Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Milk in dark chocolate, brands tested by the FDA

Last Valentine’s Day, the FDA issued press releases about having found milk in a lot of dark chocolate samples that they tested, including some that claimed to be dairy-free or vegan as well as in a lot that claimed to only have traces or a risk of milk from shared equipment. I submitted a FOIA request to ask for details, and last spring the FDA put up a lot more details at:


However, this didn’t include the actual brands and manufacturers of chocolate that they tested. It just included internally-assigned ID codes. After some pushing they sent me the list of codes for the report they put online. I’m not sure this has been publicly released before now.

A few of the FDA’s results stand out to me, as a concerned consumer. I was sad to see that “Ghirardelli SemiSweet Baking Bar” and “Ghirardelli 60% Bittersweet Baking Bar” both had more milk than two of the chocolate bars that listed milk as an actual ingredient, but better safe than sorry. “Rescue Chocolate 66% Dark Chocolate” claimed to be vegan on the packaging, showed no warning about milk, and contained milk. “Ethereal Confections; 66% Cacao, Strawberries, Rose Petals, Pink Peppercorns” and “Oskri Almond Dark Chocolate Bar” claimed to be dairy-free or lactose-free on the packaging, showed no warning about milk, but contained milk. And most of the chocolate bars tested that had warnings about shared equipment or possibly containing traces of milk, while not listing milk as an actual ingredient, in fact did have milk in them. Some of them had more milk than chocolate bars that listed milk as an actual ingredient.

Here you go, world:

Related to http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/FoodAllergens/ucm446646.htm

Table 1. Dark Chocolate- FDA Web Posting: Identification of Chocolate Samples
Chocolate ID, followed by Chocolate Brand/Manufacturer

C1 Dagoba Organic Chocolate
C2 Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Coconut Caramel
C3 Hershey’s Special Dark Sweet Chocolate
C4 Russell Stover Fine Dark Chocolate Candy Bar
C5 Russell Stover Fine Dark Chocolate Candy Bar
C6 Whitman’s Weight Watchers Bite Size Dark Chocolates

A1 Block Chocolate 70% Dark Chocolate
A2 Block Chocolate 55% Dark Chocolate
A3 Chocolate Decadence Pure Dark Chocolate
A4 Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier
A5 Trader Joe’s PoundPlus Dark Chocolate from Belgium
A6 Bissinger’s Dark Chocolate
A7-Lot A Vega Maca Chocolate
A7-Lot B Vega Maca Chocolate
A8 Cacao de Chuao Origins, 77% Extra Dark Chocolate
A9 Lily’s Dark Chocolate, 55% Cocoa: Original
A10 Ghirardelli SemiSweet Baking Bar
A11 Ghirardelli 60% Bittersweet Baking Bar
A12-Lot A Callebaut Bittersweet
A12-Lot B Callebaut Bittersweet
A13 Salazon Organic Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Crushed Organic Coffee
A14 Salazon Organic Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt and Crushed Black Pepper
A15 Vosges Black Pearl Bar
A16 E. Guittard Ambanja Bittersweet
A17 Sweet Shop USA Dark Chocolate with Sea-Salted Almond
A18 Dillon’s Chocolates
A19 Fannie May 70% Dark Chocolate
A20 Ghirardelli 100% Cacao
A21 Baker’s Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
A22 Ghirardelli Intense Dark Twilight Delight 72% Cacao
A23 Ethereal Single Origin Chocolate Bar, 80% Cacao, Ecuador, Notes of Walnut, Banana & Toffee
A24 Newman’s Own Organics Dark Chocolate 54% Cacao
A25 The Cocoa Study Center Bar Bittersweet Chocolate
A26 Amano Dos Rios Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao Minimum
A27 Peru Chulucanas Love Bar; 75% Dark
A28 Lillie Belle DarkStar 80%
A29 French Broad Chocolates 68% Cacao Matagalpa, Nicaragua
A30 NuGO Free Dark Chocolate Crunch

T1 Chocolove Dark Chocolate 55%
T2 Chocolove 77% Extra Strong Dark Chocolate
T3 Chocolove Rich Dark Chocolate 65%
T4 Lindt 85% Cocoa Extra Dark
T5 TCHO 99% Dark Chocolate Critters
T6 Sulpice Le Chocolat Noir
T7 Eclat Chocolate Good & Evil Peruvian Nacional 72% Cacao
T8 Sweetriot Fair Trade and Organic Pure 85% Dark Chocolate
T9 Patric 70% Cocoa; Signature Blend
T10 Askinosie Chocolate; Honduras 70%
T11 Pacari Raw Chocolate 100% Cacao
T12 Sulpice Chocolat Gingembre
T13-Lot A Trader Joe’s Organic Dark Chocolate
T13-Lot B Trader Joe’s Organic Dark Chocolate
T13-Lot C Trader Joe’s Organic Dark Chocolate
T14 Lake Champlain Dark Chocolate
T15 Simply Lite Dark Chocolate with Almonds
T16 Simply Lite Dark Chocolate
T17 PocoDolce Bittersweet with Sea Salt
T18 TCHO Purenotes 65% Cacao, Ecuador, Dark

IC1 Theo Chili 70% Dark
IC2 Sjaak’s Organic Dark Chocolate
IC3 Vosges Super Dark Pomegranate & Gogi
IC4 NibMor Mint 72% Cacao
IC5 NibMor Extreme 80% Cacao
IC6 Endangered Species Organic Dark 70%
IC7 Madre Triple Cacao; Dominican 70% Dark
IC8 Bixby Bar Whippersnapper 72% Dark Chocolate, walnuts, blueberries, black pepper
IC9 Ethereal Inclusion Chocolate Bar, 66% Cacao, Topped with Cayenne Pepper, Cacao Nibs & Cherries
IC10 Escazu 81% Single Origin Carenero Venezuela facility that handles milk products
IC11 Fearless Organic Deepest Dark, 85%

F1 Taza Chocolate
F2 Dark Chocolate Dream
F3 Gnosis Chocolate Simplicity 70% Raw Cacao
F4 Divvies Bingo Dark Chocolate
F5-Lot A Premium Chocolatier Milkless Dark Chocolate Semisweet
F5-Lot B Premium Chocolatier Milkless Dark Chocolate Semisweet
F6 Amore di Mona Chocolate
F7 Enjoy Life boom Chocoboom Dark
F8 Amanda’s Own Chocolate Bar
F9 Shufra Bittersweet Baking Bar
F10 Righteously Raw 80% Cacao Acai
F11 Ethereal Confections; 66% Cacao, Strawberries, Rose Petals, Pink Peppercorns
F12 Oskri Almond Dark Chocolate Bar
F13 Dandelion Chocolate 70% Mantuano, Venezuela

V1 Lulu’s Raw Love Chocolate 78%
V2 Righteously Raw Rose Bar Maqui & Banana & Toffee
V3 Righteously Raw Maca & Cacao
V4 Rescue Chocolate 66% Dark Chocolate

NS1 Lieber’s Bittersweet Chocolate
NS2 Lieber’s Semisweet Chocolate
NS3 Indulgence Chocolatiers
NS4 Lagusta’s Luscious
NS5 Scharffen Berger 70% Cacao Bittersweet Dark Chocolate
NS6 Mast Brothers Dark Chocolate 72% Cacao
NS7 Artisan Confections Bittersweet Bark with Candied ginger, toasted coconut & cocoa nibs
NS8 Black Mountain Chocolate; Dominican Bar 70% Cacao
NS9 Kohler Dark Chocolate Bar 55%
NS10 Dick Taylor Chocolate Ecuador Camino Verde
NS11 Olive and Sinclair Chocolate; Southern Artisan 75%
NS12 NuNu Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Jump on in

There’s a poster up at my synagogue which reads:


1 in 4 Jews is a carrier for at least
1 of 19 Jewish genetic diseases

Jewish genetic diseases are preventable. All it takes
is a simple blood test to find out if you are a carrier.

Yup. They’re also preventable by widening the gene pool. You know what does that? Being welcoming towards interfaith families.

To the thought leaders of the Conservative movement, intermarriage violates Jewish law. But life and health are more important than observing Jewish law, which is why we are required to violate the Sabbath to save a life, why we are not supposed to fast on Yom Kippur if it will make us ill, etc. Why is this different? Jewish genetic diseases are a solvable problem, which over half of Jews getting married today are already solving by marrying someone with different genetics. This should be celebrated!

So here’s my new poster text:


1 in 4 Jews is a carrier for at least
1 of 19 Jewish genetic diseases

Jewish genetic diseases are preventable. All it takes
is a larger gene pool, so let’s welcome interfaith families.

All fixed.

Friday, October 23, 2015

I paid for this back seat driver, so I want my money’s worth

Have you ever had some electronic equipment get bogged down over time? It happened to our Garmin, which after some years of use started to get slower and slower at giving directions. It started to tell us to turn after we had passed turns, instead of before the turn.

It’s mildly annoying when it happens to a Garmin, which you can replace. It’s more worrisome when it happens to your Subaru’s Eyesight system, which is a suite of safety software built into the car. One of the features is a lane departure warning, which beeps when it notices you cross a lane marker without having your turn signal on. Over the course of 10,000 miles, the Eyesight system gradually stopped noticing so often that we were crossing lane markers, and it wasn’t because we had suddenly become more precise drivers.

Around that time, Subaru posted a recall for the Eyesight system for an unrelated bug, and our Eyesight system got reinitialized. Hey, look, the lane departure warnings are back! This seems like good confirmation that the system had stopped working correctly over time.

But Subaru doesn’t seem to have any standardized testing approach for the lane departure system, so they have no way to verify with any precision what was happening. The dealer’s mechanic took it out for a test drive, and he got it to beep, so it must be fine. That’s not exactly comforting when you think about how complex the code must be for this system. And other parts of the suite of safety software are actually intended to change the speed of the car autonomously to avoid accidents, so it would be nice to both trust the software and verify that it’s working.

Someone needs to take a Subaru with Eyesight at 0 miles driven and compare its responsiveness to a Subaru with Eyesight at 20,000 miles driven since the last software reinstall or reinitialization. Try crossing a variety of stripes at different levels of wear or fade with both cars, and see whether both cars alert equally. We don’t expect the system to be perfect, but we do expect it to keep working the way it worked when it was new. And I hope that Subaru would not just expect the same, but would test that the system met their and our expectations. Self-driving cars will be a lot less fun if they only work correctly for a year or two.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Silence = EpiPen

As David’s parents, we need to communicate with other people about his life-threatening allergies. We need to tell people what his allergies are, and what the best steps are to keep him safe. We need to do this when people come to our house or when David goes to someone else’s house, when we leave David in someone else’s care, when we sit down at a restaurant, when we plan to share a meal with someone, and when David goes to school. Any failure on our part to do that is a risk to David’s life and health.

Yesterday the preschool director tried to tell us not to do that. She apparently feels she has the right to stop us from communicating with other parents about our son’s life-threatening allergies. That is wrong.

She can offer to help. She can provide us with contact info for other parents in the classroom. She can offer her advice and expertise as someone who regularly deals with the parents of 100 preschoolers about how best to communicate the necessary information. She can reinforce our message, and she can add her voice. She can offer to lend her voice of authority, and she can offer to substitute her voice of authority to better convey the needed message. Offer, not demand.

But she cannot try to silence us.

Leave aside her duty of care to the children in her preschool. Leave aside the fact that it is widespread practice for preschools themselves to communicate with parents about classroom allergies, and that she refuses to do that. That’s a separate failure.

When she tries to stop us from communicating with other parents about David’s life-threatening allergies, she raises the risks to David. She also makes us more reluctant to speak up about his allergies, which is the opposite of what every pediatrician and allergist and child psychologist recommends. That in turn makes it harder for us to teach David to speak up about his allergies himself, which every pediatrician and allergist and child psychologist will tell you is what David needs to learn to do in order to keep himself safe.

When other parents come to her with questions or doubts about David’s allergies, she has an obligation to either forcefully agree with our message or to ask those parents to talk with us directly (which is actually part of our message). If she contradicts our message, she is crossing the line from irresponsible to dangerous. She did not tell us how she actually responded to those parents, but her willingness to try to silence us does not inspire confidence.

I won’t be silenced when David’s life and health are at stake.

Lisa thinks we might have educated this preschool director, that she might have learned something from us. I hope that’s true. Because if it’s not true, I need to spend far too much time trying to find a new preschool for David and trying to find a new director for this preschool.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Not a good start to the second year of preschool

At the start of the school year, we spent hours crafting a letter from us to David’s classmates’ parents asking them to please be careful about tree nuts and mango at preschool to help keep David safe. (He is 3, and is unable to fully advocate for himself or keep himself safe.) We included all of our contact info, and we asked the preschool director for email addresses for the other parents so we could send it to them. She refused, and insisted on emailing it out herself. She didn’t send it out before the first full day of school, so we printed it out and asked the teacher to send it home with all the kids. Even if it had gone out by email, it seemed like a good idea to do it on paper as well, since email isn’t perfectly reliable.

The director finally emailed our letter to all of the parents after the second day of school had started, after we told her that we would have to remove David from the school until we knew the other parents had actually been contacted. She included our cover note asking her to send this out on our behalf.

Not a single other parent contacted us. No questions, no complaints, no reassurances, nothing.

Today the director told us that she had multiple other parents complain to her about our letter. The director was angry with us that we had sent a note to other parents without having her review it (the same note that she had reviewed and agreed to 2 weeks ago). She was also angry that “we” had put stickers about David’s name and allergies on various pieces of paper outside his classroom. Those were stickers we offered to the teacher in case she needed to label David’s possessions, the same stickers that we used on his possessions all of last year at this preschool, and that the teacher decided to plaster all over the place 2 weeks ago. The director, who prides herself on knowing everything that happens at the 7-classroom preschool, hadn’t noticed for 2 weeks, and had decided incorrectly that it must have been us doing it yesterday.

Back up a little. On the visit day before the first day of preschool, we heard the teacher tell other parents that there were no kids in the classroom with allergies. We had to vocally correct her, but many of the other parents had already left and we don’t know if the teacher had told them the same thing.

This was the same visit day where they refused to put David’s classroom EpiPen in the classroom with him that day. (Their broken protocol is to put it in the classroom after the visit day, before the first full day.)

When we asked the teacher in the first week of school for details about how they handled food in the classroom, the teacher responded by telling us to trust her.

When we asked the teacher on a different day about checking the lunches of the kids sitting next to David, she told us that she doesn’t have to because she knows that every parent was told about David’s allergies, and besides the school is peanut-free. (Peanut is not one of David’s allergies, so that doesn’t actually convince me that she even knows what his allergies are.) And she repeated that I was supposed to just trust her instead of asking any questions.

Yesterday, as part of a 2.5-hour appointment with the doctor who heads the Boston Children’s Hospital food allergy program, we reviewed with that doctor what we guessed were the necessary classroom protocols to keep David safe (hand-washing, checking lunches of adjacent kids, etc.). He added some things we hadn’t ever thought of, and we typed it all up and gave it to the director this morning. She blew a fuse, telling us that she didn’t trust the list because it wasn’t signed by the doctor, that the school did everything required by the state, that she couldn’t possibly do everything on the list, and finally decided that they already did everything on the list. She listened as we tried to explain that we can’t know what they do or don’t do on that list if they don’t tell us, that the teacher had been substituting demands of “trust me” for actually telling us what they do in the classroom, and that the teacher had specifically said that they were not doing some of the things on the list. She then dragged the teacher into the office to have the teacher reassure us about what they actually do in the classroom, and the teacher was very concerned that we had not simply trusted her.

It’s the same director as last year, when the school seemed to have perfectly good protocols and good communication and well-trained teachers. Every school year is different, apparently. And while I’m sure we finally have the director and the teacher paying attention, it now appears we have classroom parents who are deeply offended by someone else having life-threatening allergies. As if this is something we chose.

There are a huge number of people who complain bitterly about their child being deprived of the right to eat whatever they want wherever they want, just because of some other child’s silly life-threatening allergy. It's an astonishing level of self-absorption and self-centeredness. It’s disturbing that we have some of those people as fellow parents in David’s very small class, but we’re unlikely to fully escape them anywhere we go. We were just lucky last year.

Do we start over at a new preschool, pulling David away from all his friends, hoping that a new preschool will behave better and have more civilized fellow parents? A new preschool will have more parents, none of whom know David or us, and an entirely new set of communication challenges. And it will take us a long time to learn whether it’s actually a good fit for David socially and intellectually, which this preschool was last year.

This is all exhausting. It should have been one conversation at the start of the school year, with the school then communicating with the other parents and the teacher telling us exactly what protocols they follow around food. Instead it’s been an endless struggle, and that’s baffling.