WEDNESDAY, Feb. 11, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Some boxes of scrumptious dark chocolate given to sweethearts on Valentine's Day might contain milk -- a hidden danger for those allergic to dairy products.
A new study conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration revealed that many dark chocolate products contained milk, but didn't say so on their labels.
"This can be a problem, since even one small bite of a product containing milk can cause a dangerous reaction in some individuals," researcher Binaifer Bedford said in an agency news release issued Wednesday.
The FDA team tested 100 dark chocolate bars. They found that those labeled as being dairy- or allergen-free were least likely to contain milk, but even two of those 17 products did contain some milk.
All seven dark chocolate bars that declared the presence of milk on their labels contained milk, but so did 55 (59 percent) of the 93 bars without any clear indication of the presence of milk, the FDA said.
Six out of the eleven dark chocolate bars that declared having "traces of milk" actually contained milk levels high enough to potentially cause severe reactions in some people, the agency added.
The dark chocolate bars were bought in different regions of the country, and each bar was unique in terms of the product line and/or manufacturer.
According to the FDA, a chocolate maker may not intend to include milk in a dark chocolate product, but if the product is made with equipment also used to make milk chocolate products, then traces of milk may accidentally end up in the dark chocolate, Bedford explained.
People who are allergic to milk need to know that a high number of dark chocolate bars contain milk.
"And because consumers can't be sure that a statement about milk is completely accurate, they may want to contact the manufacturer to find out how it controls for allergens such as milk during production," Bedford said.
Labels on packaged foods must provide information about the manufacturer, packer or distributor. Another resource for consumers is the Food Allergy Research & Education website.
Consumers who want to report undeclared allergens in food products can go to the FDA's MedWatch website or contact the agency's consumer complaint coordinator in their state.
Food Allergy Research & Education Inc. has more about milk allergy.