A few weeks ago, I picked up a pricey, but tasty and safe-looking bar of chocolate called MarieBelle New York – specifically, the Dark Mayan Chocolate, no sugar added flavor. Although I’ll eat some cheaper brands if I’ve got a chocolate craving going on, I prefer the more expensive chocolates as they tend to be smoother, tastier, and I can satisfy my cravings with a nibble instead of an entire bar — so the treat also lasts much longer. (I still have some Easter bunnies, for example!)
This is how the allergen statement reads: This product is manufactured in a facility that processes peanuts, tree nuts and milk.
But, always the cautious eater, I decided to look the company up first, and discovered they also made chocolates with gluten-full cookie bits in them. Well… maybe they make them in a separate facility, then, since the allergen statement did not mention anything about wheat or any other form of gluten. So I wrote and asked.
Here’s the reply I received on July 26, 2012:
Hi Gluten Free & Tasty!,
Our chocolate is Manufactured in a facility which handles peanuts wheat tree nuts and milk. While the maya bar is gluten free meaning it has no wheat as an ingredient, we have a kitchen in the same facility where we make our pastries.
Imagine my surprise (and relief of not having opened this chocolate) that WHEAT was in the list of the shared facility, when it was not included on the label!
This is my reply:
Thank you for your response. I am very curious to know why the bar I have does not list wheat then in the “manufactured in a facility with” list. It includes peanuts, tree nuts, and milk. But not wheat… but you’re saying that wheat is also present in the facility. In fact, the store I bought it from had several of your bar flavors, and none of them listed wheat, which is why I figured it was safe. I’m glad I double-checked!
That is exactly what got me glutened the last time — cross contamination from a company that had wheat in the facility but did not list it for some reason. It took me over a year to recover. I’m very glad I did not eat this expensive $7.00 candy bar now! It looks delicious — too bad it will have to go in the trash.
I sincerely hope and ask that you will update your labels — and have the current products recalled for misinformation, before a lot of gluten intolerant people become very sick. Flour lingers in the air for a long time and will easily contaminate everything – not just food, but the tools used to make the food. You need to list all allergens in your shared kitchen, not just some of them. When cross contamination occurs, you can’t truly call a product gluten free, and doing so can and does have serious repercussions for many consumers.
Gluten Free & Tasty!
I responded the morning I received the reply to my original question. I received a read receipt . . . but never received a reply. I feel that it has been long enough now that they could have responded to me in some fashion. Therefore, I am blogging this as a warning. I’ve only seen this chocolate in a few stores so far, but I strongly recommended that anyone who needs to be gluten free does not eat this chocolate.
Their contact info is at the bottom of their site: http://www.mariebelle.com/
Please join me in asking them to properly label their candy. They need to list all allergens, not just the ones they feel like – – especially since wheat is one of the top 8 allergens.
I will be sharing this post with MarieBelle. If they agree to do the responsible thing and recall all their mislabeled bars and print new labels for all future bars, I will post a new update alerting you to this fact. However, as long as they continue to use shared facilities, I still have to recommend that people who are allergic and/or intolerant do not consume this product unless they get certified for less than 5ppm.
And even then, as long as it continues to be a shared facility, it’s not really safe. Accidents happen all the time. I don’t know about the CSA, but the GIG certification is an annual process. But a lot can happen in between the initial certification and each annual follow-up. (And that’s only for products; GIG doesn’t certify facilities.)
If they’re relying only on their own in-house testing in between…? Fox meet Hen house.
Or, you may be okay to eat the shared line/shared facility product once a week. But more than that, you may start reacting, but by then, it won’t be an immediate reaction and you’ll have a really hard time tracking down what made you sick. If you are asymptomatic (“silent Celiac Disease”), you’ll have damage to the villi if your intestines but not have any gastrointestinal issues. You may have other symptoms, like fatigue, or itching, but that can be a lot harder to pin down on food.
Why take a chance on shared lines or a shared facility? Did you know flour can hang in the air for some time before it settles on pretty much every surface in your kitchen? Don’t believe me? Find a friend with black appliances who is willing to let you bake/cook with your choice of flour. Ask them not to wipe anything down for a day or two. Then go back to find a fine film of powder on all the dark surfaces. I see it in my own kitchen all of the time.
Many companies tell me they follow GMP – Good Manufacturing Practices to clean shared equipment/shared facility between gluten-full and gluten-free product lines. I want to know how they’re cleaning 100% of the flour out of the air?
Have I eaten products from shared facilities / shared lines? Yup. When I was first learning, I was much less cautious. Not so much now. I will consider a shared facility if the production lines and kitchens are thoroughly sealed off from each other. A moment of pleasure from food is not worth hours, weeks, or months of illness and recovery time. (And in my experience, each time I’ve been glutened since going gluten free? It gets worse and worse. Stronger and more painful each time.)
Update: I posted this on August 10, 2012. It is September 18, 2017, and I have yet to hear from them. Not even an acknowledgement of my e-mail.
Update 8 October 2020: Their website lists wheat in the may contain statement. I do not know if they ever updated the packaging (which of course, is the only thing many people look at before they eat something – we have to be able to trust labeling, and for far too many ‘gluten free’ foods, we still can’t!).