Written by: Marcus Adams
Christmas, Easter and birthdays are surely the most exciting times for a child, and one of the main reasons is the bounty of chocolate. Memorable events in childhood are marked with an endless confectionery-conveyor-belt of selection boxes, Easter Eggs and birthday cakes – but what happens if your child is allergic to dairy products, wheat, eggs or nuts? They will surely miss out on such delights, and even feel resentful, so how do you fill an Easter egg-shaped hole without filling them with harmful additives?
As the amount of people with allergies grows, finding alternatives to such delectable snacking becomes even more important. The British Allergy Foundation says at least 20% of the population has a dairy or wheat allergy, although this figure could be as high as 45%. The reason this figure is so vague is because there is no official record of how many people have allergies. And it is believed that food-intolerance is on the increase because humans are coming into contact with many more food products nowadays, and our bodies do not know how to respond to them.
If your child has a lactose or milk intolerance, trying to find a dairy-free Easter egg or selection box can be difficult. This problem also applies to vegans and vegetarians – the main supermarkets cater to the masses, and the specialist shelves tend to be stocked with a miniscule variety. And not only is the choice smaller than the toy inside a Kinder Surprise, but the product itself is boring, thanks to dark , unimaginative wrappers, and simple shapes.
Kids want colour, pizzazz, novelty and fun when they open chocolate – it’s all part of the experience. No child’s face has ever lit up when presented with an austere slab of allergy-free chocolate, enclosed in brown ‘eco-cardboard.’
This is where the Internet comes in handy. With a little research, you can find many companies offering dairy-free and wheat-free chocolate, and they’re targeted at kids too. Nowadays, you can find anything from cute Easter Bunnies to decorated eggs to assortment boxes, packed with high quality dairy-free chocolates that even a non-allergy sufferer would find difficult to resist.
Bad news for those with a wheat intolerance – many chocolates are made with gluten – a protein derived from wheat. This is used as a thickening agent, and helps bind it together. Finding appetising wheat-free chocolate in the supermarket can be difficult, but online, one can find a veritable selection box of coeliac-friendly choccies, in all manner of shapes, flavours and prices.
Decent dark chocolate is supposedly dairy-free, although some manufacturers still sneak dairy ingredients into their products. Also, some chocolate may be labelled as milk free, but it can still contain other animal products, and more often than not, wheat. Any chocolate that has the words MILK POWDER on the ingredient list should be avoided. And although a chocolate may be dairy-free, there is still a chance it was manufactured in a non-dairy-free environment. For those with extreme allergies and intolerances, always be aware of the risk of cross contamination. Certain brands are manufactured in a totally dairy-free environment, and once again, a little internet research will, if you’ll excuse the pun, reveal the cream of the crop.