whole Foods recalling 1.1 million bars.
I believe Roe’s investigation into labeling provides an excellent example of how critical it is for manufacturers to not only monitor what happens inside the plant, but outside, as well.
All three parties in Roe’s write-up have excellent reputations in their respective industries. And yet, foul-ups can and do occur. Today, more than ever, there’s a need for vigilance in labeling. Not all companies are equipped to maintain dedicated lines for non-allergen products. Some lack the resources to ensure true segregated manufacturing practices for products with and without allergens.
Consequently, it’s important for those producing natural, organic and functional items to use some “sense and sensibility” in ensuring their labels speak plainly about allergens.
And Jane, please forgive me.
Toothfriendly chocolate makes debutBelgian chocolate manufacturers Daskalides and Chocolaterie Smet have launched tooth friendly chocolate products made with Barry Callebaut chocolate. Chocolaterie Smet’s Hopla hollow chocolate figurines and Daskalides’ milk chocolate bars with hazelnut filling each carry the “Happy Tooth” label from the non-profit organization Toothfriendly International, which is supported by dental associations worldwide.
“We only give the Happy Tooth seal of approval to products that are guaranteed safe for teeth,” says Dr. Albert Bär, director of Toothfriendly International. “All sweets that carry this logo have been scientifically tested by recognized and independent academic institutes for dental health. Their tests demonstrate that the product does not cause dental caries or tooth decay.”
To make Barry Callebaut’s chocolate tooth friendly, milk powder is replaced with milk proteins and sugar is replaced by isomaltulose -- a natural sugar found in honey and sugar cane. Isomaltulose, which consists of glucose and fructose, does not increase acidity in the mouth, which prevents tooth decay.
For more information, contact Ann Maes at email@example.com.
Tcho to launch newly formulated 'Fruity' chocolateAfter experimenting with its Chocolatey, Nutty and Fruity chocolate flavors on nuts and dried fruits, San Francisco-based Tcho realized it could reduce the cacao percentage and amount of chocolate coating to better bring out the flavor of the centers. With its newly formulated “Fruity” chocolate, Tcho used honey-roasted cashews, dried mangos, rich macadamia nuts and roasted cacao nibs. Because the chocolate is slightly sweeter than the previous Fruity dark chocolate, the flavor of the nuts and dried fruits is more noticeable. For more information, visit www.tcho.com.
Kallari chocolate hits Whole Foods shelvesHeadquartered in Bridgewater, N.J., Kallari has announced that its premium chocolate bars made with 75% and 85% cacao content appeared in Whole Foods stores nationwide last month. Because more profit is obtained from the chocolate bars than the cacao beans, Kallari gives 100% of the sales profits from its chocolate bars to the Kallari Association, which grows, harvests and ferments the cacao. The Kallari Association is made up of more than 850 Kichwa families in the Napo Province of the Ecuadorian Amazon.Kallari Chocolate Company manufactures chocolate from bean-to-bar that is Fair Trade, organic and Rainforest Alliance Certified. For more information, visit www.kallarichocolate.com.
NETZSCH hosts 'bean to bar' seminarNETZSCH Fine Particle Technology will host a “bean to bar” chocolate seminar February 23-27, 2009, in its custom chocolate kitchen. Chocolatiers will use NETZSCH’s ChocoEasy50 chocolate-making machine to create milk and dark chocolate while learning about the newest grinding, refining and conching technologies. In addition, attendees will learn about factors that affect the taste of chocolate, the cost of making chocolate (including supplies and a chocolate manufacturing facility) and using raw materials to produce batches of chocolate.
NETZSCH’s technical director, Harry Way, and internal chocolate consultant, Ted Hanneman, will teach the class alongside instructor Dr. Carl Waltz of United Cocoa Processor.
For more information, visit http://grinding.netzschusa.com.
Divine celebrates 'decade of Divine'To celebrate its 10-year anniversary, Fair Trade chocolate manufacturer Divine Chocolate hosted an exhibition last month called “A Decade of Divine -- Building a brand for the 21st Century,” during which it paid tribute to supporters and explained the brand’s journey from its beginnings in 1998 to today.
For the holiday season, Divine is bringing back its Fair Trade advent calendars in milk chocolate and introducing new 70% dark chocolate advent calendars. With illustrations designed by Helen Mills, the milk and dark chocolate calendars feature Fair Trade chocolate hearts for each day in December. This year, the calendars are not wrapped in an extra cellophane layer in order to reduce waste.
Note: While the milk chocolate advent calendars are available in the United States at Whole Foods, Wegmans, Food Emporium and online at www.serrv.org, the dark chocolate calendars currently are available only at Food Emporium and online at www.divinechocolateusa.com.
For more information, visit www.divinechocolate.com.