These cakes do not contain dairy cream …

… but they do contain dairy!

If you follow me on Facebook you may recall last month I posted a picture of the labelling behind a packet of Cadbury’s Mini Rolls, with highlighted bold text reading “THESE CAKES DO NOT CONTAIN DAIRY CREAM”.

Milk, however, was clearly widely present in the product – as can be seen, several ingredients are milk-based – so this product was no friend to any milk-sensitive consumer. But could the message lead someone to make a mistake – perhaps not a clued-up food allergy mum, but a less practised grandfather, aunt or family friend?

As you can see from the Facebook responses, prominent allergy advocates were concerned. Nathalie of The Intolerant Gourmand thought it “dreadful labelling”. Vicky at Most Marvellous Baking said “makes no sense at all” and “What an extraordinary thing to put on the packaging”. “Misleading” chorused several others. I agreed, and was urged to contact the manufacturers – which I did.

It took a while, but after a bit of chasing I have finally received a response from Premier Foods – and I’m pleased to say it’s extremely considered. I’ll reproduce it virtually in full below:

We appreciate the question being asked, and believe it is the unintended consequence of addressing two separate regulatory requirements.

The inclusion of the statement has as its basis a long standing regulatory requirement around product composition – quite distinct from allergen labelling. The statement has been present for many years and pre-dates when we started making Cadbury cakes.

It has its origins with specific regulations designed to protect the ‘passing off’ of dairy products and protect consumers from being mislead as to the composition of products.

With regard to cream or crème there is a specific legal definition for cream which requires the use of dairy fat, which is not present in mini roll filling. The use of the term crème on mini rolls was originated by Cadbury when they manufactured the product. It was qualified on pack by the phrase “These product do not contain dairy cream” which we still use when the term crème appears on pack.

Whilst we note the point you make, as the accompanying photo shows the product is described as ‘Chocolate flavoured sponge with a vanilla crème filling, covered in milk chocolate’.  Furthermore, the ingredient list – which is recognised in the regulations as the ‘go to’ place for allergen information – includes four references to the presence of milk or ingredients derived from milk.

On balance, taking the presentation as a whole, the likelihood of the product being considered ‘dairy free’ is low.

However, we do recognise that the presence of the statement prompted your enquiry and we are open to the idea of exploring the options of presenting this information differently.

So, in a nutshell, the non-dairy cream (i.e. creme) must be declared as such to avoid misrepresentation – but as Premier Foods say, they’re willing to consider other options.

For me, I guess the obvious solution is to incorporate the non-dairy declaration into the list of ingredients – “vanilla flavour non-dairy creme”, I think, would do the trick – and remove the prominent ‘DO NOT CONTAIN DAIRY CREAM’ statement.

What do you think?

7 Comments

  1. Lucy Parr

    This is the most misleading information. Whilst some of us are used to scrutinising ingredient lists, most people have a cursory glance – this bold highlighted statement is enough to make people buy it thinking it is free from milk. This is putting people’s lives in danger and it must be changed

    Reply
    1. Vicky

      Far be it from me to challenge the response of a large and well-established food manufacturer, but I would question the bit about the ‘product composition regulations.’

      As far as I understand the law surrounding this (which is born in part from recent conversations with my local trading standards department to make sure I was getting my labelling right for a new product I was developing)…

      You cannot use the name of a recognised ingredient in a product if your product doesn’t actually contain that ingredient. For example, you can’t call a product a ‘strawberry and cream cake’ if it doesn’t contain both strawberries and cream. If it is merely ‘flavours of’ in your cake – and these flavours have not been derived entirely or mostly from the raw ingredient (e.g. strawberries or cream), then you must say ‘strawberry and cream flavour cake’.

      A product must also be given a name that is descriptive of the product, accurate and easy for the consumer to understand.

      So in the case of the mini roll, it does not claim to include cream but rather ‘creme’ so it complies with the regulations above and there is no requirement (that I can see) to qualify the meaning of product descriptors. So unless I am mistaken, it is something that Cadbury chose to put on the packaging rather than being required to.

      The bit in Premier Foods’ response which says that…’the statement has been present for many years and pre-dates when we started making Cadbury cakes’ is one of those infuriating statements that gives no consideration to whether it is: (a) the right way (b) the best way or (c) the way that is most beneficial to the end user/consumer!

      But it does look like they are open to suggestions on updating the packaging and yours sounds like a clear and simple suggestion, Alex 🙂

      Reply
      1. Alex G (Post author)

        Very interesting – thanks Vicky. I’ll let my contact know about this.

        Reply
    2. Alex G (Post author)

      It sounds like they’re open to reviewing this, and I think the strength of feeling – both here and on Facebook – means that they should at least give it some very serious thought.

      Reply
  2. Vicky

    As additional food for thought, I wonder if the best thing would be to remove that qualifying statement and leave the ingredients list as it is. After all, the ingredients of the ‘vanilla flavour creme’ are listed after it (as they are required to be) and I wonder if the most confusing thing about this is the appearance at all of the words ‘dairy-free’ in a product that is not dairy-free?

    Reply
  3. Sophie

    I think the labelling presents a very high risk of misunderstanding for those with milk allergy.

    The packaging should simply state in the ingredient listing what the cream filling is made from.

    Remove the prominently highlighted box that risks drawing the less experienced eye away from the important information regarding milk in the ingredients.

    Worst bit of packaging I think I’ve ever seen@

    Reply
    1. Alex G (Post author)

      I do agree that the highlight block statement pulls the eye away from the list of ingredients. I know the cardinal rule is ‘always read the ingredients’ but, as you say, ‘the less experienced’ ….

      Reply

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