Ai Group, the Allergen Bureau and Australian Food & Grocery Council, (AFGC) has been addressing the issue of milk (from cows milk) being inadvertently present in dark chocolate, following a milk-to-dark-chocolate production changeover. In working through this issue, we have been collaborating with organisations including, Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA), Allergy New Zealand (Allergy NZ) and Australian, State/Territory and New Zealand government agencies.
In this context, the addition of milk to dark chocolate has not been intentional. Its presence may be known, at least some of the time, but while its levels may deplete over time it cannot be sufficiently eliminated or minimised, despite good manufacturing practices (GMP) and HACCP.
This situation has been identified as anomalous to dark chocolate (with inconsistent labelling practices) and has been determined a food safety allergen ‘risk review’ anomaly.
We have worked to develop industry guidance to support the Australian and New Zealand food industry in dealing with this milk-in-dark chocolate allergen risk review anomaly.
This guidance is not intended to be binding, nor to represent legal advice from any of the parties that have engaged or collaborated in its development. Businesses themselves need to identify the most appropriate labelling for their products and circumstances and consider the requirement for obtaining independent legal advice.
To facilitate industry understanding and consistency, a set of Key Guiding Principles (KGPs) and a Decision Tree (DT) have been developed to help affected companies.
The approach only works with an appropriate risk review, enabling individual companies to determine their specific response. It is not a substitute for GMP and HACCP. The Allergen Bureau VITAL® Program and supporting resources and the Food Industry Guide to Allergen Management & Labelling will be updated to reflect this allergen risk review anomaly and the appropriate treatment.
As noted above, we are also working with the Australian and New Zealand allergy groups – A&AA and Allergy NZ – to ensure the approach is appropriately protective in safeguarding dairy allergic consumers. It is important for consumers to be made aware of the labelling changes being implemented by some manufacturers on their products.
In support of the approach and to alleviate any transitional labelling problems, both allergy consumer groups will be communicating with their members. They will be providing appropriate allergy messaging and consumer call-to-action responses with respect to the label changes and how the labels should be read.
The Ai Group will likewise share the advice, as will the AFGC and Food and Beverage Importers Association with similar initiatives taking place in New Zealand, particularly through the NZ Food & Grocery Council.
If you have any questions regarding this industry guidance, please contact the Allergen Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org