Too Rotten to Drink?

- - posted in Ancient Archives

My local healthfood grocers Eighth Day are no longer selling Innocent smoothies as a result of Coca Cola buying a large share in the company. The sellout to Coca Cola and resulting boycott are a big disappointment to me, as I was an almost daily consumer of Innocent drinks until today.

Innocent’s generally ethical stance is a stark contrast to Coca Cola’s: doing business with a company that sells rubbish like Coke is one thing, but when a company is involved in the murders of rivals and trade unionists… that’s not pragmatism, that’s complicity.

The decline in the quality of Green and Blacks chocolate following their ‘merger’ with Cadburys shows what else can go wrong. The post-Cadburys Green and Blacks ‘vegan’ chocolate ended up with enough milk in it to make people will dairy allergies ill, so they’ve now abandoned claiming it’s vegan. I’ve read unsubstantiated claims that this is due to machines no longer being cleaned out between production runs of different products in order to boost profits.

The silver lining (chocolate wrapper?) of the Green and Blacks sellout was that Montezuma’s far superior chocolate filled the niche. I’m hopeful that something similar will happen with the niche Innocent have abandoned.

Update: Green and Blacks have sent me an email saying that although their dark chocolate’s packaging lost the ‘vegan’ label and gained milk on the ingredients, the actual recipe didn’t change following Cadburys ownership - what changed was a more cautious policy regarding traces of milk from previous production runs. They plan to produce proper vegan choc in the future. I’ve asked if I can reproduce their email here as a comment.

(I do sometimes eat choc that’s labelled vegan and has warnings of possible trace amounts of milk, because ‘traces’ implies incredibly small amounts - I think the appearance of milk on the ingredients list gives the impression of much larger amounts. Restaurant plates may have traces, but I wouldn’t eat a meal containing it as an ingredient.)

Here’s the email (comments are locked now…)

Dear Pete,
Your blog at has recently been brought to my attention and I hope you don’t mind me taking this opportunity to address your comments about Green & Black’s recent changes to the dairy allergen and vegan labelling of our dark chocolate products.

I would like to assure you that there has been no change to the recipe of our dark chocolate; the change is simply in the way in which the risks of dairy cross contamination are being communicated on bar wrappers. I will outline the background behind this decision below:

As you may be aware, there are no milk ingredients in the recipe of our Dark chocolate bars and this continues to be the case. However, the bars are produced on the same production line as Milk chocolate bars within our range. The bars have previously, therefore, carried the following statement to reflect this: ‘Manufactured in a factory that handles dairy ingredients.’

A recent audit revealed that traces of milk residues can still be found on manufacturing equipment despite intensive cleaning. Therefore, in order to ensure that consumers are at minimum risk, our allergen statements will be changed and we will clearly state on pack that milk residues may be present in dark chocolate bars across the range. This will be indicated by the inclusion of ‘Organic Whole Milk Powder’ within the ingredients list itself and a ‘Contains Milk Ingredient’ statement on pack. The Vegan labelling was also consequently removed from pack, as you have noted.

Therefore, there is actually no change to the risk to allergy-sufferers as the recipes and ingredients that go into the making of the bars have not changed. What we are now clearly stating on pack is that we cannot guarantee the absence of milk. It is almost certainly going to be present – albeit at a low level. This packaging change ensures that consumers, especially milk allergy sufferers, are aware of the possibility and this represents a positive step in consumer communication.

We are eager to inform consumers of this change to prevent any possible concern that may arise. Therefore, this information is displayed clearly on our website at and we have been working with organisations such as Allergy UK, the Anaphylaxis Campaign and the Vegan Society to ensure that this may be clearly communicated to allergy sufferers and vegans alike.

Separate dedicated lines for our dark and milk chocolate bars would be the only way to eliminate the risks of dairy cross contamination in the dark chocolate. At present, the restrictions for organic segregation and the design of plant we need for our type of chocolate restricts the availability of equipment. We are very certain however that we must work towards alternative equipment and we are planning to provide a dedicated production line by the end of 2009. Our hope is that we can make product available early in 2010.

I hope that this information, along with the attached FAQ’s and image of the new labelling, is of some help to you to further clarify our position.

<<Milk allergy FAQs.doc>> <<Image of new labelling Dark 85%.doc>>
However, if you have any further queries or comments at all, please do not hesitate to contact me again. Green & Black’s also intend to update any consumers concerned about this issue to inform them of our updated position when the separate lines are up and running- if you would like to be contacted at this time, please do let me know and I will gladly add you to the list.

Kind Regards

Laura Bowyer
Customer Care Manager
Green & Black’s