Monday, 25 November 2013

Oo! Ah! Christmas Chocolat! 2013

Wow! Only a week to go before the Advent countdown begins. I'm so not ready, how about you??

As a result, it means that I'm a bit behind on the chocolate front (apart from on Face Book & Twitter, where I've tried to keep folks abreast of new developments), but here, finally, is my post for this year! I've started with the higher end of the market, but don't worry - I think there's something for almost everyone here!

Hotel Chocolat I think The Hub is pretty amazing anyway, but last Christmas, as far as I'm concerned, he did rather well. For Advent he bought me this Advent calendar from Hotel Chocolat. 

One for the grown-ups!
It was not just any advent calendar, but a classy, smooth, sophisticated calendar. For this year's version see hereDefinitely one for the grown-ups, it contains: '24 fabulous Christmas sculptures!!' There's a price to pay for this quality of chocolate though - it's £12.50!

Hotel Chocolat's dark chocolate, is made with soya lecithin (most people allergic to soya are okay with soya lecithin, but not all). Their chocolate may contain traces of tree nuts and peanuts but it should be okay for most of the dairy free. They warn that their chocolate 'may contain milk', but we've not suffered any adverse reactions that I've been aware of, and 'Baby'' quite sensitive - that said don't just take my word for it, if at all concerned - avoid, avoid, avoid! 

But there's more to chocolate at Christmas than Advent calendars, right?

At Easter, Hotel Chocolat produced some 'Tiddly Chicks,' but for Christmas, here we have some Tiddly Penguins. 

The penguins are back!
Personally, I think they look a little bit like the scary penguin in the Wallace and Grommit film, The Wrong Trousers, but Baby seemed quite taken with this little chap. Mind you, he was made of chocolate!!

There are eight little penguins in the box, which cost £5.50. This year, Hotel Chocolat have also produced some chilli-flavoured penguins - the chilli might keep 'Baby' off my chocolate!! Though these are a little more costly - priced £7.00!!

Don't think anything will keep her from this jolly little chap, though! Who has returned, after last year, priced £2.50. Good stocking filler, but a big big for 'Baby' to eat all in one go - would make for some interesting nappies, if she did!!

Anyone for Rudolph?
New to Hotel Chocolat this year, is this little pillow pack of Santas (GRRR! Father Christmas, to me). For £2.50. Also a good stocking filler, methinks!

Montezuma's is another chocolate brand which is slowly spreading across the south. Similarly, they have produced a dark chocolate Advent calendar, see here. Again, their chocolate 'may contain...' but 'Baby' has survived eating a few of their dark chocolate turtles, so I think we're OK, but may need more trialling to be sure. I only tried them, because the shop assistant's kids are cow's milk protein intolerant and have been okay and because the shop assistant's seemed quite knowledgeable about the way in which they're made! 

Montezuma's Advent calendar is slightly cheaper than Hotel Chocolat's, priced at £9.99, and can be purchased from their stores, and online via their website or Amazon.

Meanwhile, Montezuma's also have some chocolate snowmen! 

I make it eight in a box... for the moment! :)
Priced £4.99 for a rather larger pack of eight, but you can buy three for £14, if you're buying in bulk. Bit too bulky for 'Baby's' stocking methinks, but maybe mine?? :)

Moo Free
Sweeter tooths may prefer the cheaper, more 'milky' chocolate calendars, such as that of Moo Free chocolates. Their Advent calendars are sold through various Health Food shops and online, at Love Lactose Free Life, Free From for Kids, Tasha's Dairy Free Delights and Amazon (prices vary).

Moo Free chocolate, by the way, is definitely free from all dairy and wheat/gluten. It is not made with soya, but may contain traces of soya. 

One for 'Baby' and one for...  me??
I've already bought 'Baby' one of these Moo Free chocolate Santas as they were such a success last year. Without the cardboard packaging this year, they are available at Waitrose.

Choices - by Celctic Chocolates
Meanwhile, Celtic Chocolates 'Choices' dairy free, gluten free Advent calendars can be found in Sainsbury's Free From section, along with a selection of other Christmas goodies, as well!
Plenty for everyone!
Celtic Chocolates are made with soya lecithin.

Currently, the chocolate coins can be bought at £2.50 for two packs. The Advent calendars are £2.49 and the selection nets are pried at £2.99

Holland and Barrett
Holland and Barrett have stocked 'Choices' before, but this year produced their own, which is dairy free, gluten and nut free! 

Larger than many free from Advent calendars!
Larger than many dairy free calendars, let's hope that the chocolates inside are too! These now cost £3.19. AND there is 20% off most of their range of Christmas free from goodies at the mo, so head on down there!

If you very are specifically dairy, soya, nut free and trying to avoid sugar, you may prefer to look out for Plamil. They produced an Advent calendar along with these chocolate snowmen. Plamil products are harder to find, but some health food shops sell them and they can be bought online too.

Enough to share?
I've not bought them before, but thought I might give them a go this year, so opted for the snowmen from our health food shop.

And last but not least, don't forget to check out:

D & D Chocolates! They have loads of their own novelty chocolates available, including some Christmas tree decorations (I couldn't find any, last year)! All their chocolate is dairy, gluten and nut free. AND if you can't have chocolate, they make carob too!

Well, I think that's my tour of the dairy free chocolate, for this year. If you're struggling to find them locally, check out our online recommendations as well as Vegan sites, such as Alternative Stores. Do drop us a line if you know more, meanwhile, here are a few of our other posts on a similar theme:

Oo! Ah! Chocolat!
Oo! Ah! Christmas Chocolat! (2012)
Zero Zebra dairy free chocolate

Saturday, 23 November 2013

So where do you go, when you need Dairy Free, Nut Free Dairy Alternatives?

If you are one of those who are affected the the changes that Alpro are making (all their dairy free products will soon have to carry a 'may contain nuts' warning) you may be wondering what other products you can try. 

I've been doing a little research and have compiled a list of products. I cannot say how good they are as I'm not an expert in nutrition and everyone's tastes vary, so we will make no value judgements, as such, however this list may just give you somewhere to start.

Dairy Free, Nut Free Milks For Very Young Children

The bad news? At the moment, Alpro's Soya Plus 1 is the only dairy free alternative, available to buy, that up to now, has been recommended by medical professionals as a main milk drink - although others can be used in cooking. This is unless your child is allergic to soya, of course. It worries me that the only future alternative (once Alpro changes its manufacturing procedures) may perhaps be a hypoallergenic formula - for which you will need a prescription from your doctor, as they come with a hefty price tag!

We've relied on this
I have heard that there may be another product in the pipeline, but things are as yet at a very early stage, so don't pin your hopes on it, just yet!

Dairy Free, Nut Free Milks For Older Children and Adults

Koko coconut milk is dairy free, soya free and nut free. It is enriched with calcium and it's original milk is also enriched with vitamins D2 and B12. It is widely available from supermarkets and is nut free. This is what they told me in confirmation of this: 

Our product it’s self  is completely nut free, coconut is a tree fruit and there are no nut based ingredients added. Also the factory where we produce Koko Dairy Free is a nut free site, no nut products are produced at the site.

The nice thing about Koko, is that their milk now comes in three flavours: original, strawberry and chocolate. They also come in smaller packs which are suitable for lunchboxes.

Also widely available from supermarkets, Oatly oat milk is dairy free, soya free as well as nut free. Regarding nuts, they say:

I am pleased to confirm that all the products under the Oatly brand are nut and egg free and the factories where the products are manufactured, do not handle any nuts on site or make any other products where nuts are present.

Apart from the Organic version, it is enriched with calcium.  Although Oatly consider themselves 'low gluten', it will not be suitable for you/your child if you/they are intolerant to gluten or have coeliac disease.See here.

My Dairy Free Dream
Have to admit I steered away from My Dairy Free Dream in the beginning. I thought all they made was rice milk and I had been told to avoid rice milk, as I was breastfeeding. Rice milk is not usually considered suitable as a main milk drink for children under the age of 4.5 years (unless there are multiple allergies involved and there is nothing else to use).

Now, however, they've expanded their range, to include other types of milk. Despite the fact that they are now making Almond and Hazelnut milk, the rest of their range is nut free and all except Hazelnut are gluten free. I love this page that they have on their website, which shows clearly what their products are free from. I sincerely wish all companies would follow this example and be as transparent about their products.

Tesco Organic Sweetened Longlife Soya Milk
This dairy free milk I first heard of through Louise Jones of Nutmums. See here. However, being organic, it will not be enriched with calcium.

Waitrose Soya Milk
Fortified with calcium, I hear from Two Baby Foxes on Twitter that this has been recommended by their allergy nurse - who told them it was almost as good as the Alpro Plus One. It is, however, still lower in energy and therefore not recommended as a main milk drink for children below the age of two. 

Two Baby Foxes was kind enough to inquire about this one for me, and Waitrose confirmed that their milk is indeed nut free and is currently processed in a nut free facility. Let's hope that this is to continue - I'm not keen on the use of the word 'currently,' in case that means that they too, like Alpro, may change! 

Relatively new to the UK market, Vivesoy sell a range of flavoured soya drinks. They are available in most large supermarkets alongside the other long life dairy free milks. According to their FAQ page on their website, all their drinks are fortified with 120mg of calcium per 100 ml - basically 15% of your RDA. 

Vivesoy have announced (via Twitter) that they are (and intend to remain) nut free. Huzzah!!!

Good Hemp Milk
Hemp milk has many fans, because it has lots of good attributes. This brand is another that we have reviewed in the past. See here, if you're interested in what I thought.

This milk is dairy, soya and nut free. They say:

All of our products are completely nut-free and do not come into contact with nuts at any stage of processing. 

It is fairly widely available in large supermarkets, Holland and Barrett and independent health food shops.

Dairy Free Nut Free Yoghurt

Wot no dairy?
This dessert is made with pea protein and is enriched with calcium. It is dairy free and soya free as well as nut free. They say:

Wot no Dairy? Yoghurts are produced on a nut free site, and that the ingredients have a nut free statement too!

These desserts come in five flavours (cherry, raspberry, strawberry, plain and peach and apricot). They can be obtained most easily from Holland and Barrett, although health food shops tend to stock them too. They are long life and the pot is just the right size for a lunch-box. 

Just right for a lunch box!

They are enriched with calcium (270mg per 100g). Please read our blog post, for more information.

Another product we have previously reviewed. See here. It is a dairy, gluten, soya and nut free product, made from coconut. They say:

Our natural yoghurt is made with just 3 ingredients and none of these come into contact with nuts; our factory is a nut free environment, we do not produce anything with nuts in it... We believe very strongly in preparing our product in an allergen free environment...

The pots are a little large for a lunch box, and can be bought from many health food stores, as well as through Ocado. 

Co-yo is only made from three ingredients and is sugar free. They tell us that it contains 14mcg of calcium per 100g of yoghurt. As such it is not fortified, but they may do so in the future. Because it is made from coconut, I have been advised that Co-yo will contain saturated fats, about which one ought to be careful.

These yoghurts are made from soya. They are dairy, egg, gluten and nut free. They say:

We can confirm, that the recipes for our sojagurts don`t contain any milk, eggs, nuts or gluten.
Our sojagurts, however, are produced in a factory that also handles milk, cereals containing gluten and nuts. To reduce the risk of cross-contamination to the technological minimum appropriate measures are taken, for example cleaning of equipment. The success of the measures are verified by accurate controls, for example each batch is tested for milk protein.

They are a nice size for a lunch box, come in a couple of flavour and can be bought from the chilled aisle in Sainsbury's. Concerning calcium, they told me:

Our Joya soya base for the soyagurts contains ca. 20mg / 100 ml, which is 2,5% of the daily requirement of calcium.

New kid on the block

Dairy Free Nut Free Cream

Please note: none of these appear to be enriched with calcium.

The cream, like the milk is made with oats. It is similar to single cream, can be used in cooking and is widely available from supermarkets but unfortunately it is not enriched with calcium.

This cream is made from soya or rice or coconut, depending on which product you buy. It comes in several forms, variously suitable for whipping or in a spray can. It is dairy free and does not contain any nut ingredients. Soyatoo tell us:

Our Soyatoo! products are dairy and nut fee, however our focus is on vegan and organic foods, not on foods for allergy-sufferers. Our creams are not made in a protected environment and are processed in a plant that also processes products other than ours. Therefore, although the facility is thoroughly cleaned before batches and our analyses have shown no trace of allergens so far, we cannot guarantee that no unintentional cross-contamination will ever take place. For this this reason we do not make any allergen-related claims and to be on the safe side cannot recommend our products for consumption by people who react to smallest traces.

However, I have heard from another allergy mum, who blogs (@parrlox on Twitter), and is quite particular about such things, that her family have been fine with them.

They can be obtained easily online through good Vegan outlets, such as the Vegan Store, and some heath food stores stock them too.

For our review of some of these products, see here (but ignore the second product - it's not nut free).

The lesser spotted rice version!

This 'clotted cream' is made from oats. It is dairy and soya free and appears to be nut free, in that no nuts are listed in the ingredients. When I checked with them earlier in the year, they had this to say:

The product itself has no nuts in it, nor any ingredients derived from nuts. The equipment used to make it is solely used for this product. However the building itself is not nut–free and we cannot guarantee the cross contamination issue with regard to the ingredients either as we don’t know what environments they came from.

As this was about six months back, you may wish to check with this company for yourselves, if at all unsure. 

Look! A dairy free 'clotted cream'!
Mimilicious can best be obtained by mail order, as far as I know. Find out more by reading our review, here.

Dairy Free Nut Free Desserts

That'd be none, that I know of - that are like Alpro's dessert pots and custard! I thought I saw some desserts in Holland and Barrett today, but then I realised that they were made by Provamel - Alpro's sister company!

However, Orgran make these Chocolate mousse mixes, which are free from most allergens, including nuts and dairy. As well as this custard mix. They are both available online through 'Free From For Kids'.

Swedish Glace Ice Cream
You could try Swedish Glace ice cream though - another recommendation by Two Baby Foxes! It is made from soya and is easily available through most UK supermarkets as well as Holland and Barrett.

Meanwhile if you're thinking of making your own, Dribble Delights recipe book may be worth buying. See here.

AND today a dietitian I follow on Twitter put together this post about making similar desserts for little ones, using other dairy free milks. 

And Finally

I sincerely hope this post helps all those who need it. We ('Baby' and me), although dairy free, are not nut free ourselves. However, we are affected by this issue personally, as she belongs to a group for little ones that has recently become nut free. Also we are soon to choose a school for her and both our current preferred choices for school are nut free too. his means that she will not be able to take her current milk to school, or the dairy free Alpro desserts, that she loves.

This list is by no means exhaustive. There may be additional information to follow, which I shall publish via our Face Book page, before adding to this blog post. 

If you know/think you know of any other products that we have left out, please leave a comment below.

Please note: 

This is not the place for people to comment on how evil soya or rice milk might be. It is not helpful to those struggling with this current situation, so I'm afraid that such comments will not be published. People with multiple allergies do not have multiple choice!

Friday, 15 November 2013

Warning! Alpro soya milk may contain nuts!

This post is a bit rough and ready I might pretty it up a bit later, but we're off for the weekend, and I've had to write this on my mobile. Thing is, I'm driven by a sense of disbelief and urgency. Alpro who are a leading manufacturer of dairy free milks in the UK are making changes that may affect a large number of those of us who completely rely on their products!! 

Basically, up until now, their soya milk and their nut milks have been manufactured in separate facilities. For those who have nut allergies, and are dairy free, this is a Godsend.
As many of us who suffer food allergies/intolerances know, they rarely come on their own - where there's one, others may follow. Which is why, even if nut allergies are not a problem currently for you, I'd ask you to keep reading and show your support for others.

Tweeter 'parrlox' (Lucy's Friendly Foods) recently noted that the allergy warning on Alpro soya cream had changed. As I understand it, further enquiry led to the information that Alpro would be combining their soya and nut production in one facility and that from 2014 all Alpro soya drinks will carry the nut warning.

Embedded image permalink
The new allergy warning is already appearing on Alpro products (Photo by parrlox)

Furthermore, this will affect all Alpro soya products: milk, cream, yoghurt etc. meaning that if you have a nut allergy and are also dairy free you could be playing Russian roulette if you consume any Alpro soya product. This is critical as, to the best of my knowledge, Alpro are currently the only manufacturer of reasonably priced and easy to obtain dairy free soya yoghurts (an important source of calcium for many) that are nut free.* 

Note the current allergy labelling on an Alpro soya product

It leaves me questioning whether the nut milks that Alpro produce will also carry a soya warning, as they will now be produced in a factory that processes soya. This could potentially cause me a problem. 

So what can we do? Well I don't believe apathy gets us anywhere. There is already a bit of a stir on Twitter. My plan is to email Alpro and find out whether they are prepared to listen and change their plans. I know that others who have concerns will be blogging on this too, so watch this space, I'll link them in. And please, if you use Alpro let them know your feelings too!

Here's where to send your thoughts/feelings: 

*Co-yo are also dairy, gluten and nut free, but are expensive and hard to come by, for some - hence schools and nurseries would not contemplate buying them.

Other blogs, you might like to read:

Nutmums: Alpro soya products no longer dairy free?

Important Update 18th August 2014:


Today, I was so pleased to read the  following on the Alpro SOS Face Book page:

Dear AlproSOS

As you know, a year ago we decided to label all our plant based products with a 'may contain traces of almonds and hazelnuts' claim. This was to give consumers advance warning of the integration of products containing almonds or hazelnuts into its production facilities.

After thorough investigation and without compromising Alpro's ethical aims of bringing delicious and safe products to the market, we are PLEASED TO CONFIRM THAT WE WILL BE GRADUALLY REMOVING THE 'MAY CONTAIN TRACES OF ALMONDS AND HAZELNUTS' CLAIM FROM OUR SOYA, RICE AND OAT DRINKS AS WELL AS OUR PLANT-BASED ALTERNATIVES TO CREAM AND DESSERTS.

As part of a major investment in our facilities, we will ARRANGE OUR CURRENT PRODUCTION LINES TO BE DEDICATED TO PRODUCING SOYA, RICE AND OAT DRINKS OR ALMOND, HAZELNUT AND COCONUT DRINKS. ANY AVOIDABLE RISK OF CROSS CONTAMINATION IS THUS EXCLUDED, WHICH MEANS THE WARNING CAN BE REMOVED from our soya, rice and oat drink products and our plant-based alternatives to cream and desserts.

We apologise for any confusion relating to the nut claim, but our intention regarding labelling has always to keep consumers fully informed of the changes as early as possible. Now that production plans have changed, the claim is no longer necessary on soya, rice and oat drinks and our plant-based alternatives to cream and desserts.

These recent decisions and measures will allow all consumers to continue to enjoy Alpro soya, rice and oat drinks and our Alpro plant-based alternatives to cream and desserts in the future.

Ann De Jaeger
Vice President, Division General Counsel & Corporate Communications

Well done to all involved in the Alpro SOS campaign!!

Alpro SOS added the following comment: 

We need to clarify the situation re Provamel, which is an Alpro brand, but the rest seems pretty self-explanatory…

So keep watching this space!