Free From Heaven magazine has announced a competition to win a Hotel Chocolat ‘No gluten recipe gift box’. They say:
Indulge your sweet tooth this Christmas with a luxurious hamper filled with gluten-free* chocolates.
Follow that asterisk to the footnote and we find:
* Please note this hamper is not safe for coeliacs as the products come with a may-contain warning.
Perfectly reasonable questions from coeliacs followed this announcement. As Adele pointed out, while coeliacs themselves generally have their wits about them and would avoid this hamper, well-meaning but unaware relatives could easily buy this for family members this Christmas. Why promote such a product in a free from context?
Sharing this competition on Twitter, the magazine used the #glutenfree hashtag. I, and others, objected, because while the magazine clearly is not a ‘coeliac’ brand (as they pointed out), I feel they have a moral duty to honour the now legally protected ‘gluten free’ term for the sake of coeliac readers.
They saw sense, apologised, and deleted the tweet.
But they’ve done us a favour regardless, because this episode has shone a light on Hotel Chocolat’s shameless lip service towards free from.
Let’s look at the evidence. On Hotel Chocolat’s ‘The No Gluten Recipe Gift Box‘ page, they say:
At Hotel Chocolat we believe everyone should be able to include top-quality chocolate at the heart of a healthy lifestyle. This gorgeous selection is the perfect gift for any chocolate lover following a gluten-restricted diet, we have included our favourite wheat free chocolates.
On the product’s ingredients page, this:
we emphasise that all chocolates are made in a factory that handles tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, milk and soya and therefore may contain traces.
Here’s what is wrong with these statements:
1/ Should chocolate be at the ‘heart’ of a healthy lifestyle, or somewhere on the periphery? I think, HC, we need to be looking at things such as exercise, sleep, vegetables, whole grains etc to feature at the core of our well-being, don’t you?
2/ Coeliacs follow a ‘gluten-restricted’ diet, yet this product may contain traces of wheat — anything but a ‘perfect gift’, in my book …
3/ Chocolates which may contain traces of wheat aren’t likely to be ‘wheat free chocolates’, HC. If someone puts this claim to laboratory testing, you could be in trouble.
4/ ‘Everyone’ should be able to enjoy your chocolate, you claim. For clarity, that’s everyone except coeliacs, wheat allergics, tree nut allergics, peanut allergics, milk allergics, soya allergics and some vegans, yes?
Free From Heaven’s promotion of this is a shame, but hardly surprising to me, given their track record. Frankly, given that finding ‘no allergen ingredient’ chocolate with ‘may contain traces’ warnings is roughly on a par with finding hay in a haystack, they may as well run a competition for Cadbury’s.
But our main criticism should be reserved for Hotel Chocolat, who are happy to indulge the faddery of paleo, who pay lip service to the free from community — but when it comes down to it, have precious little to offer its most important members.
Postscript: As of today, 5th December, Free From Heaven Magazine’s offer now reads ‘wheat free chocolates’ rather than ‘gluten free chocolates’ — thereby replacing one inaccuracy with another, and implying they may be safe for those with wheat allergy.
Postscript II: As of today, 7th December, Free From Heaven Magazine have deleted the page which carried the competition.
If you want to support genuinely free-from chocolate this Christmas, here are 10 brand suggestions:
Brontie and Co — free from all 14 allergens
Cocoa Libre — free from all allergens except soya (lecithin).
D&D Chocolates – Chocolate and carob confectionary, free of nuts, dairy, gluten.
Essy & Bella — bars and kids’ shapes, free from all 14 allergens.
iQ Chocolate — ‘superfood’ chocolate, free from all 14 allergens.
Kinnerton — nut free chocolate.
Moo Free — of the allergens, contain / may contain hazelnuts only.
Nut Free Chocolate People — chocolate without nuts or nuts traces
Nut Free Chox — artisinal nut free chocolate.
Ombar – of the allergens, contains / may contain tree nuts only.